Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

More Smash And Grab Mob Theft At California's Nordstrom And Apple Stores; Three Men Who Killed Arbery Face Federal Hate Crime Charges; No Sign Of Slowdown Ahead Of Black Friday. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 15:00   ET


TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: They are air dropping supplies, communities cut off and airlifting a lot of livestock out.

Travel-wise quickly for you. If you've got a flight in the Great Lakes on Saturday, the winds could cause some flight delays. Rain, it was beautiful for the Macy's Day Parade, but now the rain tomorrow moves into the East Coast.

However, on Sunday, we are looking at probably the first snowfall of the year for many in areas of New England, so maybe a few flight delays there as well, but travel by road could be a problem.

So again, a lot to worry about. The fire threat is real in Southern California. Please be careful. I know everyone wants a safe Thanksgiving, but again, safe travels for those returning on Sunday if that is your return date. Happy Thanksgiving.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: That's right. Happy Thanksgiving. Tom Sater, thanks so much.

And a quick programming note, Lisa Ling uncovers that wealth made the Osage people of Oklahoma a target in the 1920s. Discover the horrific plot to steal Osage land and money, an all-new "This is Life" with Lisa Ling airs Sunday night at 10, right here on CNN.


It is the start of a brand new hour on this Thanksgiving Day and thank you so much for joining CNN's Special Holiday coverage.

I'm Jessica Dean. Alisyn and Victor are off today.

The first Thanksgiving in a mostly vaccinated America is now in full swing with 59 percent of the U.S. fully vaccinated. Americans have been on the move to near pre-pandemic levels. The T.S.A. said the number of air travelers just broke a pandemic-era record. More than 2.3 million people went through checkpoints on Wednesday alone. That is 88 percent of 2019 levels.

It's also the seventh consecutive day the T.S.A. screened at least two million passengers. A recent poll finds nearly 70 percent of us are spending this Holiday with the same number of people or more than we did before COVID hit. And today's most colorful and creative sign yet that America is

getting back to normal, a packed Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Two and a half million people were expected to show up for the 95th annual event and take a listen to the cheers for the star of the show.


KATE MCHUGH, MACY'S PARADE SPECTATOR: It feels like we are almost getting back to normal in a sense, you know, we're able to be out in crowds again and be able to see family. We're visiting family in New Jersey that we haven't seen in a long time.


DEAN: It is great to be able to see people again. Last year, no in- person spectators were allowed at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but what a difference a year and vaccines make.

Brazen bands of thieves have hit several more high-end stores in California. One group attacked a security guard. Los Angeles Police responded to a Nordstrom store at a mall last night and they say the robbers attacked that security guard with bear spray before making off with expensive purses.

And in Santa Rosa in the Bay Area yesterday, authority say thieves snatched $20,000.00 worth of merchandise from an Apple Store. CNN national correspondent Camila Bernal is outside that Apple store this afternoon, and Camila, this happened in broad daylight with shoppers inside.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jessica. It's unbelievable because it wasn't just shoppers, it was also store employees and it was also caught on video. So authorities are now looking into at least four people coming into this small and getting out with about $20,000.00 worth of Apple products.

Unfortunately, police also telling us that they believe they are teenagers ages 14 to 18. And so, there is a lot of work for investigators here and as well in Southern California because they too are looking at all of this surveillance video, as you mentioned in that Nordstrom. They believe at least five people were involved. You can see it on the video. You can see someone even wearing an orange wig and you can see them getting out of that store with those purses.

LAPD saying that they are increasing patrols, and that's also the case here in the Bay Area in San Francisco. I've been able to see more police officers outside of these luxury stores, but for some of them, it's already too late. We're talking about the Louis Vuitton, the Nordstrom, the Bloomingdale's, the YSL, the Burberry, and even Walgreens.

The Chief of Police in San Francisco, saying that they will continue to review the surveillance videos, promising arrest in the near future, but then it goes into the hands of the district attorney. He is a controversial figure in San Francisco, who says he will hold people accountable, but also added that it's up to the judges to see how long or even if these people are held in jail.

So it seems like the blame and the responsibility is being passed on and in the meantime, we're all watching these surveillance videos and even watching it on social media and it's easy to see that we're talking about products worth thousands and thousands of dollars. So clearly, a lot of work to be done here in California -- Jessica.


DEAN: Yes. Exactly right. Camila Bernal for us. Thanks so much.

The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery are spending this Thanksgiving in prison as they wait for sentencing. Yesterday, a jury found them guilty on multiple charges, including murder. Arbery's mother reflected on her bittersweet feelings today.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: This is the second Thanksgiving that my family and I will share without a mind, but this is the first Thanksgiving that we can look at that empty chair and say, we finally got justice for you, Ahmaud.

So I mean, it's like a bittersweet moment. He's not here, but I know that he's in the heavens, very, very, very, very thankful that we got justice for him.


DEAN: And joining me now to discuss, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, and former U.S. attorney and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Harry Litman. Lovely to see both of you. Thanks for taking time on this Thanksgiving.

Renato, I want to start with you. Walk us through what's next for these men as they face sentencing? And then they now have a Federal trial coming up on hate crime charges.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, so first of all, their attorneys are going to be, I think trying to come up with the best possible sentencing submission. Now, in the state case, unfortunately for these gentlemen, the minimum penalty is life in prison. The question is whether it'll be with parole or without parole.

So there's still a lot there, for them to be arguing to the Judge, because obviously, it's an important distinction. But as you point out, this Federal case coming I think is going to lead those attorneys to try to negotiate with the government to get, for example, a guilty plea in a Federal case in the hopes of serving some of their time in Federal prison, as much of their time as possible in a Federal prison rather than state prison.

DEAN: That's an interesting point. And, Harry, from your perspective, what can we expect from this Federal trial? And help us understand how it is going to be different than the trial that we just went through? HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sure. First

of all, congratulations to newlywed Renato. The Federal trial, it's very unusual that the Feds has actually brought charges. Normally, they wait to see what will happen in state court.

And here, of course, in state court, it was the biggest penalty they might have thought of. I actually -- if I were betting would say there will not be a Federal trial now. Nevertheless, the Feds, as Renato suggests, will insist on some kind of guilty plea and disposition.

But in the words of the Federal policy, I think the Federal interest has been vindicated by the verdicts that we had yesterday in the State Courts of Georgia. So they've been sort of backstopped. But now, I think they will not go through the whole second trial. Nevertheless, make sure, because that Federal trial, Jessica, has the special kind, sort of theme of racial violence, racial hostility, which was absent from the state one, and I think the Feds will want to be sure that that theme is vindicated even if it doesn't result in more time as of course it can't, as Renato suggests.

DEAN: Sure. And, Harry, I want to stay with you for this next question, because I want to talk about some other legal news while we have you.

CNN reported Manhattan prosecutors investigating the Trump Organization. We've learned that they don't intend to charge a key player, Matthew Calamari with any crimes as of now. Are prosecutors, in your opinion trying to flip him? If not, why not press charges right now?

LITMAN: Yes, they are in really a full court press so that the head of the office who wants to make the decision has already announced he is leaving at the end of the year. So, they have to pull out all stops. Right now, they have cases against the Trump organization.

But as you know, the CFO for the organization has stood back and is not giving information against Trump. So, if they want to get anywhere, they have to pull out all stops. You can't say for certain that that's what they're doing, but it stands to reason when they announced that, that they are trying to get some kind, any kind of cooperation to build a case against the people who right now, they still don't have one against.

DEAN: Right. And Renato, Alisyn Camerota spoke to Michael Cohen on Monday after he finished his sentence, and he promised that more indictments were coming specifically in Trump's inner circle at the Trump Organization. I'll play that clip.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP: That is -- they're working on it. They're working on it hard and as you know, Donald is litigious and so they want to ensure that they have everything in order before they bring this. Obviously, they don't want to bring disrepute to the office, and they have to make sure that when they do file those indictments against anyone whose last name is Trump or others that those indictments stick.


DEAN: Renato, what do you think about his comments there?


MARIOTTI: Well, he is a potential witness. I think it's very likely that he knows some things that we don't know, because he's had conversations with prosecutors. That said, I would just caution everyone that, of course, Michael Cohen, while technically, he's a lawyer. He's not a criminal defense attorney, and is not the prosecutor in this case. He's not somebody who is going to be making ultimately those decisions. So let's hold our breath and wait and see exactly what comes to this.

DEAN: Maybe wait and let it actually play out to see what happens.

And Harry here in D.C., the January 6th Committee has subpoenaed more than 40 people at this point. There is a number of them right now. What does that signify to you? And, you know, you talk about time as well. You know, they don't have a ton of time to get this work done because the midterms are coming. Does it signify to you they are moving quickly, does it -- and also, what does it tell you about who they have subpoenaed?

LITMAN: Yes, I think the who is as important as the number because they are now, these last two rounds are people who were not directly involved, but rather looked to have been involved in the coordination, the financing the organization, that's one big point; and second, at least for some of them, were directly in contact with Trump and his inner circle, including Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.

So these are the very folks who you would build a bridge from, the organizers -- excuse me, the insurrectionists themselves to the very top, the Stones and the Joneses.

Now, in terms of timing, you're 100 percent right. They have a big staff, a good staff. I'm sure they are already putting pen to paper, and very aware that midterms or not even, but a couple of months before midterms, end of the summer is going to be coming very fast.

If they want comprehensive work, especially because some witnesses will resist them. They have to go pedal to the metal essentially starting now. And all indications are that's exactly what they're doing.

DEAN: Yes, Renato Mariotti and Harry Litman, thanks to both of you. Have a great Thanksgiving.

LITMAN: Happy Thanksgiving. Congrats, Renato.

DEAN: Congratulations. Thanks to both of you.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

DEAN: Coming up. How do you avoid COVID during the craziest shopping day of the year? We've got some tips from our doctor.

Plus the malls may get packed this weekend, but will the store shelves be filled up?

And later Richard Quest talks about the future of video games with the man who made Xbox a household name.



DEAN: Supply chain issues, record inflation -- the things that might slow down holiday spending are not having much impact so far this shopping season. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich has more on a bullish Black Friday forecast.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER (voice over): It's been a blockbuster season for retailers. Sales rose by 1.7 percent just last month, beating expectations.

BILL BOLTZ, EXECUTIVE VICE President OF MERCHANDISING, LOWE'S: The consumer is shopping earlier and they've been shopping earlier, and we think that they'll continue that pattern throughout the Holiday season.

YURKEVICH (voice over): The biggest shopping day of the year is still Black Friday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

YURKEVICH (voice over): The Lowe's has been running sales since October, trying to capitalize on the 46 percent of shoppers who plan to buy earlier than normal this year.

KATHERINE CULLEN, SENIOR DIRECTOR, INDUSTRY AND CONSUMER INSIGHTS, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: We're seeing consumers really move up their Holiday shopping timeline, not just for this historical trend, but also because of some concerns around supply chain disruptions and inventory issues.

YURKEVICH (voice over): And there is no indication a 30-year record inflation is stopping shoppers from spending.

CULLEN: We are expecting for the overall holiday shopping season that retail sales will grow somewhere between 8.5 and 10.5 percent, which is certainly much higher growth than the level of inflation.

YURKEVICH (voice over): And it's not just growth, but record spending. Up to nearly $860 billion in the last two months of 2021. Two million more people are expected to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year compared to last.

BOLTZ: Those are the trends we're certainly seeing as it relates to how the shopping patterns happen at Lowe's right now. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Total is $34.56, please.

YURKEVICH (voice over): But the surge in early Holiday shopping is overwhelming some smaller retailers.

BRANDY DEIESO, OWNER, THE LITTLE APPLE: Having people come early was making me a little nervous.

YURKEVICH (voice over): Brandy Deieso, owner of The Little Apple in Philadelphia says supply chain issues delayed key holiday merchandise.

DEIESO: Two of my large orders I ended up having to cancel.

YURKEVICH (voice over): And while she says she has had to raise prices to offset higher freight costs, she said shoppers are still buying and is expecting a larger than normal crowd on Black Friday.

DEIESO: People are still coming to shop small on Black Friday as well, which has been a new phenomenon that's just started in the last couple of years.

YURKEVICH (voice over): But there may be another phenomenon for early shopping and lots of it this holiday season. Something that can't be defined by a number or economic indicator.

DEIESO: The Holidays of course bring people together and that's the spirit that you know people are trying to capture and by coming out and shopping and buying gifts and things that are special and thinking of their loved ones. I think people have just been craving that for so long, now they finally feel comfortable enough to do it again.

YURKEVICH (voice over): Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



DEAN: And let's talk now with CNN economics and political commentator, Catherine Rampell. She's a columnist for "The Washington Post." Catherine, Happy Thanksgiving. Great to have you on.

We just heard how retail sales are on fire despite the supply chain issues. The Labor Department just reported weekly jobless claims were at a mere 199,000. That's the lowest since 1969, well before the pandemic, and yet inflation is at its worst in 31 years. So, putting all of this data together, how would you rate the economy this Thanksgiving?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As you point out, on many metrics, the economy is doing quite well. Unemployment is relatively low by historical standards. I mean, it's lower today than it was even during the housing boom in the mid-2000s, for example. It is lower than it was at any point during Obama's presidency.

The stock market is doing quite well. GDP is above where it was pre- pandemic, even though you know, we'd like it to be higher, of course. And of course, as our viewers just saw, retail sales are booming. So on many metrics, economy looks good.

Of course, if you look at consumer sentiment, it's quite poor right now, and that's driven by inflation, by the fact that consumers feel their living standards being eroded, because they're worried about the fact that prices are going up, you know, in some sense, they should be ahead given the government transfers that have been distributed over the past year, the stimulus checks, the child tax credits, et cetera.

Those should more than outweigh the erosion in wage income for the typical family, let's say. But people are worried that inflation will continue. They're worried that their wages will continue to not keep up. And so, you know, people are pretty dour on this economy, despite all of those good numbers we just talked about.

DEAN: Right. Right. In a new NPR/Marist survey finds Americans view of Biden's job approval overall mirrors how they view his handling of the economy. And as you just talked about, inflation is at the top of mind for voters. When people were asked what their top economic concerns are, take a look, inflation, the top spot there with 39 percent. It was followed by wages, labor shortages, unemployment there at the bottom.

Does President Biden deserve the blame for this, Catherine? Should he be -- should his approval rating be tied to this? Are these things under his control?

RAMPELL: So, I will say the thing that I always say when asked about whether Presidents are properly credited for economic conditions. Presidents get too much credit when the economy is good and too much blame when the economy is bad, or too much blame for parts of the economy that are bad, or parts of the economy that are good, and that's the situation right now.

Inflation is up, not because of any particular thing that the President did, it is because there are all of these supply chain disruptions throughout the world caused by the pandemic. Demand is up that is partly driven by some fiscal policy decisions that Congress and this President and the previous President made giving people more stimulus checks and things like that.

But it's also that people had a lot of savings from last year. They have money in the bank. That money is, you know, burning a hole in their pocket, so to speak. They want to spend it, and they're trying to buy more stuff, even than they were pre-pandemic. They are shifting more of their spending to goods, at the same time that goods are difficult to get through the supply chain.

All of that is driving inflation up, and that's happening worldwide to some extent, it's not Biden's faults. And to the same idea, Biden has relatively little that he can do about it. He can kind of change some things on the margins. You know, he's made efforts to get ports operating at longer hours, for example. I think he could be doing more on expediting work permits for illegal immigrants, things like that, which the administration has not done. But even all of those things put together probably won't make a huge

dent. What we need to see happen is we need to see the pandemic more in the rearview mirror and have things normalized and have supply chains normalized, so that when people want to buy stuff from around the world, it gets to them more easily, more quickly, and more cheaply.

DEAN: Right. And before I let you go, you recently wrote a piece about this message, this idea that corporate greed is behind inflation, that it's -- that corporate greed is behind inflation, that it's a misguided idea. What do you mean by that? Walk us through it?

RAMPELL: Well, you know, the left has been testing out different messages about inflation, because as I said, the President has very little that he can actually do to address it. So, they want to show that they are trying to do something to get a handle on these concerns that are affecting many American households, basically all American households.

So the latest talking point is the real cause behind inflation is corporate greed. Now, to believe that corporate greed is behind these recent price spikes, you would have to think either that corporation suddenly got much greedier than they used to be or that they are somehow much more able to act on that greed, neither of those things is true.


Corporations are always out to make a buck. That was true this year, that was true last year when inflation was actually quite low, early in the spring of 2020, that was true a decade ago, a century ago. What's different right now has nothing to do with corporations being more willing to act in their own self-interest. They always are. It has to do with the supply and demand factors that I was just talking about.

Supply chains are kind of broken and demand is way up. Those two things together, push up both prices as well as profits. Companies tend to do quite well when demand is high. That's why you're seeing these things coincide, record profits for corporations and higher prices.

There is nothing mysterious about this. There is no conspiracy theory. It's not to say that, you know, some of these markets aren't broken, couldn't benefit from different kinds of regulatory or anti-trust interventions. That was true before, it is true now. Markets are not perfect.

But it's not like there was sudden -- there was suddenly some change where all of these executives and shareholders woke up and said huh, I'm going to be greedy today, but I wasn't before. They weren't being altruistic last year, they're not being greedier now. They're always self-interested. That's the way the world works.

DEAN: Yes, yes. Catherine Rampell, I always learn something when you're on. Thanks so much for being with us. Have a great Thanksgiving.

RAMPELL: Happy Thanksgiving.

DEAN: Straight ahead, grocery prices may be rising, but those higher prices do not mean bigger profits for farmers. We will explain why.