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House to Vote on Domestic Terrorism Bill in Wake of Buffalo Shooting; Report: Sea Level Rise, Green House Gas Emissions, Ocean Heat & Acidity Hit All-Time Highs; Estranged Friend of Amber Heard Testifies About Injuries; Georgia Students Suing School District, Allege Pattern of Racism. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: We're back with a chilling development in the investigation of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. The alleged gunman shared his plans online 30 minutes before the attack.

A spokesman for the social media, @Discord, which allows people to chat anonymously, says the 18-year-old suspected shooter invited a small group to read his posts that he was about to carry out. Ten people died and three people were wounded in this attack.


In the wake of that shooting, House lawmakers today will vote on bill aimed at preventing domestic terrorism.

CNN chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us now.

Manu, what would this legislation do and are the votes there?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The votes are likely there to pass this out of the House today. But this has been a very difficult task for Democratic leaders.

In fact, they had tried to pass a similar version of this several weeks ago but faced opposition from the left flank of their caucus, from a group of Democratic members known as The Squad.

They were concerned. They raised civil liberties concerns. As a result, they had to yank the bill from floor consideration. They had to make changes.

And now and they believe they have the Democratic votes in line for this bill, which essentially creates a new focus within the law enforcement agencies over trying to root out domestic terrorism.

Specifically what it would do is the bill would authorize domestic terrorism offices in the Department of Homeland Security, along with the Department of Justice and the FBI, allowing them to monitor domestic terrorist activity. And it would also essentially assess the threat specifically posed by

white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. And assign an FBI special agent to look into these matters.

The issue for the Democrats going forward is that it appears to lack significant Republican support.

In fact, the House Republican leadership is urging its members to vote against a plan that they believe will divert resource and give the federal government more power and unnecessary authority, in their view.

This is what Steve Scalise's office sent out. He's the Republican whip. Sending out a notice to all Republican members, saying:

"Diverting resources that could be used to actually combat domestic terrorism and mandating investigations into the armed services and law enforcement, this bill further weaponizes and emboldens the DOJ to target American's First Amendment rights and go after those they see as political threats."

So, Ana, it will pass the House today but its chances of passing in the Senate, where it would need 10 Republicans to overcome a filibuster, seems unlikely at this point.

Just showing how hard it is for Congress to come together in the aftermath of these massacres that we've seen.

CABRERA: All right, Manu Raju, just got back. Thank you.

The latest warming on climate change could not be more dire. Melting ice sheets pushing sea levels to new heights. The world's oceans more warmer and more acidic than any period on record. And levels of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also at all-time highs.

Just a sample of the bleak assessment the U.N. weather agency, in its latest annual report. It warns that human activities are causing planetary scale changes and it's happening before our eyes.

Meteorologist Tom Sater joins us now in the CNN Weather Center.

Tom, take us through this report.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It sounds like a broken record, Ana, but the record is not broken. It's just no one is listening to it. It's the same record.

So the World Meteorological Association at the U.N. are just trying to turn that volume up a little bit.

Listen to this. The U.N. secretary says this invasion of Ukraine should be wakeup call. Instead of countries scurrying around to find avenues for more for petrol and gas, get to green energy now.

Look at this. You mentioned it. Greatest sea level rise, highest it's ever been. Greenhouse gas levels, every year we break a record and we broke another one. It's manmade. It's human induced.

Ocean heat, highest temperatures ever recorded now in our oceans and acidification, which this is going to continue for hundreds of years. And that means not only affecting marine life but it's going to affect the food chain.

There is no doubt the correlation between what we're pumping into the atmosphere, a direct relationship to the temperatures. And we'll run through a few of these.

Last year, we had thunderstorms with lightening for the first ever inside the Arctic Circle. It rained for the first time in history where it typically snows in Greenland.

Greenland lone is our biggest contributor to ocean level rise with the sea ice that is melting. Of course, right now, glaciers that have melted away are now considered at the point of no return. They will not come back.

When you look at the sea level rise and the rate, it has nearly doubled since the '90s.

Now, we had this video just last week at Cape Hatteras. It may only be a quarter of an inch a year but it's going to grow exponentially.

In fact, the government of Indonesia, two months broke ground. They are moving their capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan in Borneo because they know they will under water.

Across the globe, just this last year, Death Valley, highest temperature recorded for North America. Just two days ago, in Pakistan, the highest temperature ever. And 124 degrees across Asia. India is breaking records.

And just last month, the flooding in South Africa. That's never been seen before. They've got flooding right now.

And it continues to be a problem in eastern areas of Australia.

Fires, New Mexico, biggest fire in their history right now. In the last 40 years, the size of the fires have doubles.


And it's not just New Mexico. Last year, records in -- fires in Greece, in Turkey.

They're out of control right now, Ana, in Siberia because the Russian army, which typically fights the fires, is on the frontline. Poland usually helps them out. They said, forget it, you're on your on your own.

The report ends by saying, besides getting into new renewable energy, we've got to come up with the technology that will vacuum and suck out the CO2 from our atmosphere.

No one is listening. The record is not broken. No one is listening.

CABRERA: But you have so much now tangible evidence --


CABRERA: -- of the effects of this climate crisis and the climate change that is occurring before our eyes.

Tom Slater, thank you for laying it all out for us.

A group of black students are suing after they were suspended for trying to protest Confederate flag displays at their school. The stunning allegations don't stop there. Their story, ahead.



CABRERA: There's more explosive testimony today in the salacious defamation trial that pits Johnny Depp against his ex-wife, Amber Heard.

Heard has described Depp as a monster when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And today, the defense used a former friend's testimony to underscore that argument.

CNN's Jean Casarez is following this trial.

Jean, there's been so many things in this trial. What's new today?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to keep up. Very important day today. Amber Heard has taken the stand. Her direct testimony alleged violent scenarios with Johnny Depp. Her cross-examination pinpointed very aggressive.

So it's important for Amber Heard's team to put on a witness that corroborates her testimony, that shows she is telling the truth.

So her best friend, who was her best friend at the time, took the stand today, Rocky Pennington.

And Johnny Depp owned all of the apartments on the top level of the apartment building they lived in. She and her fiance lived in one of those penthouses. So she was around Amber all the time. She was around Johnny Depp when he was in town all the time.

She testified that many times she saw the penthouse in total disarray. The lamps were turned over. Glass pieces were all over the bed. There was wine all over the floor.

Then she testified and the jury saw photos that she said she took of injuries to Amber Heard. Bruised eye, swollen nose, a scalp that had appearance of blood on it. Hair on the floor that allegedly Johnny Depp has pulled out from the scalp of Amber.

Really, really horrific pictures to show what she says were the violent injuries.

I want you to listen to a little bit of her testimony.


RAQUEL "ROCKY" PENNINGTON, DEFENSE WITNESS & ESTRANGED FRIEND OF AMBER HEARD: In the beginning, it was great. Towards the end, when the physical abuse was more evident, I was worried. I was worried for her physical safety. I was worried, when he returned, he might accidently do something that was worse than he ever intended.


CASAREZ: Here is the significant of those photos. The very next day, Amber Heard was on the James Cordon show. And yesterday, the jury saw video of that show. Her face was perfect. You didn't see anything on the video and even the still pictures.

What we think that Depp's team is going to do is to try the show that they manufactured some of those injuries in some form or fashion, through editing of the pictures or through lighting, the way it was put and placed.

Because they were creating a record right there, ultimately, that culminated in a temporary restraining order.

CABRERA: The outcome really, as you have said, rests on what jurors believe, whether she is credible in these allegations.

CASAREZ: Absolutely.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Jean Casarez.

Disturbing new allegations of racial discrimination are part of a new lawsuit against a north Georgia school district filed by a group of high school student and their mothers.

The federal lawsuit alleges Floyd County district administrators engaged in an egregious pattern of deliberately ignoring complaints of racial intimidation and bigotry at Coosa High School.

The lawsuit lays out several disturbing examples, including an alleged reenactment of George Floyd's death that took place in the school hallway.

Another where a student allegedly wore a Confederate flag belt and addressed black students as slaves.

And another instance where a white student told a black student, quote, "We used to whip you with this," while holding a whip.

The lawsuit also claims white students at the school openly used the "N" word. And that there have been racist remarks posted on social media, even by white teachers.

In response to CNN's request for comment, the school board members referred CNN to their attorney. And CNN has not heard by from the school district or the attorney.

But the school superintendent did say in a statement to the "Rome New Tribute," the local newspaper, "Floyd County school looks forward to presenting the facts in court."

Joining us now is one of the mothers filing this lawsuit against the school district, LeKisha Turner. Also with us is Shannon Liss-Riordan, a civil rights attorney and a plaintiff attorney in this case.

Thank you, ladies, for being here.

LeKisha, can you just walk us through your family's personal experience?


LEKISHA TURNER, MOTHER OF MYASIA TURNER: Our experience was deplorable. The administration acted like they didn't care. From our complaints going to from our complaints going to the school, speak the principal and asking them to do something about it, the blatant racism that they clearly saw.

Some of the administrators were right in earshot of it and did nothing about it. My kids felt really, really bad. And as a mother I felt like there was nothing else I could do with the school.

CABRERA: So you filed your own civil rights complaint. And I had chance to take a look at it. You lay out a lot of different specific examples.

Can you just share with us -- I'm sure it's very difficult to talk about some of the things that were done because it's just so incredibly awful. But what did your own daughter and her friends experience?

TURNER: On the bus ramp going home, a guy holding a Confederate -- wearing a Confederate flag belt, asking -- the kids asking him about it and he calling them slaves and telling them they can go back and pick cotton.

The administrators allowing other students to wear shirts with the Confederate flag or the rebel flag on it, displaying that.

And our children getting asked to take -- you know, change their clothes or take their shirts off or not wear any shirt that displays anything that had anything to do with culture and their pride.

CABRERA: And you reported some of these to the school district and the assistant principal and the principal, and you weren't satisfied clearly with their reaction. What does their reaction or lack of response tell you?

TURNER: That they don't care and they support it. They are re- enforcing this negative behavior of these students. That's why the students can do it without fear of any punishment.

CABRERA: Shannon, what do you think is going on here?

SHANNON LISS-RIORDAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: These are some pretty shocking allegations. But I think it shows to us all that this does happen in 2022 America. This was just shocking.

So not only did this school district turn its back to these students' complaints about this incredibly racist behavior by white students that received no punishment.

And then a group of black students chose to protest peacefully and wear Black Lives Matter clothing and wear George Floyd's image without any language, and they were told by the school that they couldn't do that.

And the black students who were organizing this protest were suspended. Not any of these white students who had been wearing Confederate flags, reenacting George Floyd's murder.

And interestingly, the white students who were joining with black students and organizing this protest were not suspended. Only the black students were suspended. So this is outrageous.

We were proud yesterday to stand in front of the Rome federal courthouse in Georgia and stand with these brave students and their families and file this federal lawsuit.

Luckily, we have a constitution in this country and it has an equal protection clause and we have a First Amendment. And we have laws against race discrimination and retaliation.

And these brave students are standing up for their rights. And these laws, they don't enforce themselves. It takes brave people like this to stand up.

And the relatives -- we learned that one of the relatives of this family, one of the students who's a plaintiff in this case, died tragically in Buffalo this past weekend.

CABRERA: Oh, my gosh.

LISS-RIORDAN: These are connected.

Students are learning what's happening in schools. When this type of behavior is condoned, students are paying attention. Kids are paying attention as to what is OK and what is not OK.

And if we don't stop this from happening in Coosa (sic), Georgia, and across the country, we're going to be seeing more incidents like what we saw in Buffalo this weekend.

CABRERA: And, Shannon, just to be clear here, it's not just that you're saying that the school is condoning this behavior. It sounds like you're alleging they're not only turning a blind eye, but they are actually active participants in the racial discrimination. Is that right?

LISS-RIORDAN: Yes. Yes, that's right. Our clients have told us that white teachers were also engaging in racist behavior.

And they shut down the black students who wanted to protest and peacefully organize against this behavior. They were punished. They were suspended. That went on their records.

We're seeking full expungement of these disciplinary records and justice for these students who endured what they should not have to endure now in America or ever in America. We are better than this.

CABRERA: LeKisha, let me ask you, do you feel your daughter is safe at this school?

TURNER: I have no other choice but to send them to that school. I do not feel that they are safe. I do fear retaliation at the school.


CABRERA: LeKisha Turner, I am sorry for what your family has experienced.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, thank you for joining us.

Both of you, I appreciate you sharing with us. And we'll continue to follow this case. Let's stay in touch.

And that does it for us today. Thank you for being with us. I'll see you back here tomorrow, same time and place. Until then, you can join me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues right after a quick break.