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Arbery Jury Begins Day Two of Deliberations; Sixth Death in Christmas Parade Crash; Weekly Jobless Claims Now Lower; Thanksgiving Travelers Hit the Road and Skies; Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) is Interviewed about Employment. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 09:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, CNN's senior national correspondent Sara Sidner, who's outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, this morning.

So, after more than six hours yesterday, the jury is back at it this morning. What -- what more do we know this morning, Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know a little bit about where this jury is because of what they told the judge last night. The judge called them in about 6:00 p.m., which is the longest that they have been in court, and asked them if they were close to a verdict. In other words, did they want to stay a little longer or did they want to break for the night and come back and try again today. And what the foreperson says gives you some sense. It sounded as if at first they wanted to stay a little longer. They said, we are in the process of working to reach a verdict. And so it gives you some idea of where they are. And they may, for example, have been closer than everyone thought last night. But they eventually decided that it was time to break and they would come back and try again this morning.

We know that they started sharp around 8:30 this morning. And they will deliberate until they reach a verdict. It sounded as if they were going towards that. They did not give any indication that they were hung or that they were having trouble coming up with a decision. That's what we heard from the foreperson yesterday.

And, and as you know, they listened to closing arguments on Monday. And then, as in every trial, the prosecution gets the last word. The prosecution gets to rebut, have a rebuttal argument, to sum up their case. And those are the last words that the jury hears.

But, as you know, it's not about the closing arguments, those help the jury understand from each side where they're coming from, but they have to look at the evidence. And in this case, there are nine charges for each of the three defendants, including murder and aggravated assault. And so you'll have this jury looking through a lot of information.

Ultimately, the arguments go like this, the prosecution says these three men had no business going after Ahmaud Arbery, who was running down the street in February of 2020, that they tried to act like police, that they didn't involve police until much later on once they had already started to chase him and that he was just trying to save his own life.

The defense goes like this, the defense says that the guys were trying to arrest him, make a citizen's arrest because they believed he had committed a crime. Ultimately a burglary, they said. And that they were in fear for their life. Travis McMichael, who shot and killed him, was in fear for his life when he shot him, saying that Ahmaud Arbery had gone after his gun.

As you might imagine, Arbery was being chased down by men who were not police, didn't know what was going on at the time, and then suddenly found himself, as the prosecution said, cornered by these two -- three men in two different trucks.

I want to let you listen to Benjamin Crump, who has been here with the family, helping to represent the family, along with Lee Merritt. There have been a lot of racial over and undertones in this trial, and there have been some moments that have been very upsetting to the family.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR MARCUS ARBERY, SR.: To say that we refuse to allow black pastors in, it was just so arrogant. It was the essence of white supremacy mentality. Almost like thinking because a black man is jogging, that ordinary white citizens can stop him and make him comply. And if he dares not follow their orders, then they have the right to kill him. And to say that that's OK.


SIDNER: So you heard there from Benjamin Crump, who has been with the family and hearing their concerns throughout this trial.

We have also heard from the attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan. He was the person who did not know Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael, but took part in this chase. And his attorney says he expects his client to be exonerated in this case. The jury is the one that decides all this. And we are just waiting for that, expecting to hopefully hear something sometime soon.

Guys, back to you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: No surprising to hear attorneys think they're going to win a case.

Sara Sidner, thanks very much.

Joining us now to discuss, criminal and constitutional law attorney Page Pate.

Page, good to have you this morning.

As Erica was noting earlier, you tweeted yesterday, sounds like we won't have to worry about a hung jury. That's based on what Sara was describing their answer to the judge's questions about perhaps how close they could be to a decision here. You've spent a lot of time in a courtroom. Tell us why you think that.

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Jim, if a jury is having trouble reaching a consensus, reaching agreement on a verdict, you're going to see that early and they're going to indicate to the judge that, you know, they're having difficulty. And eventually, if they continue to have difficulty, you get to the point where the judge may declare a hung verdict.

What we saw yesterday is a group of people that seem to be in agreement, and it seems that they're getting close to reaching a verdict. And I think that's a great sign.

The other reason I think we're not going to see a hung jury, unless we hear this morning a request to see more evidence.


Normally, if you have one or two people on the jury who don't want to go along with the rest, they're going to demand to watch the video again or see some piece of evidence that came in during the trial to try to prove their point. This jury has not requested to see any of all of the videos that were introduced in this trial one more time. And that surprises me. But it certainly suggests that we have some agreement on the jury, probably heading for a verdict later today.


HILL: It's so interesting that you point that out, that they haven't asked for the evidence. It's also, right, as we -- as we heard they may have been close to a verdict, there are still multiple charges and, in many ways, these are all intertwines. There are charges that apply individually and also to them as a group.

How -- how does that impact the deliberations for a jury when they're dealing with charges of that nature?

PATE: Well, if you compare this trial to the Rittenhouse case, I think this is a much easier case, the Arbery case, or the McMichael, Roddie Bryan case for the jury to sort through because we're dealing with one victim. In Rittenhouse, there were multiple victims. So even though we have a lot of different counts in this trial, it's not as complicated.

Felony murder is a life sentence regardless of which count the jury may find them guilty on. And this is one of those cases where I think we're going to see across the board guilty or across the board not guilty because they were either engaged in a felony offense that resulted in Ahmaud Arbery's death, or they were conducting a lawful citizen's arrest. The only exception to that analysis is William "Roddie" Bryan. The judge did give this jury the option of finding him guilty on lesser charges, misdemeanor charges. So his case is a bit different. But for the other two, I think it's all or nothing.

HILL: All right, well, we'll be watching.

Page Pate, good to talk with you this morning. Stay with us, as we are all still on verdict watch here. Meantime, do also want to get you caught up on some of the other

headlines that we're following on this Wednesday morning.

An eight-year-old boy, we've learned, has now died in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He's the latest fatality in that Christmas parade tragedy from Sunday. Jackson Sparks, you see his sweet face right there, died from injuries which he suffered after that SUV plowed through crowds of people. Ultimately now six lives taken, more than 60 injured.

SCIUTTO: Oh, that poor little boy and his poor parents.

Well, the man responsible -- the man police say is responsible, Darrell Brooks, is now being held on a $5 million bail. He faces at least five counts of intentional homicide. That number likely to rise with the death toll. One officer says that Brooks displayed no emotion as they tried to slow him down.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Adrienne, one officer said that Brooks, as we were noted -- noting there showed no emotion as he drove toward the crowd. How did the police witness this?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what one officer said, and that was detailed in a criminal complaint yesterday when we were at the court for Brooks' initial hearing. He rocked, swaying back and forth throughout the entire proceeding. His eyes almost looked as if they were tearing up.

Here in Waukesha, you can see behind me, tributes continue to pour in. We are at this memorial site and for much of the week there were five crosses, now there are six. That sixth cross recognizing the child that died after sustaining injuries on Sunday. He was eight-year-old Jackson Sparks. According to a Go Fund Me page, his family says he had brain surgery on Sunday. On that page the family wrote, Jackson needed a miracle. Unfortunately, the family didn't get the miracle they were hoping for.

Jackson's 12-year-old brother did survive. He was expected to be released from Children's Wisconsin Hospital on Tuesday. His brother, Tucker, who I mentioned is 12, also sustained injuries, including a fractured skull.

This all happened after Brooks, who has now been charged with five counts of first degree intentional homicide, plowed down that stretch of main street on Sunday. Like so many families, the Sparks were there enjoying the parade.

His bail has been set at $5 million cash. And during the initial hearing yesterday, the prosecutor said she knows this is an extraordinarily high bail, but she took about ten minutes outlining his criminal history. History spanning the last 20 years or so, Jim and Erica. And she said that is why she was requesting that high bail.

Now, we also learned yesterday that the number of people who were injured was nearly 62. A tremendous amount of grief here, just days before Thanksgiving.


Jim and Erica.

HILL: Adrienne Broaddus, appreciate it. Thank you.

Still to come this hour, millions of Americans hitting the road for the Thanksgiving holiday. You may be among them. So, what can you expect on the roads and in the skies? We will let you know next.

Plus, the January 6th select committee issuing subpoenas for two extremist groups. The committee chair says they have information, critical, to how the violence erupted on the Capitol.

SCIUTTO: And a space mission that could one day save the planet. Details on NASA's plan to crash into an asteroid and why, coming up.



HILL: For the first time, weekly jobless claims fell below pre- pandemic levels. Last week's jobless claims totaling 199,000 when adjusted for seasonal swings.

SCIUTTO: That is the lowest since 1969. 1969. That's even older than me.

HILL: Kind of a big deal.

SCIUTTO: Even older than me.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us with more.

I mean, Christine, it's another example of the disconnect here, right? I mean you've got unemployment below 5 percent.


SCIUTTO: The stock market, you know, setting new records and you have numbers like this and yet people rate the economy as being worse than, you know, in the midst of the financial crisis. What's going on?

ROMANS: You know, I think that's a really good point, Jim, here. Very important. These are layoffs. These are a very low number of layoffs. And here's why. In a tight labor market when the economy is recovering so strongly, you don't want to be laying off workers if you don't have to. So we are seeing conditions back to where they where before the pandemic.

This could reverse a little bit next week, economists are telling me, but the trend is absolutely in the right direction. And that's why I have a smile on my face because this means that the labor market is still healing. And that's incredibly, incredibly important here. You know, the labor market suffered something that we've never seen

before, millions of people thrown out of work right after coronavirus hit in March of 2020, and we're still getting back to normal and normalizing from that.

But, you're right, people feel sour about the economy because of two things, Covid exhaustion, right, and inflation, higher gas prices, you know, it's just, those are the things that they're feeling now. But these other signals in the economy are showing a very robust recovery, probably the strongest economy in the U.S. in years, if not decades, when it's all said and done at the end of the year, you guys.

HILL: It is amazing that the disconnect, as you point out.


HILL: Christine, I'm happy to see you smiling on this day before Thanksgiving, my friend. Thank you.

ROMANS: Me too. There were some -- there were some grim days there in the year and a half ago. But happy vax-giving, you guys. This is going to be a new kind of holiday for us.

HILL: Yes. It is. And I'm happy that it's one that's bringing people back together. Happy Thanksgiving, vax-giving, there you go.

ROMANS: You too.

HILL: Well, whether you are driving or flying for your Thanksgiving this year, prepare yourself because you're likely not going to be the only one out there. Lots of crowds expected. The number of travelers actually expected to be near pre-pandemic levels, and that is a major test for the airline industry. The TSA expected to screen more than 20 million passengers in the next ten days.

SCIUTTO: Not just air travel. If you're planning on hitting the roads, gas prices, as I'm sure you've seen, they're at the highest they've been in years.

CNN's Pete Muntean and Dianne Gallagher join us now.

Pete, first to you.

Travelers, those going by road, they don't seem to be deterred by the gas prices.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hardly at all, Jim. You know the AAA forecast says that 48 million people will hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday. What's so interesting is that those numbers aren't really all that far off from where we were back before the pandemic, down about only 3 percent from 2019.

What's also is so interesting here is that people are really going to swallow the cost, the price of gas, a seven-year high, $3.40 for a gallon of regular on average across the country. That is up about $1.30 from where we were this time last year. So, the bottom line, the expense is back, the traffic is back. And AAA

says, so interestingly, that this is really not going to keep people off the road during this holiday weekend.


ANDREW GROSS, AAA SPOKESMAN: There's a lot more confidence. People are feeling better about traveling. And no matter what the gas prices are, and they are quite a bit higher than last year, people are still going to take that trip.


MUNTEAN: The worst time to drive, according to AAA, in general, is between noon and 8:00 p.m. today. So, you might have to wait for the traffic to die down until after 9:00 p.m. tonight.

The Maryland Transportation Authority, which runs this Maryland House Transit Center here in Aberdeen, Maryland, between Wilmington and Baltimore, it's responsible for this portion of I-95, and they say that you might want to wait until after 11:00 p.m. tonight for traffic to die down on I-95.

HILL: All good advice in terms of those winds.

Meantime, that's, of course, what we're dealing with on the roads. Dianne, in terms of the airports, how are they dealing with the surge in passengers? I know there's always a staffing question these days.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that is something that's going to factor into this, Erica and Jim. Here at the airport in Charlotte, the lines at TSA have been sort of ebbing and flowing throughout the day. At one point, that line there reached back to where I'm standing here. And so we're seeing levels that, well, much like Pete said, are looking more like the pre-pandemic airport levels. On both Monday and Tuesday, the TSA screened more than 2 million passengers. That is 90 percent of what they did in 2019.

And the truth is, most of the people in this airport today probably haven't been at an airport since 2019.


There were a lot of changes. And so, in addition to dealing with the crowds, there are also passengers that are going to have to cope with, well, new rules and restrictions because of the pandemic. We've seen some of the issues with airlines over the past month dealing with staffing, multiple canceled flights for some of those airlines. Each one of them say they feel like they are prepared for this Thanksgiving holiday. The busiest day they're expecting, at least as far as air travel goes, will be this coming Sunday for Thanksgiving travel.

So if you are traveling that day, they say to get here extra early.

HILL: Well, Dianne, I'm going to be at an airport soon and we'll see what it's like.

Pete Muntean, thanks so much to both of you.

Although President Biden is now tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help fight higher fuel costs, do not expect lower gas prices just yet. Experts say it will take weeks before those 50 million barrels of oil hit the market.

Joining me now to talk about this and much more, Republican Congressman Don Bacon of the cornhusker state, Nebraska. He serves on the Armed Services and Agriculture Committees.

Good morning, Congressman. Good to have you back on the show.

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Good morning, Jim. Thank you for having me on.

SCIUTTO: First, I want to start with those economic numbers because -- because there is a disconnect here. I mean, you'll see them, these are the lowest unemployment claims since 1969, unemployment overall below 5 percent. Economic growth this quarter is forecast to be very strong.

Is the economy as bad as Republicans say it is? Because when you look at a lot of these numbers, beyond inflation, which I know hurts, but when you look at the economic indicators, it's a very strong economy.

BACON: Well, there are some contradictions.

First of all, I'm glad that unemployment's so low. That's great for our country. Great for America, and Nebraska, it's 1.9 percent, the lowest of all 50 states.


BACON: But here's the contradictions. (INAUDIBLE) inflation, which is 6.25 percent, the highest in 30 years. And here's the other area that's particularly bad in Nebraska. Our workforce participation rate is at 61 percent. That is really low. And it should be about 66 or 67 percent, which means about 50 percent of the companies and small businesses want to hire people. They can't find anyone. So we've got to get these other people, about 10 percent of that workforce that left during Covid, we've got to get them back into the workforce so that we can even grow stronger with our economy.

So there are some good news and there are some problems in our economy as well.

SCIUTTO: You know, on the issue of gas prices, because a lot of folks are going to be filling up today and they're going to see higher gas prices, you've called the move to release these barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve a dog chasing tail strategy. I wonder what your strategy would be to lower gas prices, because, as you know, oil prices around the world are up, right? I mean this is a problem across the world. This is largely an international problem. What is the domestic policy solution in your view?

BACON: Well, there are multiple factors to the higher -- high prices. President Biden, I think, shares some of the burden of these high prices. His first day as president, he made restrictions on drilling and production for oil and natural gas and federal lands. And so the markets received in the future a reduced supply. And I think that that is part of the higher costs.

I also disagreed with his canceling of the Keystone Pipeline and, at the same time, promoted the Russian pipeline in Europe. But I think by reducing our production, that has an impact on the markets and the perceptions what the future supply will be. So I think he shares some of the fault for these higher prices.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk infrastructure because you are one of the 13 House Republicans who voted to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It has been interesting because some of your Republican colleagues who voted against it are now touting, an I'm sure you've seen some of these tweets, touting some of the money coming to their districts from this plan that they voted against.

What do you say to your colleagues who voted against it and yet seem to be claiming credit for it, particularly as you get flack for that vote.

BACON: Well, I'm more concerned about those who are trying to kick off John Katko from being the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee and things like that. This -- you know, I believe that infrastructure should be a Republican issue. Abraham Lincoln built the transcontinental railroad, Eisenhower did the interstate system.


BACON: I think we should have embraced this. And this is something for over a decade we've been wanting to do. We've not made major investments in infrastructure in over 40 years. And a strong infrastructure is good for national security, it's good for commerce, it's great for our exports, and also for public safety. And so I thought this was a good bill, wasn't a great bill, and so I wish our team would have embraced it, and it was a mistake. I think like in August, when the Senate passed it, with the 19 Republican votes, our leadership should have said, hey, we demand this -- a bill be put on the floor now, not to be tied to the social infrastructure bill, and we could have embraced it in that way.



BACON: But this is a -- I think there's going to be a lot of great projects done through this bill. I'll just give you one example. Our locks, on the Mississippi rivers and the Ohio rivers, are 90 years old.


BACON: Brazil is building locks that are three times larger. We have to compete in this area if we want better exports. SCIUTTO: Yes. I hear you. I do want to ask you about leadership

because you mentioned it, you have this odd dynamic now where you, Katko and others, you have Republicans calling for them to be removed from their committees. You have the presumptive next speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, saying if he is speaker, he's going to put folks like Congressman Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, back on their committees despite many of the controversial things that they have said. Even spouting conspiracy theories.

You said, you're looking for some leadership that has a compass. Do you believe that Kevin McCarthy has a compass to lead Republicans in the House?

BACON: Well, I appreciate the words he said last week when he said we should be focused on the future. That is the bottom line. And we have a minority in our conference who are not. And we have to remember, they're a small group, but they're loud. And I wish leadership would, privately, probably not publicly, I think should do this privately and say, hey, it's divisive. We should be focused on the future.

Generic polling right now shows the Republicans up 11 percent in generic polling for Congress.


BACON: That is huge. That's one of the biggest in history. That could be a 50 to 70 seat pickup. But if we're going to divide ourselves, we are undermining that opportunity next year and we shouldn't let that happen. So I'm hoping, and I would ask the leadership, to go meet privately with these folks and tell them to stop.

SCIUTTO: OK. You talk about looking to the future. As you know, the former president, Donald Trump, is not looking to the future. He's still claiming, falsely, that the 2020 election was stolen. He -- there's a lot of reporting about -- he wants to announce for 2024.

Do you believe that Donald Trump has the compass, as you've asked for, to lead the Republican Party, and would you support him?

BACON: I believe that we agree with him on many issues, but I think many of us do not like a lot of the Twitter, a lot of the name calling. So, for example, what he said about General Powell a day after he died was inappropriate and it lacks class. And we've got to win the suburbs. You know, President Trump did great in the rural areas, but he got defeated by 11 percent in the suburbs. You can't win the presidency without doing stronger. And I think center right policies work in the suburbs, but they also want decency, diplomacy and tact as we deal with fellow Americans.

And so I would hope we could find someone that has a lot of those issues and policies of our previous president, but we have to engage the American people in a kinder, more diplomatic fashion. That's what we want. We want a more unifying message, not a divisive message. I think over last four years it was just too divisive.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, we'll be looking.

Congressman Don Bacon, thanks for joining the program. We wish you an your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

BACON: Thank you. Yes, sir. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your listeners.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

HILL: Next here, the January 6th committee issuing five new subpoenas targeting right wing extremist groups including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. So, will they cooperate?

Plus, we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures down slightly this morning ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Some big name retail stocks taking a hit this week after earnings reflected poor quarterly results.

Meantime, this afternoon, the Federal Reserve is set to release the minutes from their last meeting. Investors really keeping a close eye out for that. We will be watching all of it as well.

Stay with us.