Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Four Current, Former Louisville Police Officers Charged In Connection With Breonna Taylor's Shooting Death; Jury Deciding What Alex Jones Will Pay For Sandy Hooks Lies; Russian Court Sentence Brittney Griner To 9 Years In Prison; Hungarian Prime Minister Orban Takes The Stage At CPAC In Texas. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 04, 2022 - 15:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

Two major developments involving the fight against gun violence, the Justice Department has indicted for current and former Louisville police officers on civil rights charges involving the shooting death of Breonna Taylor during a police raid of her home. Joshua Jaynes, Kelly Goodlett and Kyle Meany were charged with submitting a false affidavit to search Taylor's home and then working together to create a false cover story in an attempt to escape responsibility. Brett Hankison was indicted on two counts of deprivation of rights.

The Attorney General explained why federal investigators stepped in after the state failed to charge any officer for killing Taylor.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Justice Department brings charges, including charges where they've been brought before when we believe substantial Federal interests have not been vindicated and need to be vindicated. This case charges violations of federal offenses, obviously, the state did not and that explains our determination in this case.


CAMEROTA: We're also on verdict watch in Texas. Jurors are now deliberating how much Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist, should pay the parents of six-year-old Sandy Hook victim for repeatedly pushing his deranged lies that the massacre of 20 first graders and six adults did not happen. The judge in the case denied Jones's request for a mistrial, after it was revealed that his lawyer mistakenly sent two years of Jones' cell phone records and text messages to the parents' legal team. The parents' lawyer says multiple law enforcement groups are now seeking those texts including the January 6 Committee.


MARK BANKSTON, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING PARENTS OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM, JESSE LEWIS: I am under requests from various federal agencies and law enforcement to provide that document. Absent a ruling from you saying, "You cannot do that, Mr. Bankston," I intend to do so immediately following this hearing. I believe that there's absolutely nothing, nothing that Mr. Reynal has done to fulfill his obligations to protect his client and prevent him from doing that.

JUDGE MAYA GUERRA GAMBLE, TEXAS 459TH DISTRICT COURT: Who are you turning it over to, are you allowed to say?

BANKSTON: Right now I've been asked by the January 6 Committee to turn the documents over.


CAMEROTA: All right. We have a lot to talk about with our legal experts. We have Page Pate, he's a criminal defense and a constitutional law attorney, and Elie Honig is a former federal and state prosecutor and CNN Senior Legal Analyst.

Okay. So Elie, the January 6 Committee is interested in Alex Jones' texts and here's one clue as to why they might be. Here is Alex Jones talking about January 6 five days earlier on January 1st.


ALEX JONES, RIGHT-WING MEDIA PERSONALITY: I'm going to be speaking in D.C., Roger Stone is going to be speaking in D.C., General Flynn is going to be speaking in D.C. at multiple events. And what you need to know is this: Roger Stone spent some substantial time with Trump in Florida just a few days ago. I've got a lot of Intel, I'm not at liberty to tell you yet, not just from Roger but from other people that have been meeting with the President and wargaming what's coming.


CAMEROTA: Wargaming what's coming.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, interesting. There's really just two possibilities here: either Alex Jones is just talking crazy, making lies off and that's sort of his brand or he's basing that on something. And what really would catch my attention whether coming from the perspective of the January 6 committee or DOJ is Alex Jones says there, Roger Stone and other people were having communications with Donald Trump about what's going to happen.

So if there's any truth to that and the text, by the way, have a way of revealing truth in a way that witnesses often don't, then you're done right January 6 Committee needs to see those and potentially prosecutors do as well.

CAMEROTA: So Page, tell me your thoughts on that and also, how unusual is it that Alex Jones's attorneys accidentally sent a trove of these texts to the victim's attorney? How does that happen? Who did they think they were sending the texts to?

PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, Alisyn, I think how that happened here is sloppiness, because what had happened is obviously the families had requested documents and other evidence during the discovery process in this defamation lawsuit from Alex Jones and his attorneys, basically ignored it and that's why we only have a trial on the amount of money he's going to owe not liability. They ignored it.

But eventually, as the damages' portion approaches, his lawyers apparently get together and say, well, let's give them some of this evidence they've asked for, without going through it first and finding out what's responsive and what's not responsive. So good lawyering would have gone through all of those records, filtered out what they had to produce and kept the other stuff without giving it to the other side, so sloppy lawyering is what I think led us to this position.

CAMEROTA: Elie, the parents are looking for $150 million. I mean, as if anything could ever make up for what they've - the hell that they've been through. Alex Jones has made hundreds of millions of dollars sometimes in a year, but now he's claiming bankruptcy. He's put his most lucrative part of his business into bankruptcy, how will they get that money?


HONIG: Yes, let the show games begin. And unfortunately, this is something that we see sometimes. We know Alex Jones has made untold millions off of lies, off of really terrorizing these parents who have already been victimized enough. And now what you sometimes see people doing, they start moving their money around, they create shell corporations and they try to hide behind the protections of our bankruptcy system.

Now, if you're not actually bankrupt, if you're just playing games to appear bankrupt, that in itself could be a crime, a fraud, bankruptcy fraud. We have special courts dedicated to bankruptcy law, bankruptcy fraud.

So it's going to be hard for me to believe Alex Jones has no money. We've seen the kind of merchandise he pedals and we saw in this trial some evidence about how much money he makes, and so he can be invited to more of an investigation.

CAMEROTA: But how hard will it be for the parents to ever get that?

HONIG: Well, so it may be up to the parents to hire people to try to track this down, forensic accountants, right? Or, perhaps, prosecutors will be interested, will have their interest piqued, do the work for the parents. I think if I was a prosecutor with jurisdiction over any of this, I would see that as very worthwhile. If there's proof Alex Jones is committing bankruptcy fraud, then yes, prosecutors, law enforcement can get on this and the parents can use that information too.

CAMEROTA: Page, he's a pathological liar, Alex Jones. We know that. I mean, he has lied about Sandy Hook, one of the most awful events in our country's history. He's still lying in the courtroom and they are catching him in lies. I think we have an example of what the lawyers have brought to the jurors attention, so listen to this.


BANKSTON: You say, Mr. Jones, that you're taking these court proceedings seriously. You're approaching them in good faith. But the truth of the matter is, you've been broadcasting repeatedly a picture of our judge on fire.

ANDINO REYNAL, LAWYER FOR ALEX JONES: Objection compound, Your Honor.


BANKSTON: The person on the left of this image is our judge, correct?


BANKSTON: The person on the right is another judge you don't like, right?




CAMEROTA: Page, what's the moment like that in the courtroom like for jurors?

PATE: Well, it's devastating, obviously, to Alex Jones' case and how much money he's going to eventually have to pay these folks and it is a piece of gold. I mean, it is a nugget that you look for during cross examination as a trial lawyer, you know the witness is lying, you've got the evidence to prove it, you string that witness along and then you hit him with it there in front of the jury, so very impactful the way it was done.

And to go back to what Elie was saying earlier about criminal prosecution and that being a way to get at his assets, every time he lies in court, he's under oath, that's perjury. And it may be happening in a state court and not a federal court, but that's still a state crime and he could be prosecuted for each time he lies under oath to this jury, so he's just compounding his problems as the trial continue.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Elie, let's shift to talking about Breonna Taylor and the news today that these four officers are being charged by the Department of Justice. Tell us your thoughts.

HONIG: Well, sometimes, Alisyn, DOJ will get involved in a case involving the police shooting after the state authorities are looking at it already. And people will say, well, why is DOJ there, state authorities have already handled this. We saw that with Derek Chauvin and the Minneapolis Police officers. They were convicted in the state, then the Feds charged them, they were convicted there too.

But here's why, because the state came up way short in terms of investigation and ultimately outcomes in court. The state only ever charged one officer, Brett Hankison, who's one of the four charged now, and he was found not guilty, acquitted. Well, DOJ comes in and they realize that there was a fraud underlying all of this, that three of the officers made up the facts that led them to get their search warrant to go into the home where Breonna Taylor was killed.

That's a huge revelation that the state authorities missed. But the Feds caught it. They've now charged those three officers, plus Hankison. And I should add, people may be wondering: "Well, isn't it double jeopardy if Hankison was already tried and acquitted in the state?" The answer is no. Our law is clear, even if you've been tried and acquitted in the state, you can still be charged separately federally.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Elie, Page, thank you both very much.

Okay. So meanwhile, WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison today. But her team, the Phoenix Mercury says it remains faithful that the Biden administration will do what it takes to bring her home. In a statement the team says, in part: "We are steadfastly committed to keeping her top-of-mind publicly until she is safely back on American soil. We will not allow her to be forgotten. We are BG."

The WNBA Players Union tweeted: "Brittney Griner is a beautiful individual, inside and out. She lives a life in service to others." "Given her record of service on and off the court, BG without question deserves compassion and mercy."

Cari Champion is the host of Naked with Cari Champion, the podcast, and she joins us now. Cari, great to see you.


CAMEROTA: Cari, just tell us your thoughts when you heard nine years.


CHAMPION: It was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking because - I mean, I do know that most of us who have followed this case and watch CNN knew that that was more than likely the case based on the reporting and what we thought was the politics behind keeping Brittney there. But the heartbreaking part was her face.

She is so big in spirit, so big in life, but here we see this 6'9" beautiful human being in a cage that she can barely fit in and then we watch her - listen to her attorney as they translate to her, you have nine years. Her heart was broken. You could see it in her face.

And at this point, it really got to the - for me anyway, I'll speak for me - it was the humanity in this case. Because for so long, we just talked about her as if she was a basketball player that did not exist outside of that space. She was just this person.

And as I've said all along, she is a daughter to someone, she's a sister to someone, she is a wife, she is an American, she is an American, she is an American, she is a hero, she's an Olympian, she is an all-star, she has really worked for this country that she loves so dearly and it's time for us to show up for her.

The other heartbreaking part of this for me, anyway, Alisyn, is that so many people are pushing back and saying, well, she broke the law. So for those of you who are in the camp of she broke the law, this sentence is far harsh than anyone - more harsh than anyone would have expected and it really isn't deserved and she wanted to make that very clear. She was apologetic, she was contrite and none of it matters.

And now she has to wait, perhaps, and see what will happen to her. And it's so unfortunate as this is - if this is not somebody in the wrong situation, but making an example of her for the wrong reasons. This is a perfect example of that.

CAMEROTA: And Cari, you and I have talked about this before, but just remind everybody what she was doing in Russia, why she was there.

CHAMPION: Well, you have been so eloquently kind in sharing this story and amplifying this message, but with women's sports, particularly here in America, you do not get paid very much money, at most, right? I will say some WNBA players can make up to $200,000 to $300,000, depending bonuses, if you will, and she's one of those.

But I just don't want to leave it at that, because it sounds like a lot of money. But if you compare that to what the NBA players are making, right? Their - some minimum contracts can be $40 million, while they make hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not less. Britney is one of those special cases because she's an - she's a star in the WNBA.

And so in the offseason, most of these players finish their season here at home and go play overseas in different places, Russia, namely. And she's been playing in Russia for seven years and she's making what she thinks is better money there, because, in terms of sports, women's sports, they value them a little more over there.

And so, it's not unheard of for these WNBA players during the offseason to wrap up the season in the states and then go overseas to make more money, to secure a future, to live the American dream that they hope to live, but they're pursuing it in terms of monetary value in another country.

And so she finds herself in a situation. She's been there for seven years, from my understanding, loved, respected and revered. And she got caught in this situation and now we're turning our back on her as the Russian people have. And we're acting as if she doesn't need to come home. And I am so glad that we are giving her the attention she needs.

But now the focus is on the humanitarian efforts and the political efforts to bring her back home because she is ours, Alisyn, and this is not a situation where I'm being biased. I'm saying we would want this same type of charge for anyone that was an American who loved this country, we really would.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes, of course. I mean, nine years for some empty vials with traces of cannabis oil. Obviously, that's not how we do it in the United States. Do you think the Biden administration is doing all they can at this point? CHAMPION: I will be - I will tell you this, in the beginning I was

very disappointed with the let's be quiet, let's casually work on this, let's not say anything efforts that we were putting forth towards Brittney Griner. I do believe that the President is arguably doing what he can do. But I forget because oftentimes we talk about we're a superpower and why not be in this great country and why not be proud to be an American. And this is one of these moments where for lack of a better term, we should flex our chest. We should show the power in which we have. Bring not only Brittney Griner as she talked about in her eloquent letter, Whelan home as well. Let's do the work that we can do.

This idea that we have to tread lightly doesn't make any sense to me, because if we were given a different person a different circumstance, I could see the result being so differently. I could see the outcome being this person is home sooner rather than later and I know there is a lot of political red tape but I am talking purely for a stance of a person who wants to see BG home.


But I do believe there is more to be done. There's always more to be done. What's the worst that could happen, right? She's been sentenced to this egregious nine year. What's the worst that can happen outside of us pushing forward, making sure that we are fighting for Britney, flexing our muscles and bringing her home? What's the worst that could happen?

CAMEROTA: Cari Champion, always great to talk to you. Thanks so much for being here.

CHAMPION: Thank you so much. I appreciate you.

CAMEROTA: An internationally condemned leader is set to address conservatives in America this hour. Why is Viktor Orban being given the red carpet at CPAC? We'll take you there live next.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added another stop to her controversial Asia trip as her visit to Taiwan continues to have ripple effects, we have all of the latest details ahead.



CAMEROTA: The conservative gathering, CPAC, kicked off in Texas this afternoon with the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known as an autocratic leader, addressing the conservative crowd right now. And many Republican leaders from Fox TV hosts to former President Trump are big fans of Orban's. Trump recently welcomed Orban to his golf club in Bedminster after Orban talked about his belief in white nationalism.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live for us in Dallas. Ed, what's the reaction there have been? ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Prime Minister is still

speaking here at the CPAC conference in Dallas. And Alisyn, he is delivering just the kind of speech you would expect, trying to connect here with these American conservatives by saying that they - that American Democrats and progressives hate him, just like they hate you. That's what he told the audience.

And then he goes on to talk about how communists and progressive liberals are the same and also even went on to say that Christians cannot be racist. And this is the defense of his zero immigration policy that he is fighting for in Hungary. That is one of the reasons why he has been so controversial. But Viktor Orban not backing away from any of that here this afternoon as he speaks with conservatives here in Dallas.


VIKTOR ORBAN, PRIME MINISTER OF HUNGARY: Today's progressives tried to separate Western civilization from its Christian roots once again. They are crossing a line that should never be crossed. If you separate the Western civilization from its Judeo-Christian heritage, the worst things in history happen. Let's be honest, the most evil things in modern history were carried out by people who hated Christianity. Don't be afraid to call your enemies by their name.


LAVANDERA: So very stark speech here that he is delivering in front of this group in Dallas, Alisyn, this afternoon. And this is significant because Viktor Orban has really become the darling of extreme right wing conservatives here in this country for the very kind of policies that he has been instituting in Hungary. It has gotten a great deal of attention among right-wing conservatives here in this country and that is one of the reasons why you're seeing him speak at this convention in Dallas this week. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Okay. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much for setting the table for us. Let's discuss it now with former Congressman Joe Walsh and CNN Senior Political Analyst Ronald Brownstein.

Joe, some of the policies that Orban is in favor of, he wants journalists jailed if they report on COVID. He obviously - same sex marriage, he's made it illegal. He wants only white Europeans in Hungary. So what's the love affair that some Fox hosts, and Donald Trump, and some Republicans certainly at CPAC have with Viktor Orban?

JOE WALSH, (R) FORMER ILLINOIS U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Alisyn, a newsflash for everybody listening to us right now. Today's Republican Party is no longer conservative. It's not a conservative political party. It is an authoritarian political party. Today's Republican voters, Alisyn, and I hear it almost on a daily basis. They want a certain America back, they no longer believe that democracy can give them that America back, so they want a strong man, a dictator to do it. That's why Trump, that's why DeSantis is so popular and that's why Orban, this is today's Republican Party. CAMEROTA: Ron, it is so interesting to hear Joe say that. I mean, do

you have data points that suggests that Republicans want autocracy instead of democracy, democracy is too messy, and they like this style of strongman leadership?

RONALD BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I think what he said describes the dominant faction in the GOP, not all GOP voters. But I think there's very consistent polling where you have roughly 50 percent to 60 percent of Republican voters agree with - anti-democratic sentiments, like the traditional way of American life is disappearing so fast. We may have to use force to save it.

What you see in the affection and the adoration of Orban is an indication of what is the highest octane fuel in the Trump movement. It is this sense of unease and discomfort with the way America is changing demographically, culturally even economically. And a desire to make America great again by going back to an earlier vision of the country. Ninety percent of Trump voters say Christianity in America is under assault. The 70 percent to 80 percent, depending on the poll, say discrimination against one whites is now as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.


You get similar numbers agreeing that the growing number of immigrants are uprooting American traditions and that white men are the most discriminated group against in the country today. And Orban validates and speaks to all of that. And I've said this to you before, Alisyn, to me the key question is what does that roughly one quarter to maybe 30 percent of Republicans who don't agree with those sentiments do going forward? Do they continue to give their votes to candidates who basically enable or actively endorse the various strands of that ideology?

CAMEROTA: What's the answer to that, Joe?

WALSH: Well, many of those Republicans leave, have left and will continue to leave on a daily basis. But then the rest of them, Alisyn, generally just look the other way and stay silent. It's so fascinating being on with Ron right now because I love listening to his data and it backs up what I hear every day.

I hear from hundreds of these voters every day and it's not at all unusual for them to tell me, Alisyn, that they want America to be an official Christian country. Again, some of them will say again, but they want that and they know the democratic process, can't give it to them. So damn it, give me Trump, give me DeSantis, somebody who will force it to happen.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, hold those thoughts for a second. We're just getting into our newsroom, a new Liz Cheney ad and she uses a familiar face to talk about some of this Trumpism, so let's watch that.

WALSH: Okay.


nation's 246 year history there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our Republic than Donald Trump. He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him. He is a coward. A real man wouldn't lie to his supporters. He lost his election and he lost big. I know it, he knows it and deep down I think most Republicans know it.


CAMEROTA: How about that? How about that, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Oh, bringing out - look, it goes to the point that the Congressman was making about kind of the evolution of the Republican Party. I mean, it was only 15 years ago that Cheney was considered the conservative - Dick Cheney was considered the conservative end of the GOP, Democrats called him Voldemort, right?

And now because he ascribes to a vision of conservatism that is centered on small government, strong national defense, as opposed to this sense of grievance about being displaced in a changing and diversifying country, he's kind of on the outs in this party. And Liz Cheney is, I think, a perfect embodiment, highly unlikely to win her primary, but she symbolizes a lot of this roughly one quarter to one- fifth, somewhere in there of Republican voters who are deeply uneasy with the Trump direction, but yet have continued to vote for candidates advancing it on the grounds that they liked Democrats even less.

What does she do going forward? What do they do going forward? What does Dick Cheney, George W. Bush do going forward? I think that's a critical question for how American politics evolves and how great this threat to democracy becomes, in the next several years.

CAMEROTA: Joe, you can't really call Dick Cheney a RINO, so what do you think the response to that ad will be?

WALSH: Yes. No. You can't, Alisyn. But again, I'm called the RINO every day and you know I'm the crazy tea party guy. Look, every word Dick Cheney said in that ad is spot on. But here's the deal, Liz Cheney's going to lose in a couple of weeks and she's going to lose soundly, because the Republican Party base doesn't give a damn about any of that stuff anymore. They are enthralled with this notion of a strong man and a dictator.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Joe Walsh, Ronald Brownstein ...

BROWNSTEIN: Can I just add ...

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, Ron, go ahead.

BROWNSTEIN: ... real quick, yes, very quick, there are so many conservative pundits who are trying to make the case that the Republican Party has moved beyond Trump. Look at Arizona, look at Michigan, election deniers in all of the top offices, what's going - the top offices nominate, what's going to happen with Liz Cheney, this is a party that is still largely in his thrall and even more than him personally is animated by the same ...

WALSH: Amen.

BROWNSTEIN: ... (inaudible) that he brought to the surface.

CAMEROTA: Okay. On that ...

WALSH: Amen, Ron.

CAMEROTA: ... (inaudible) on that point of agreement. Ronald Brownstein, Joe Walsh, thank you.

So the Department of Transportation is mulling new rules that would be a major win for anyone traveling by plane who's ever been delayed, details ahead.