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Biden Renominates Jerome Powell to Head Federal Reserve; Closing Arguments Continue in Ahmaud Arbery Trial. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2021 - 13:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's not going to be what they want. And that's going to be a challenge for them to message ahead of the midterms.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: It's a fascinating dynamic between now and Christmas. We will watch it play out. Thank you both for coming in.

And thank you for joining us today. We will see you back here this time tomorrow.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And we are keeping a close eye on what is happening in Brunswick, Georgia. And in just about 30 minutes from now, closing arguments in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial will resume.

This is the case involving three white men, a father, a son and their neighbor, all accused of tracking down and fatally shooting Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man who was jogging three days before his 26th birthday last year.

Let's get right out to CNN's Ryan Young outside the courthouse.

Ryan, court taking a lunch break right now. The defense will resume closing arguments momentarily. Walk us through what we have heard so far.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'll get to that just in a second, Ana, but sort of the temperature sort of rised -- went up today.

And, in fact, as we have been out here, even during the lunch break, we have seen more protesters sort of arrive to this location. And one of the reasons why I'm going to bring this up is because they are men with long weapons who are outside the court. And they're standing just outside the perimeter or the courthouse steps.

And when the defense attorneys left for lunch this afternoon, they actually had to walk by these men with the guns. And I can tell you, you could tell they were nervous about walking by the men with long guns. As you can believe, you know Kevin Gough, the defense attorney, has been raising objections to all sorts of things that have been happening outside, peaceful protests that have been going on and pastors arriving.

So I can only imagine what's going to happen when this recess is over and there's going to be a conversation about the protesters who showed up with weapons. Now, they have walked to a different direction at this point. We have tried to make contact with them to figure out what group they're a part of. I'm not sure about that just yet.

And if we get more information about that, we will pass it along to you.

As far as this case is concerned so far, the prosecution started this morning, and really started hammering at the fact of what the men had the choices to do that day, and the fact that they did not have to chase Ahmaud Arbery over and over again, especially after calling police.

They went sort of point by point through the law and what the charges were. In fact, take a listen to the prosecution earlier this morning.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: All three of these defendants made assumptions, made assumptions about what was going on that day. And they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways, because he was a black man running down the street.

Well, they're going to try and convince you that Ahmaud Arbery was the attacker, that he was somehow threatening to them, three on one, two pickup trucks, two guns, Mr. Arbery, nothing in his pockets, not a cell phone, not a gun, not even an I.D. They want you to believe that he is the danger to them.

And Mr. Rubin said it in the opening statement. He was scary. If you are the initial, unjustified aggressor, you don't get to claim self- defense. If you're committing a felony against somebody, you don't get to claim self-defense.

And the third one is, if you provoke somebody, so that they defend themselves against you, and then you go, oh, look, he attacked me first, but you really weren't the one who was provoking the attack on yourself, you don't get to claim self-defense.

And that's the law.


YOUNG: Yes, Ana, you heard that reference to being a black man. It was something that, if you think about it, race hasn't played a big role inside this trial when the jury has been sitting down.

Of course, when that hasn't happened, there's been conversation about race outside, when the jury was outside of that jury pool. So it was interesting to hear it being brought up now. Let's not forget there's so much conversation about this jury makeup.

The prosecution -- I mean, the defense, for its part, finally started to soften its client, Travis McMichael, talking about the fact that he felt like he had a duty to protect his neighborhood. Take a listen to this exchange from the defense talking about Travis McMichael and what he was doing on that day.


JASON SHEFFIELD, ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: Travis had all of this, his reading Facebook, everything going on at Larry English's house, knowing about what was happening in Satilla Shores, speaking everybody on the 11th, his own experience, Albenze signaling, Officer Rash and Matt Albenze.

This is what he carried with him when he left his driveway that day, reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion. This is where the duty and responsibility and following the law becomes intertwined with heartache and tragedy, because you do have the right to perform a citizen's arrest.


You do have the right to have a firearm when you make an arrest. You do have the right to stop a person and to hold them and detain them for the police. And there is risk with that. And there are tragic consequences that can come from that.


YOUNG: Ana, as you can imagine, this has been tough for both families when it comes to everything that's been happening inside the court.

We do know at one point that Ahmaud Arbery's mother walked out of court as they were talking and showing pictures. So, when you put all this together, you understand the pressure that's on this community, especially as these closing arguments continue -- Ana.

CABRERA: Ryan Young, thank you.

With us now is CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig and Areva Martin, CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney.

Thank you both for being with us.

Elie, first, your top takeaways from the closing arguments so far?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I thought the prosecutor was masterful, in a word.

There was not much in the way of dramatics or fireworks. That's what you see in movies maybe from prosecutors. But in the real world, prosecutors are trained to be precise and concise and well-organized. And I think we saw that out of the prosecutor today. The other thing that she was, she was thematic. She kept on hitting on

the key themes in very concise little snippets. They made assumptions. They made driveway decisions, he was unarmed, he ran away, they chased him down and they attacked him. That kind of very simple, well- supported phrase is something that the jury tends to take into the jury room with them and remember.

Now, on the defense side, I thought the defense lawyer was effective as well. His job was to spin a counternarrative. And he made the argument we just saw that his client had reason to think a crime was committed and then believe he was under attack.

The problem is a lot of that depended on Travis McMichael's own testimony, which I think was heavily undermined during the cross- examination. So when the prosecutor gets back up later this afternoon, look for her to argue to the jury, you don't have to believe him. In fact, you should not believe his testimony.

CABRERA: Areva, the defense is only about halfway through its closing arguments. They have about three hours to do all of them.

And throughout the trial, they argued these men were attempting a citizen arrests, that they were trying to detain Arbery because they thought he had burglarized the house. And Travis McMichael's attorney really made that a focus of his closing arguments, with this big setup about crime in the neighborhood. Let's listen.


SHEFFIELD: You have heard about Satilla Shores from several witnesses who came to talk to you about what they were experiencing in this once-idyllic neighborhood. You heard a lot of people talk about, I didn't call the police because, what's the point? Crime is over and the people are gone.

But they told you that what was happening in their neighborhood scared them. It caused them concern. It was unsettling to imagine people lurking and sneaking around your property at night, so that your cameras are filling. Your doorbell camera is going off.

That's frightening.


CABRERA: Areva, how strong is that argument to explain the actions taken by Travis McMichael and his father?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's a problem with that argument, Ana.

If you follow that argument to its logical conclusion, it says that citizens have the right to engage in this kind of vigilante-style justice, rather than, if you have a problem with police responding on time with calls in your neighborhood, the response to that is to get rid of your police chief. It's to elect a new mayor. It's to enact some additional legislation, get more money to your

police. It is not for citizens to take it upon themselves to try to stop someone who's running down the street, to effectuate an arrest, and then to use the kind of deadly force that Travis McMichael used.

So the whole argument assumes that they had a right to stop Ahmaud Arbery. And keep in mind, there was never any testimony that they said they were trying to effectuate a citizen's arrest. The prosecutor, I think, did a brilliant job of saying, this is all made up. This is a fantasy that was created by the lawyers after the fact, some 18 months later.

There was nothing happening at the time of this encounter with Ahmaud Arbery or when Travis McMichael gave his police statement to suggest that he was engaging in any kind of citizen's arrest.

So I think the argument is a stretch. And if you use your common sense, which is what the prosecutor keeps reminding the jurors to do, I don't think they're going to buy the argument.

CABRERA: Elie, there are three different defendants.

Right now, we have really only heard from Travis McMichael's defense lawyer. They're all represented by different lawyers. Do you expect other defense attorneys to present something different in their closing arguments?

HONIG: I do, Ana.

So what happens sometimes in multiple defendant cases like this is, there becomes a race to become the forgotten man. You want, if you're representing one of the lesser defendants, you want the jury to essentially forget about your client.


So, I think the theme of this afternoon when we hear from the lawyers for Gregory McMichael and for Roddie Bryan is going to be, what did my guy do?

I think the lawyer for the father is going to say: My guy was old. He was having health problems. He was just in the bed of the truck. And I think the lawyer for Roddie Bryan is going to say, my guy wasn't even physically there. He was down the street.

Now, the prosecutor did a really good job anticipating that, because she explained to the jury very early on this idea of what we call accomplice liability, party to a crime, meaning, if you did anything to help this along, to promote it, you are liable for the crime. So watch that for an important battleground this afternoon.

CABRERA: And, Areva, how challenging is it for a prosecutor to try a case against three different defendants who had different roles, yet all are facing the same charges?

MARTIN: Yes, it can be really complicated, Ana, because the jurors are going to have to parse this out, determine if these charges that have been brought against Travis McMichael, who they're going to see as the main culprit here, if they apply to these other defendants.

But I do think the prosecutor did a good job to use that analogy of everybody gets a Super Bowl ring, driving home that point that everybody on the team, whether you on that field or not, you are celebrating as the game is won. And in this case, everyone that participated, that encouraged, that incited, that aided, that abetted is responsible.

And I think the jurors has got that. I think she used such good analogies to drive home her points of what could be very complicated legal issues. I think she made them very relatable for this jury.

CABRERA: Elie, the prosecutor's closing argument was succinct, only lasted about an hour. And so she will have the last word with a rebuttal. And she has about two hours left in her time. Is it a good strategy to leave that much time on the table?

HONIG: I think it is, Ana.

So, first of all, juries have very limited attention spans. They are human beings. The rule of thumb we used to use is, you're going to lose your jury 45 minutes or so in. If you have to go longer, fine, but you want to keep it succinct.

And I think what the prosecutor is doing, she knows she's going to have to clean up after three different defense closing. So I think she's leaving herself enough room to address in more detail what we're going to hear from the three defense lawyers.

CABRERA: And, Areva, given all the racial undertones in this case, it is worth noting the prosecutor mentioned race directly only once in her closing argument.

What do you make of that?

MARTIN: I think it was smart. I think we're -- you're in New York. I'm in Los Angeles. This case is in Brunswick, Georgia. There are 11 white people on this jury. There's only one person of color.

So to make this case solely about race, I think would have been a mistake for this prosecutor, as much as those of us who do this for a living, a civil rights lawyer, we know it's all about race. But I think, in terms of trying to keep the jury focused on the facts of this case and the evidence that's been presented, that was smart on her part.

Now, you heard the defense lawyer say, well, Travis McMichael tried to investigate a white guy that was sleeping under the bridge, and he took issue with a white couple that went into the house. But the problem is, he didn't get into his truck with a shotgun with his dad in the bed with a .357 magnum and chase down the white people in this neighborhood and then ultimately shoot and kill them.

So, race is a part of this case, but I think the prosecutor was smart to use it in the way that she did during her closing argument.

CABRERA: All right, Areva Martin, Elie Honig, thank you. Please stand by, as we're going to be returning to court just as soon as they get back from lunch. And that should happen here in the next 15, 20 minutes or so.

Also, breaking today, President Biden renominating Jerome Powell to lead the Federal Reserve for a second term, as the nation struggles to fight rising inflation. We will hear from both of them in just moments.

Plus, a horrific end to a holiday celebration. A driver plows into a Christmas parade, killing at least five people, hurting dozens of others, 10 kids in ICU right now. We will take you there live.

Stay with us here. you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: We now know who the president wants to have at the helm of America's economic policy. Any minute now, the president will speak about his decision to nominate Jerome Powell to serve as Federal Reserve chair for a second term.

Powell was initially elevated to run the nation's central banking system four years ago by then-President Donald Trump.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny, is live at the White House. Matt Egan is with us here in New York.

Jeff, first, what went into the president's decision to keep Powell?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Ana, first and foremost, just consistency with the economy.

Replacing Jerome Powell at this point, the White House feared, would have really shaken the economy or could have shaken the economy, as the White House is so attuned to inflation and rising prices. So, the consistency with a Jerome Powell, what he brings to this position is what led President Biden to make this choice.

Yes, there was a lot of criticism from the left. But this is something that President Biden firmly believed. He thought that this was necessary. And, really, this is how things have been done normally before President Trump was in office.

Usually, presidents reaffirm a second term someone to lead the Federal Reserve. So, this is essentially just going back to business. But there was -- this is not a big surprise at all, but there were some loud voices from the left, like Senator Elizabeth Warren...


CABRERA: Jeff, I'm going to interrupt you. Let's go live to the president...


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... occurred last night during the holiday parade in Wisconsin.

While we don't have all the facts and details yet, we know this morning that five families in Waukesha are facing fresh grief of a life without a loved one.


At least 40 Americans are suffering from injuries, some of them in critical condition. And an entire community is struggling, struggling to cope with a horrific act of violence.

Last night, the people of Waukesha were gathered to celebrate the start of a season of hope and togetherness and thanksgiving. This morning, Jill and I and the entire Biden family and I'm sure all of us pray that that same spirit is going to embrace and lift up all the victims of this tragedy, bringing comfort to those recovering from the injuries and wrapping the families of those who died in the support of their community.

We're all grateful for the extraordinary work of first responders from law enforcement to the emergency room doctors who are working around the clock to deal with the terrible consequence of what happened last night.

My administration is monitoring the situation very closely.

But now let me turn to today's announcement.

Twenty months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in America, creating the worst economic crisis we have faced since the Great Depression wreaking havoc not only on our economy, but the economies across the world. In just two months, over 20 million Americans lost their jobs, and the unemployment rate shot up to 14.8 percent, the highest ever recorded in America.

And all of you remember the scenes, major cities and small towns, Main Streets that looked like ghost towns, boarded-up businesses, empty roads, empty highways, empty airports, and empty train stations. Offices were closed. Schools were closed, and hospitals were taken to the breaking point.

When you remember the depths of the crisis we faced, it's all the more amazing the progress that we have made since then. We have gone from an economy that was shut down to an economy that is leading the world in economic growth. We have gone from small businesses being shuttered to a record number of new small businesses starting up.

And we have gone from a devastating job destruction to record new job creation. Don't get me wrong. We still have a long way to go to fully recover from all the pain and destruction caused by the pandemic, and we're still dealing with the difficult challenges and complications caused by COVID-19 that are driving up costs for American families.

I know, for a lot of Americans, things are still very hard, very hard, but if you look at all the facts, all of the facts, you can only come to one conclusion. We have made enormous progress in this country. First and foremost, our economy is creating jobs, lots of jobs. In fact, we have seen a record new job growth in America this year, 5.6 million jobs just since I was sworn in on January the 20th, more jobs created at this point in a new presidency than ever before in American history.

We have seen a dramatic drop in the unemployment rate, from a high of 14.8 percent in April of 2020 to 4.6 percent today. Earlier this year, independent experts were predicting it would take until the end of 2023 to see unemployment that low.

Our economy is creating new businesses, lots of new businesses. In fact, Americans are starting small businesses at a record rate, up 30 percent compared to before the pandemic. Economists will tell you that an increase in new business is one of the best signs of an economy, an economy that's becoming more innovative and more dynamic.

And that's because small businesses aren't just the heart and soul of America. They are not just the bedrock of so many communities across the country. America's small businesses are the primary job creators, innovators and drivers that power our economic progress.

That's why it's a powerful statement about -- of the faith about -- that we have in our country, where our country and our economy is heading. Small business creation is surging, surging in America today, which is why I'm proud to say, if you look at my presidency so far, it's a jobs presidency, and it's a small business presidency.

So, if you look at the facts, here's what the record shows, record job creation, record economic growth, record new small business creation. That's a story that should give us confidence about the economy that we're building, confidence in ourself, confidence in the future.

Now, after years of wages being flat or falling behind, we're also seeing something else. Things are getting better for American workers, higher wages, better benefits, more flexible schedules.


Balance sheets for American families are better as well. Savings are up. Home equity is up. Credit card balances are down. And if you continue and combine the wage increases we have seen with the direct relief my administration has provided to middle-class families, the typical middle-class family's disposable income has actually gone up 2 percent this year, even after accounting for higher prices.

That's the kind of recovery just one year after a crippling worldwide economic crisis that's unprecedented, and it takes us -- it makes us stand out from the rest world. America is the only major economy, the only one in the world, where the economy is bigger today and families have more money in their pockets today than before the pandemic hit. That's even after accounting for inflation. None of our competitors

internationally can say that, none. It's a testament to the hard work and perseverance of the American people. It's a testament to the effectiveness of the vaccines and our vaccination effort. And it's a testament to the economic policies we have fought so hard to pass and put in place, especially the American Rescue Plan.

And it's a testament to the Federal Reserve. But for all the progress we have made, we know we still are -- face challenges, serious challenges. We know there's a lot of fear and uncertainty in the country. We know. We know it's tough for families to keep up with the rising cost of gasoline, food, housing and other essentials.

It's not just an American problem. It's a worldwide problem. It doesn't make it any easier for Americans, but it's a worldwide problem. Every country is dealing with the same problems emerging from the pandemic, supply chain bottlenecks, disruption caused by spikes in COVID-19, elevated prices.

They are all taking a bite out of our family budgets. Perhaps no entity plays a more important role in navigating these challenges than the Federal Reserve, because it's the Fed's job to balance two key goals. The first is to achieve maximum employment, to get as many American workers -- Americans working as possible.

And the second is to keep inflation low and stable, to meet these goals, because it's going to require patience, skill and independence.

That's why, today, I'm nominating Jerome Powell for a second term as chair of the Federal Reserve, and I'm nominating Lael Brainard to take the position as vice chair of the Federal Reserve.

When our country was hemorrhaging jobs last year and there was panic in our financial markets, Jay's steady and decisive leadership helped to stabilized markets and put our economy on track to a robust recovery. Jay is a believer in the benefits of what economists call maximum employment.

That's an economy where companies have to compete to attract workers, instead of workers competing with each other for jobs, where American workers get steady wage increases, after decades of stagnation, and where the benefits of economic growth are broadly shared by everyone in the country, not just concentrated for those at the top.

Jay said it well last month, and I'm going to quote him.

He said -- and I quote -- "An economy is healthier and stronger when as many people as possible are able to work. If entrenched inequities prevent some Americans from participating fully in our labor markets, not only will they be held back from opportunities, but the economy overall will not realize its potential, and those have historically been left behind stand the best chance of prospering in a strong economy with plentiful job opportunities" -- end of quote.

As chair, Jay undertook a landmark review to reinforce the Federal Reserve's mission towards delivering full employment. We're making strong progress towards that goal now. And I believe Jay is the right person to see us through and finish that effort, while also addressing the threat of inflation that it poses to our families and to our economy.

Jay and I have had a chance to discuss his views on priorities for the Federal Reserve in the years ahead. He's made clear to me that a top priority will be to accelerate the Fed's effort to address and mitigate the risk that climate change poses to our financial system and our economy.

Extreme weather has cost our economy over $600 billion over the last 10 years. We have to make sure our financial system can withstand climate change and is prepared to transition to clean energy.

The Fed must be a leader among central banks globally in addressing climate-related financial risks.