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Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Returns to Pre-Pandemic Form; Weekly Jobless Claims Fall Below Pre-Pandemic Levels; Three Men Face Life Sentences After Murder Convictions in Arbery Killing. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: We're glad that he's getting the help he needs.

Coy, thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.


Good morning, everyone. It's the top of the hour. Happy Thanksgiving. I'm so pleased to be here with you today. I'm Poppy Harlow. And welcome to a special edition of CNN Newsroom.

It is beginning to look a lot like a -- can I say it -- normal-ish Thanksgiving. Right now, the streets of New York City are filled, stuffed with spectators for the 95th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. About 2.5 million people expected to be there this year. No crowds were allowed last year because of COVID-19. The holiday tradition back in full effect as Americans get back to their normal holiday travel routines. The TSA screened 2.3 million travelers at airports nationwide yesterday. That is the most in one day since the start of the pandemic.

Recent polls suggest that majority of Americans plan to resume their usual Thanksgiving traditions this year. Dr. Fauci says you can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving so long as you take steps to keep your friends and your family safe.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has the assignment of the day and joins me from the Macy's Day Parade. How good does it feel to have all those people there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's an emotional experience to be out here, not only for me but for the people out here as well, just everybody in an incredibly good mood. People here taking in the parade.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

And, look, they've got 15 balloon, many of them new. This is one of the new ones here. This is Ronald McDonald. This is the fifth iteration of Ronald McDonald, but it's the first time this particular balloon has made the parade. They have had 28 floats, 300 pounds of confetti, thousands of people helping out to get the balloons down the street. It is a perfect New York fall day today, and the balloons are as high as I have seen them in the many years that I have covered this thing. So, it is great to see everybody out here, and amazing to see how it's all kicking off.

Interestingly enough, the people who have gotten the biggest applause as they've been going down the way here are the sanitation department, as they go down to help clean up the streets already. Just amazing how excited people are to be out here. 2.5 million people on this route alone they are preparing for, millions more watching around the world on television. It does feel just a little bit like we're getting back to normal. Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow. Yes. It must be quite something for you too, Miguel, to get to cover something happy. I mean, you were one of our key reporters through the whole pandemic in those emergency rooms for two- plus years. So, grateful to you, friend and thank you for bringing us some cheer this morning.

MARQUEZ: After two years, this is great. Happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope you have a great one.

HARLOW: Happy Thanksgiving.

All right, well, the U.S. has now set a new pandemic era record for air travel. 2.3 million people passed through TSA checkpoints at airports across the country yesterday. And now, the Justice Department is warning against unruly behavior, telling federal prosecutors to prioritize cases that involve violence on airplanes.

Let's go to our Pete Muntean. He joins me from Reagan National Airport.

Good. I mean, I'm glad to see the DOJ saying prioritize this because these flight attendants and fellow passengers are being put at serious risk.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: You know, flight attendants have been on the frontlines of enforcing the federal transportation mask mandate, and the head of the Association of Flight Attendants, Sarah Nelson, says it is about time for these violent passengers to face swifter penalties.

What's so interesting here is that Attorney General Merrick Garland is now telling federal prosecutors to prioritize these cases. Here is the issue, Poppy. The FAA cannot press criminal charges against unruly passengers. They can only assess civil fines when these numbers are so high.

This what the numbers look like since the start of this year, 5,300 reports of unruly passengers by flight crews to the FAA, 266 enforcement actions initiated by the FAA. But of those, the FAA has only referred 37 of those cases to the Department of Justice. It's only those most extreme cases where passengers could face up to 25 years in prison. Attorney General Garland says, quote, passengers who assault, intimidate or threaten violence against flight crews do more than harm employees. They prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel.

He also says that the Department of Justice and the FAA are committed to more information sharing.


This is coming as so many people are rushing back to air travel. We just set a pandemic era travel record, 2.3 million people pass through security at America's airports just yesterday, and it's likely we will see numbers that are even higher come Sunday. That's when everybody who left for the holiday begins coming home all at once, Poppy.

HARLOW: Pete, thank you for the report. We appreciate it, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Well, this year the Thanksgiving dinner will be the most expensive ever for Americans. You can blame inflation for that. Families who struggle to put food on the table on just an average night, well, this traditional feast is likely completely out of reach for them. And that is where events like the citywide clubs super feast in Houston step in. It begins next hour. It's expected to feed up to 30,000 people for a 43rd year.

Our Correspondent Rosa Flores joins us in Houston with more. Rosa, these are the best, the best of the best people, who give of their Thanksgiving to give to others. What are we expecting?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, it's so great to be with you. Happy thanksgiving. This is a Texas-sized feast here on the grounds of the Georgia R. Brown Convention Center. Just take a look at all the food behind me. This is being placed into baskets that will be handed out to the 25,000 to 30,000 people who are expected to participate here today on Thanksgiving.

Now, you'll see a lot of the volunteers behind me. The organization says that they have about 3,500 people helping to make all of this happen. Well, beyond these volunteers, beyond this food, there's a lot of tables here at this convention center and a serving area. That's where the hot meals will be served. According to the organizers, 3,200 turkey were cooked for this. I can tell you by being in the kitchen yesterday, it smells very good, they were cutting fresh yams and also baking fresh corn bread. So, their meal is going to be amazing.

Beyond that, there's a stage, there's going to be entertainment all morning long. And beyond these large doors, what's going to happen there is drive-up site. So, that's where about 15,000 turkeys will be handed out to people who drive up in their cars. They're also going to be handing out these baskets that are supposed to last a family of five to six about three or four days. They want to make sure this is not just for the Thanksgiving meal but that these individuals have plenty of food for a few days at least. And, Poppy, the organizer here tells me she's been doing this for more than 40 years because she wants to says this year, of course, there's been so many people impacted because of the pandemic and because of the increasing gas prices and food prices, the arctic freeze here in Texas that impacted so many. So, there is so much need. That's why they're celebrating Thanksgiving today with between 25,000 and 30,000 people, Poppy.

So, just process that for a moment. We'll be here all day. We'll bring you these pictures and also some of the stories of these fabulous people who are helping out. Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow. Thank you, Rosa, for bringing them. And what an amazing woman, doing this for 40 years, and a reminder we can all do a little bit more. Thank you very much, Rosa.

Well, fresh signs of the U.S. economy is on the mend despite this heavy inflation that we have. Weekly jobless claims have fallen below pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from the Labor Department. They're, in fact, the lowest since 1969. Retail sales are soaring, stock market has doubled since dropping to a pandemic low in March of 2020. Now, more Americans are expected to shop this year, and they're projected to spend about $1,000 each this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.

With me now is Matthew Shay, CEO and President of the National Retail Federation. Good morning. Thank you for joining us on Thanksgiving.

MATTHEW SHAY, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: Hey, Poppy. Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: I find it so interesting that you've got all of these sort of great economic indicators that I just mentioned, but you have them coupled with really painful inflation for people that they feel every day, multiple times a day, whether at the gas station, whether it's at the grocery story, price is up, the most we've seen since, really, 1990.

That story, though, doesn't seem to be hitting consumers. They're spending a lot of money.

SHAY: Yes, Poppy. I think at the highest levels, at the macro level, the economy is in a very good place. Consumers are very healthy. They've got $4 trillion in savings on the sidelines. They have paid down debt. We've seen $5 trillion of fiscal stimulus, really supportive monetary policy. So, the economic on the demand side is so good, it's overheated. And that's leading to real pressures and inflationary prices in many goods.


Retailers are working very, very hard not only to make sure that the goods that consumers want are on shelves, but also to try to mitigate the price increases. And so you have seen retailer being very creative about the way they're holding prices down, not pass on all those cost to consumers. And so far, consumers continue to respond in a really positive way.

HARLOW: So, let me just give you one example. Here in New York City, the eggs I usually buy that were $2.99 were $4.49, right? So, what is being done?

SHAY: Well, I think, certainly, we have got wage inflation as well, so people have more purchasing power. Their wages are going further because they're making more money. But in every retail store, in every segment, it's going to be a little bit different. So, if you're in a luxury store, a general merchandiser, a grocery store, apparel specialty, retailers are working with all of their individual products to try to move those prices around in ways that they mitigate the price increase off consumers as much as possible.

HARLOW: Where are you -- you're probably tapped into these supply chain issues better than almost anyone. And there are so many factors here. There's what's going on at the ports. There are so many levels of this. But when are you expecting the supply chain pressures to ease?

SHAY: Well, I think it's a combination of things. Just a minute ago, we mentioned all those fiscal stimulus measures we put in place that's really overheated demand. And then we've constricted supply. We think of the supply chain as what happens at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach and other ports in the country. But this is a global supply chain system. So, what happens in Vietnam or China with shipping containers, with lockdowns due to COVID spikes, so it's going to take a few months. I think in many cases, it will be well into next year before we see these things come back into balance. And until then, we're going to keep working very hard to make sure consumers have what they need.

HARLOW: Well into next year, wow.

I want to talk to you about the position that the National Retail Federation has taken on mandated COVID vaccinations from the Biden administration. Because we have new COVID cases up, we've got the CDC now saying and forecasting that COVID deaths and hospitalizations will increase over the next month, but the National Retail Federation is not supportive of the Biden administration's employer-based vaccine and testing requirements. You said, look, this is coming in the middle of our busiest shopping season. It's going to hurt retailers, but what do you say to people, Matthew, who look at that position and ask, are you prioritizing profits over public health?

SHAY: I guess, Poppy, I would start by pointing out one of the great success stories of the last 20 months has been the way the retail industry has stepped up and made sure that even in the darkest days back last March and April, when the whole country was essentially in lockdown, we had groceries, we had prescription drugs, we had pet food. And as we moved through the various spaces of thepandemic, we had what we needed to go to school and go to work and entertain and recreate from home, in our apartments and new places.

So, the retail industry has been part of the success. Our objection is not about the vaccines, their effectiveness or even whether there should be a mandate. Our concern is simply about the timing. And we've had that conversation with the White House repeatedly over the last few months. The lawsuit was a last resort, not a first resort. We really want to work with the administration and phase this in. But given the labor shortages that we are all facing right now across industries, this is an incredibly challenging time to try to implement this mandate.

HARLOW: I hear you, and we're all beyond grateful for the sacrifices that they all made for so many months and continue to make, but isn't that an argument to do everything you can as an organization that represents them to ensure their safety and consumer safety, whether it be in the form of vaccine or regular testing in a moment heading into a season where cases and deaths are going up?

SHAY: Absolutely. And that was one of the reasons that in July of '20, we were the first industry trade group to come out and encourage mask mandates in all retail locations. So, that's a year-and-a-half ago, almost. We were out front on that. Retailers have invested billions of dollars in bonuses, in additional wages, in time off, in health care, personal protective equipment. I think you would find it really interesting to know that in the vast majority of cases, retail stores are some of the safest places that you can go. So, the spikes we have seen haven't been spiked that occurred in retail locations where people are in masks and observing PPP, social distancing. It's happening in other places.

So, we want to be at the front solution. We've had that conversation with the Biden administration. We want to work on the timing. But to force this on an industry now in the midst of this hiring crisis, we're trying to keep people employed, this is the wrong time to do it. So, let's talk about this in January and February. Let's get through the holiday season and then let's work together to make this happen.

HARLOW: Matthew Shay, thank you for your time this morning and Happy Thanksgiving.

SHAY: Thanks, Poppy. Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you.

HARLOW: Still to come, accountability for the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery after the jury found all three men were found guilty yesterday. Why Ahmaud Arbery's mother says she looks at that empty chair around her Thanksgiving table differently this year.

Also, we are live in Europe where a new wave of coronavirus threatens additional lockdowns, which countries are breaking pandemic records.

And later, as we gather to celebrate this holiday, just how much more is Thanksgiving dinner costing you and the inflated prices aren't helping farmers, either.



HARLOW: Now that all three men in the Ahmaud Arbery case have been convicted of murder, it is now up to the judge overseeing the trial to decide if they will spend the rest of their life in prison or if parole will even be considered. And in the wake of all three men being found guilty, Mr. Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told CNN she is thankful on this Thanksgiving morning. Listen.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: Don't give up. Continue fighting. Early in the case, it took us 74 days to get an arrest. And I knew it was my job as mom to really find out what happened to Ahmaud. I prayed. God answered my prayers. So, I'm just thankful sitting here this morning.

This is the first Thanksgiving that we can look at that empty chair and say we finally got justice for you, Ahmaud.


HARLOW: Joining me now is Civil Rights Attorney Charles F. Coleman Jr. He is also a former New York prosecutor and trial attorney. Good to have you. Thank you for coming in on Thanksgiving.

I would like to actually begin with your take on this verdict, because you say, despite the verdict, guilty pretty much across the board on nearly all charges for all three men, we should still be concerned following this trial.

CHARLES F. COLEMAN JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Good morning, Poppy, and Happy Thanksgiving. I do think that the verdict in this is cause for us to breathe a sigh of relief, but I think that it is very important that we understand what that means. It does not mean that our work is done. It does not mean that we have come as far as we need to go. I think the fact that so many of us knew that this verdict was in doubt and that we could not take for granted even after a video, even after the prosecution laid forth an almost airtight case, we knew we couldn't take for granted this verdict.

And so because of that, because we weren't confident that the justice system was going to work the way that we say it's supposed to work, we know that we have a lot more to do.

So, I do take this verdict with a victory, as a victory, as a sign of moving in the right direction, but I just want us to be clear about in the largest context, where this leaves us.

HARLOW: Let's will listen to some sound from the prosecutor here, Linda Dunikoski, and what she said about this justice system working in this country. Here she was.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: Don't take your firearms to chase somebody down when you don't know what it is they're really doing or why they're really doing it. And I think that's an important part of what this case is about, about assumptions and implicit bias that we either acknowledge or don't acknowledge, but we need to really watch it within ourselves. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: What did you think when you heard that?

COLEMAN: I appreciated those comments. And the reason I appreciated them, more than anything else, was, throughout the case, throughout the trial, the prosecution really walked a tightrope in terms how it dealt with the issue of race. They definitely put out themes but they weren't very aggressively in terms of overtly talking about it in front of the jury, as compared to the defense who seemed to have problem invoking issues of race.

And I don't know whether they were trying to try to trigger latent bigotry among some of the jurors that they thought was there, which obviously wasn't. But in any event, to actually hear her talk about things like implicit bias overtly and directly is reassuring. And it's comforting to know that she understood and recognize that race was, in fact, an element in this trial.

HARLOW: So, you made such an important point that, really, the prosecution did not bring up race in the majority of the trial, really, until the closing argument. However, in the February trial, the federal trial on hate crimes charges, that certainly I would expect would not be the case, right? Do you expect that race will be a central focus, obviously given that it's a hate crimes charge across the board, but they will do things like -- the DOJ prosecutors will do things, like focus on internet searches done by Bryan or comments the defendants made or photo evidence of that vanity license plate with a confederate emblem on the pickup truck. Is that going to really be central this time?

COLEMAN: Absolutely, Poppy. I think that that's going to be a much bigger part of the case that you will see as that trial unfolds. I also think that when it comes to evidence and what comes in, a lot of the evidence that you see or that you saw in the trial that we just had is not going to be the same evidence that you will see put forward in the federal hate crimes case, because it's a different case and the statutes are different, and what you have to prove are different. And so what's relevant becomes different.

So, while a judge in this case may not have found those things to be relevant, I would imagine that the judge in the federal case will find those things to be far more probative, far more relative, and it's much more likely that you will see them included at trial.


HARLOW: One thing I find just fascinating is -- and there was a lot made of it during the trial -- importantly, is the makeup of the jury, that you only had one black member of a jury in a community that I believe is 69 percent, 27 percent, African-American, not fully representative of the community. But the prosecutor talked yesterday about the real confidence that she had in this jury all the way through.

COLEMAN: Yes. You know, Poppy, there are a lot of people who have pointed to this case and said, well, this is evidence that the justice system is working. And while I can appreciate that and I would like to share that optimism, I was deeply concerned about the racial makeup of the jury. And I said for a very long time, a number of times on this network, on different programs, that race was the 13th juror in this case, and I don't think that we can really ignore that.

Before we get too excited about what the justice system did in this case, I want you and viewers to think about a couple things. As we heard from Ahmaud Arbery's mother, it took prosecutors over 73 days. It took them over 2.5 months to even arrest three people who are now convicted murderers. We had a prosecutor in Brunswick, Georgia, who has now been indicted because she attempted to shield these same three convicted murderers from even being arrested.

And were it not for the video that had been taken by Roddie Bryan, which played a key element into their overall conviction, who knows where we would be. Those three things do not suggest to me that we can simply just say a blanket statement that our justice system is working the way it should, because it's not a guarantee. It's not something we can count on. So, until this becomes something that is the expectation and that we can put our faith in, we have to continue to press forward so that it no longer remains the exception.

HARLOW: Charles F. Coleman, Jr., thank you very much and Happy Thanksgiving.

COLEMAN: Thank you, Poppy, you as well.

HARLOW: Still ahead, a precarious situation for the White House, how to handle the buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine's border. President Biden's message to Ukraine is next.

Also, first, what to watch, here's a look at what else to watch today.