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Stunning Gaffe in Jones' Trial; Sinema Lone Holdout; CDC To Ease Covid Recommendations. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired August 04, 2022 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Just minutes from now, jury deliberations will resume in the defamation trial against Infowars host Alex Jones. Their verdict will determine how much the right-wing conspiracy theorist must pay two Sandy Hook parents for, quote, reckless lies he told, denying the school shooting happened. The jury could deliver a decision today.

Yesterday, we witnessed some just shocking, amazing moments in the courtroom when the plaintiffs' attorney revealed that Jones' own lawyer had sent him the contents of his cell phone, including damning text messages by mistake apparently.

CNN's senior media reporter Oliver Darcy joins me now.

Oliver, man, I mean, it's incredible. And the moment when the lawyer -- the parents' lawyer revealed this to Jones on the stand was just unforgettable.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yeah, Jim, it was something like you would see out of a movie, right?


DARCY: I mean it was a shocking moment to happen and to watch in court. And I'd set it up for viewers by letting them know as well that Alex Jones is really not used to being in this kind of environment, right. When he is on his show, he is the one in charge. He's the master of his universe. It is produced by him. And so he is very out of his element in court, not able to control what's going to happen. And you can see it really on his face during this moment where the plaintiffs' attorney reveals that they have obtained his cell phone records for the past two years.


MARK BANKSTON, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: Your attorneys messed up and sending me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you've send for the past two years, and when informed did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protect it in any way. And as of two days ago, it fell free and clear into my possession. And that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn't have text messages about Sandy Hook. Did you know that?

ALEX JONES: I -- see, I told you the truth, this is your Perry Mason moment. I gave them my phone.


DARCY: And after that moment, the attorney for the plaintiffs also was caught on a hot mic basically saying, wait until law enforcement gets a hold of this phone. Obviously, Alex Jones was at the Capitol on January 6th. So there might be some interest there.

The jury is deliberating. They're expected to deliberate any moment now. And their verdict, or their decision, will determine how much Alex Jones ends up paying for these Sandy Hook lies. He's already been found liable for definition and inflicting emotional distress, but now they're going to determine how much he exactly has to pay. The plaintiffs are asking for $150 million, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, we don't want it to get lost in this, he lied that Sandy Hook didn't happen and attacked the parents of those -- some of those dead children. And that's how he's in court for this.

Oliver Darcy, thanks so much.

DARCY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Let's speak now to criminal defense attorney and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

Joey, you've been involved in a lot of trials. Have you ever seen, witnessed, heard of a defense attorney sharing a cell phone -- the contents of a cell phone, including messages which it appears he lied about, with the prosecution? Have you ever seen it?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so, Jim, good morning to you.

So, what happens is, is that you have all kind of mistakes that happen in trial.


But just put this in context. Before a trial happens, you don't have trial by ambush in this country. Both sides, whether it be a criminal, or as this trial is, a civil trial, there's a process of discovery. And in that process, both sides are allowed to make requests. So, when you step into the courtroom, everyone should be conversant with the facts, the issues, the circumstances, the text messages, the email, the surveillance, it should not be a surprise.

So, in this case, again, Jim, in context, those text messages were asked for, right? They were asked for a long time ago. And they were told that they didn't exist, that there are no such text messages relating to the issue of Sandy Hook communications at all. Bingo. It was a lie. Why? Because apparently in a mistake, those messages were sent to the attorneys, right, representing the family, in error, indicating that not only, Jim, do text messages exist, but two years' worth of text messages exist to different parties regarding different circumstances concerning this case.

So, yes, mistakes happen where discovery is provided, right, maybe unwillingly, or unknowingly, et cetera, but that should have been provided a long time ago, and is a significant discovery violation to the extent that it wasn't.


JACKSON: It just so happened that their client, you see him there, Mr. Jones, was the recipient of being caught in a major lie saying they didn't exist. Guess what, they do. And he was found, right, to have fabricated on that issue.

SCIUTTO: OK, so what's his legal exposure now for perjury, and I imagine is the - is the defense attorney also liable here because he knew about text messages that it seems to me they denied that they had?

JACKSON: So, great questions, and here's the answer. What happens is, is that you have an obligation as it relates to perjury to tell the truth. Clearly as it related to that issue and several other issues, he was found to be lying. Any witness can say, Jim, whatever they feel like saying. But when you are confronted with facts, with documents, with specifics, it's really hard to overcome that.

And so, yes, in the event that a referral needed to be made with respect to him lying, that could be made. That's not it. Certainly, there is -- where it comes to the attorneys there are what's called sanctions. You have an obligation to turn over discovery. You knew it existed. You knew the requests were made for it. You failed to do so.

And so the judge has a number of remedies, right? One of those remedies, including sanctions and penalties, not only for Mr. Jones, but potentially the lawyers, right, there are significant things in terms of the bar, right, that you have to worry about. We have a license for a reason. And that certainly could be yanked and there are consequences there too. So, not good all the way around.

SCIUTTO: OK, so consequences for this trial. We now know the January 6th committee interested in these text messages because they're examining Jones' role in plotting or inciting the January 6th attack. And to sort of add insult to injury for Jones, his ex-wife tweeted that she plans to subpoena those text messages. So, what's the path forward for Jones after this revelation?

JACKSON: Yes, so that's in the broader context, right. And great point, Jim, it's not only about this particular trial and the damages issue that the jury is assessing as to whether and what he should pay economically to the family, it's in the broader context of what's on that phone, what communications not only related to Sandy Hook but related to January 6th or other criminality. Remember, there's a bankruptcy proceeding. He's trying to protect himself in the event the jury assesses an award. That gets you to the IRS and other financial people who would have an interest in assessing his truthfulness, his tax returns, et cetera. So I think authority certainly as a result of the revelations in this trial to January 6th and to other issues will be interested in evaluating and investigating and, obviously, holding him accountable if there's anything on that phone that speaks to the issue of criminality or other things potentially.

SCIUTTO: Joey Jackson, always good to have you on, thank you.

JACKSON: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, if you want to know more about how Jones got to this place, you don't want to miss the CNN special report "Alex Jones: Megaphone for Conspiracy." That airs tomorrow night at 11:00 Eastern.

Still ahead, we will go to Capitol Hill, where Democrats are deciding how, and this may sound familiar, to convince Senator Kyrsten Sinema to drop her demand -- her demands regarding their reconciliation bill, in particular to ax a critical piece of new tax legislation there. What the majority whip is saying this morning. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: All right, this morning, negotiations within the Democratic Party over its budget bill may sound familiar. Here we are again. A new tweet from President Biden appears to be a message for Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the lone Democratic holdout on that climate tax and healthcare bill. Sources tell CNN that Sinema wants to lose a carried interest tax provision in the bill. "Politico" first reported Sinema wants to lose that provision that would raise just a small fraction of the overall increased revenue. The real big increase will come from setting a corporate minimum tax rate of 15 percent.

CNN's Melanie Zanona joins me live with the latest developments.

I mean it seems, Melanie, that folks could live with getting rid of the carried interest thing, that's $15 billion, you know, a bill of many hundreds of billions of dollars here in tax revenue.


Do we know where she stands on setting a corporate minimum tax here? Because in the past she's expressed support for that?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Yes. I mean our colleagues, Manu Raju and Alex Rogers, reported that the business community has really been pressuring her over this corporate minimum tax of 15 percent. And we know that Sinema has aversions to some of these tax provisions. CNN has confirmed that she wants to eliminate the language that would narrow the so-called carried interest loophole, which would change the way some investment income is taxed. But Democratic leaders, including Dick Durbin, this morning aren't saying whether they're willing to make those changes, just continuing to express hope that eventually Sinema might come around.

But the reality is, Democrats might need to make some of these changes in order to get Sinema on board. And amid all this news about Sinema, President Joe Biden tweeted yesterday, reiterating the importance of making corporations pay their fair share, he tweeted yesterday, for far too long big, super wealthy corporations haven't paid their fair share in taxes. We're going to change that with the Inflation Reduction Act.

So, you know, all eyes on Sinema right now. They absolutely need her vote. And time is running short here. And so the schedule and timing of all of this is still very much up in the air, Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right, just the saddest of stories yesterday. Indiana Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and two of her young staffers, killed in a car accident.

Tell us reactions you're hearing on The Hill and how lawmakers are honoring them this morning.

ZANONA: Yes, this has been an absolute tragedy. And it has completely stunned the Capitol Hill community. Jackie Walorski was a member of Congress since 2013. She was really close to GOP leadership and had multiple key committee assignments. And her two staffers were really young. And so this has really shocked and saddened the community up here and the tributes are pouring in.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put out a statement referring to Walorski as a dear friend and a trusted adviser. Congresswoman Ann Wagner said that the two of them were so close that they used to finish each other's sentences. And Indiana Senator Mike Braun said the new was like getting punched.

And so it's been absolutely tragic up here. No word yet on the memorial services. But the flags at both the Capitol and the White House are flying at half-mast in her honor.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Those staffers look like kids. So young.


SCIUTTO: Melanie Zanona, thanks so much.

Still ahead this hour, could the era of six feet apart be coming to an end? The CDC is expected to soon ease some Covid-19 guidance just as kids are returning to class.



SCIUTTO: So, the end of an era. The CDC is expected to update its Covid control guidance this week, just in time for the new school year. And a preview of the plans obtained by CNN shows the agency will do a couple of things, ease quarantine recommendations, also, imagine this, remove recommendations for six feet of social distancing.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now live to discuss. First, how are they going to ease quarantine requirements?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, let's talk about that in a second, actually. First, I want to say that the six- feet rule, which I think is going to get a lot of attention, that's kind of -- people and practice haven't been doing this for quite a while, Jim. But it is a milestone that the CDC is saying this and is also making the quarantine rule change.

Now, this is based on a document that CNN obtained that CDC made in preparation for changing these requirements. Now all of that could change, but that's -- this is what we're expecting them to announce in the next few days.

So, first of all, removing the six-feet rule. Just getting rid of it. Also not recommending screening in most circumstances. For example, what's been done in schools for, you know, quite a while now. Also, easing quarantine rules for those behind on vaccinations. Currently the CDC has very specific quarantine rules and they're going to be easing those really pretty much to the point of nearly getting rid of them.

Also, they will be recommending masking for high-risk people in 81 percent of U.S. counties. I think that last one, I want to focus on that one for a minute because what this tells us is that they're changing it to more of an individual kind of recommendation. So, not necessarily recommendations for the entire country, but, hey, if you are high risk, if you're, for example, immune compromised, you really ought to be wearing a mask in most parts of the country. And I think we'll be seeing more of that, more individually tailored sets of recommendations.


SCIUTTO: So just to be specific here, they're not easing quarantine requirements for people who become infected?

COHEN: Well, that -- those would be isolation requirements. And I know it sounds like I'm splitting hairs.


COHEN: But once someone's infected, that's isolation. That's not what they're talking about.


COHEN: This is quarantine when you've come in contact with someone.

SCIUTTO: OK. OK. Understood.

So, monkeypox still an outbreak. We're hearing that lab techs, some, are refusing to take blood from possible monkeypox patients? What's going on here?

COHEN: Yes, both Quest and Lab Core, the two big lab giants in the U.S., they say, yes, many of our phlebotomists are not taking blood from monkeypox patients. And for folks who have lived through the HIV outbreak, this feels reminiscent of that. Why would they be scared - or not want to take blood from monkeypox patients? They take blood from patients all the time with various viruses, with various kinds of infections. And the CDC is very clear that doctors and phlebotomists and health care professionals need to be taking care of patients with monkeypox.

Let's take a listen to David Harvey, he's with a coalition of sexual health clinics.


DAVID HARVEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COALITION OF STD DIRECTORS: The fact that this is happening is an echo of the earliest days of HIV.


We, I thought, had come a lot further.

This is a grave dereliction of duty.


COHEN: Now, not only is it stigmatizing, he says, but it is slowing down their treatment process, their ability to identify people and isolate people who are infected and get in touch with contacts when phlebotomists refuse to do their jobs.

Let's take a look at monkeypox numbers. They are very high. You can see they've gone up 42 percent just in the past week. Lab Core and Quest say that they are busy trying to look at their policies and possibly make adjustments.


SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Next hour we are watching the courtroom near Moscow where a verdict could be reached and read soon for Brittney Griner. We will bring that to you live. Prosecutors asking for a nine-and-a-half-year sentence. We're going to have a live report coming up.