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Russia Ready to Discuss Prisoner Swap With U.S.; Trump Legal Team's Talks With DOJ Focusing on Executive Privilege; Four Officers Federally Charged in Deadly Raid on Breonna Taylor's Home. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 05, 2022 - 10:30   ET




First, your read of that statement this morning from the Kremlin spokesman. Is that a sign to you that talks are happening again between the U.S. and Russia?

JARED GENSER, HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You know, it is a sign of the willingness to engage, but, ultimately, Vladimir Putin wants to extract a very high price. And so while we all hope and pray that Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan can be brought home soon, I don't yet see this as a sign that a deal is imminent and going to happen immediately. We'll have to see how it plays out, but these kinds of negotiations can definitely take time.

SCIUTTO: Was it a mistake, in your view, for the Biden administration to go public with the offer that they had made, granted their argument was they made it and Russia was really not responsive? Do you think that enflamed the situation?

GENSER: I mean, you know, obviously, the Kremlin will position itself however it wants. I mean, at the end of the day when it comes to these kinds of exchanges, when the price is right, you know, the state detaining an American will cut the deal. So, to me, it is a bit of a sideshow in terms of the public diplomacy there. At the end of the day, the United States is trying to force the issue and to move it forward and, you know, ultimately, we have to see whether Vladimir Putin will play ball.

SCIUTTO: You've made the point that there really needs to be some sort of multilateral response to address this broader phenomenon, because it is not just Russia that's done it. Iran has done it. I've covered them and I know you've represented clients there. You take in Americans, you accuse them of either a nonexistent crime or a trumped up crime, you give them a massive sentence and then you say, what are you going to give me in return. So, what is your suggestion for how the U.S. and its partners can kind of push back against this phenomenon?

GENSER: Yes. I mean, look, I think the biggest mistake that we as a country have made, you know, really began at the beginning of the modern era hostage taking, which was the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in '79. And since then, Republican and Democratic presidents have repeatedly cut deals on a kind of one country, one (INAUDIBLE) basis, which only creates greater incentives for hostage taking.

And what I'm proposing is a multilateral agreement where like many countries in the world would come together and announce that there would be draconian consequences that they would take, both bilaterally in multilaterally, in the case of this kind of pattern of hostage taking that takes place by a state. At the end of the day, the only way to end hostage taking of Americans it is to go right to the heart of the value of the whole proposition, which is elevating the costs dramatically above the benefits of taking hostages.

SCIUTTO: So, a follow-up question, are you saying that by making these deals, you create incentives, you incentivize the taking of the next hostage?

GENSER: I mean, I think the answer is, yes, quite, clearly, that happens. I represent the American hostages in Iran, Siamak and Babak Namazi. Siamak Namazi was the only American left behind in January 2016 when Obama cut the nuclear deal and kind of explicably left Siamak Namazi behind rather than him getting out in a number of weeks, which is what the Iranians claim they were going to do, then his dad was taken hostage. And now we're 2,500 days later Siamak Namazi was taken into custody almost seven years and he still remains in Tehran's Evin Prison.

SCIUTTO: Final question if we can, this sentence yesterday, nine and a half years, clearly sending a message -- nine years, I should say, sending a message to the U.S., to Griner, to others. Having had the sentence now, and it is public, and it is an international headline, does that, in your view, make it more likely that Russia will be willing to deal? In other words, they have made their point, and, again, similar to what you sometimes have seen in Iran with someone like Roxana Saberi, right, give the big sentence and then make a deal.

GENSER: Yes. I mean, the Russians have said, and it works the same way in our system as well, that until there is a conviction and sentence, that they weren't going to be prepared to make a deal. It doesn't have to work that way. I mean, in any case in any country in the world, the prosecutor could just decide at any point to drop a case, even before a conviction and sentence happens. But this is how it has worked in Russia before, so it is not a surprise that this is what they were saying.

It put Brittney Griner into an impossible situation where the conviction rate in a Russian court is like 99.5 percent. And so she was, I think, really compelled and induced to plead guilty in order to not have this process play out forever. But, again, that's no guarantee the Russians will play ball. We really are just going to have to wait and see.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Just quickly for folks watching now, should they feel confident, hopeful that Brittney Griner will gain her freedom long before that nine year sentence is up? GENSER: Yes. I mean, I would be shocked if she would served anything close to that. But I don't see it being resolved in the next couple of weeks. I think we're talking probably many months at a minimum.

And I think (INAUDIBLE) and others note is that this multilateral perch that I'm talking about, I think, is going to be especially important.


The president is going to have to cut a deal that, of course, everybody is going to criticize him for, when you're talking about trading Americans for people who, for example, were convicted of killing Americans, that doesn't go over well. But pivoting to that, which is something that Secretary Blinken at the State Department has just begun to kind of work on, and I believe he's strongly supportive of, is really going to be a way to end modern day hostage taking.

SCIUTTO: Jared Genser, thanks so much.

GENSER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, a CNN exclusive, former President Trump's attorneys now in direct talks with the Justice Department. This as the DOJ's January 6th criminal investigation accelerates. What is the topic at the heart of those discussions? We'll discuss next.



SCIUTTO: Now, CNN exclusive reporting, former President Donald Trump's lawyers are now in direct talks with the Justice Department about its ongoing criminal investigation into the January 6th insurrection. The talks are said to be focused on whether Trump can shield conversations he had while he was president under his broad claims of executive privilege. Sources tell CNN Trump's legal defense team has warned him indictments are possible.

Joining me now to discuss, former Deputy Assistant Attorney Harry Litman. Good to have you on, Harry, thanks for taking the time.


SCIUTTO: So, first of all, does the outreach to DOJ from Trump's lawyers indicate to you that Trump and his team are nervous about their potential criminal exposure here?

LITMAN: Yes, pretty clearly. Look, I think the trigger is quite obviously the subpoenas of Cipollone and Philbin because the law is clear, DOJ, if they testify, and they will, although it may be delayed, they can provide, they have to provide all kinds of confidential communications with Trump. The privilege doesn't exist or it yields. And that means all the things that Cipollone declined to talk about before January 6th committee, they're going to say, and that's got to be killer testimony, right? I told him that this was unlawful. What did he say? Et cetera. So, they realized we have got to run in there now and do what we can to cut this off.

SCIUTTO: You say the law is clear that that privileged claim as asserted by the president and his team is far too broad. Why are you convinced of that?

LITMAN: Yes. It is not even far too broad. It basically doesn't exist. This is not like other disputes we've had to-date. This is the executive branch investigating criminal behavior within the executive branch. This has come up before, including under Clinton, with the same position, deputy White House counsel, and something pretty on point in the Supreme Court.

And the courts have said, look, A, there is no personal attorney/client privilege, you work for the United States, and, B, an executive privilege has to yield when you're looking for serious possibility of criminal conduct within the executive branch.

So, I don't mean to say they won't try to run things out through the courts but the law as it stands now is clear and that just matters because when they come hat in hand to the DOJ, what are they going to say? You normally try to argue and persuade the law is this, that and the other. They don't really have those arguments to proffer.

SCIUTTO: Now, to be fair, the Supreme Court is different than when it ruled on this in '73 as related to Nixon and when it ruled again during the Clinton investigation. I just want to highlight a comment that Brett Kavanaugh made when the Supreme Court was considering handing over written records to the National Archives. This is back in January.

In that decision, Kavanaugh wrote, a former president must be able to successfully invoke the presidential communications privilege for communications that occurred during his presidency even if the current president does not support the privilege claim. He does go on to say, that privilege is not absolute.

But knowing this court, knowing that by the way there are more conservative member of the court than even Kavanaugh, do you see the possibility that this Supreme Court might give Trump more leeway?

LITMAN: Always, and I think that's a really transient point because that might be what they're saying. Okay, look, and, by the way, in these meetings, DOJ does all the listening, Trump lawyers do all the talking. And they may say, okay, you have the law, but, look, if you push this now, we're going to try to resist as much as we can. Trump can intervene in this dispute because he's got a stake. We'll take it to the Supreme Court. That could take a year. Now, we're looking at 2024, and you could lose. So, let's cut a deal now where you at least don't use all the privileged communications.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. So, you think that might be an offer for, you know, a deal, a negotiation?

LITMAN: Yes, they got to offer something. And they don't have normally the kind of thing that the defense lawyer would be saying here, look at your risk under the current law. So, yes, I actually think their main argument is we're going to delay these things, Trump will take as long as he can, and that means Cipollone, even if you win, it might take many months, and, you know, and the 2024, big deadline, is potentially looming.


SCIUTTO: We could say we have seen this movie before. Harry litman, thanks so much.

LITMAN: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, a flood watch is now in effect for the very same areas in Kentucky that were devastated just last week by deadly flooding. How people are preparing for this next warning as they're still cleaning up.



SCIUTTO: This morning, four current and former Louisville police officers are facing federal charges in the death of Breonna Taylor. The list of charges include civil rights violations, unlawful conspiracies, and falsifying information.

Taylor was killed in a botched raid at her home on March 13th, 2020. Her mom says the charges are important but they will not bring Taylor back to her.


TAMIKA PALMER, MOTHER OF BREONNA TAYLOR: What we have been saying and the rest of them back there, what we have been saying on day one, you all learning what we have been saying, what's the truth, that they shouldn't have been there and that Breonna didn't deserve that. Today is overdue but it still hurts. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now. Breonna Taylor's family said they've been waiting for years for this. Tell us what you're hearing.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well over two years too, Jim, that they have been waiting for this for these federal charges to be filed against these officers involving -- that were involved in that March 2020 raid.

And now the Justice Department now alleging two of officers falsified an affidavit that was used to obtain a search warrant at Taylor's home. A.G. Merrick Garland, who we heard from yesterday, they unsealed the indictments, alleged that former Detective Joshua Jaynes and Detective Kelly Goodlett intentionally included information in their paperwork, falsely claiming that the target of their drug investigation that received packages at Taylor's address, basically attempting to justify that raid. And that is what the DOJ maintains basically set in motion the events that led to the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. All four officers charged with civil rights offenses in addition to obstruction and also the unconstitutional use of force.

Prosecutors saying that as police entered the home that night, Kenneth Walker, who you'll recall ass Taylor's boyfriend, fired a single shot believing that they were intruders and injured one officer. Walker's attorney releasing a statement after these details in these indictments were made public, writing in part, we have said from the beginning that various LMPD officers repeatedly violated their own policies and Kenny Walker's constitutional rights in the investigation, raid and subsequent false arrest of Kenny in an attempt to cover-up their own wrongdoings in the killing of Breonna Taylor. It appears a federal grand jury agreed, that, again, from the attorney.

John Mattingly, he's the officer that was injured that night by Walker's shot. Now, we need to be clear, he was not among the four officers that are facing charges. In fact, he even volunteered to work that night as this investigation was ongoing. But he is speaking out in defense of his fellow officers and calling this federal investigation that it was basically mishandled by authorities.


JOHN MATTINGLY, FORMER LOUISVILLE SHOT IN BOTCHED RAID: It is political. You know, this is the age we live in where everything is painted black and white, unfortunately, instead of just seeing each other as humans. And anytime there is a white officer and a black subject, then it is going to be pushed as a race narrative when it is not most of the time.

Now, there are cases that that happens but this was not one of them.


SANDOVAL: Now, back to the four officers mentioned in the indictment, CNN did reach out to their attorneys, two of them have been previously fired. The city of Louisville announced that they have started the termination process, Jim, for the remaining two. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Polo Sandoval, thanks so for covering.

Another story we have an update on this morning, a lightning strike right across the street from the White House has now claimed the lives of two people visiting from Wisconsin. D.C. police confirmed James Mueller and Donna Mueller, both in their mid-70s, have now died from injuries they sustained in Lafayette Park. That's just across the street from the White House. Two other people were injured and hospitalized. There is some of the lightning last night.

Officials say the four were riding out the storm under a tree when the lightning hit. Members of the Secret Service and park police immediately jumped in to help the victims before paramedics were able to get there. It is just alarming news to see there. Also this morning, for an area already washed out for historic flooding, a flood watch has been issued for the Ohio Valley. It includes areas hit hardest by those recent flashfloods in Western -- or Eastern Kentucky. At least 37 people have been killed by flooding there so far.

CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher is in Hazard, Kentucky.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, this is the forecast that adds insult to already incredible injury here in Southeastern Kentucky. The National Weather Service issuing that flood watch that started this morning, it goes until Saturday morning at this point.

Obviously, the concern being that additional flooding here because of what we have got going on at this point. There is the trauma for people but there is also the debris that is just everywhere right now. You can kind of see it all around along this bridge here in Whitesburg, Kentucky. We're talking trees. In some cases, we've seen houses that are still in creeks and rivers. We have seen cars. And so there is concern about that. They have been attempting to get that out.

But you can probably hear the hum of a pump right now in the background. It is pulling water out of a distillery that is right next to me.


We have seen people trying to do all of this work to come back from those floods that happened eight days ago. They're attempting to come back, they're attempting to dig out and clean up. And in addition to the flooding potential, there is also rain in the forecast for the next several days. So, this will slow down some of that recovery, some of that cleanup.

Now, Jim, we are expecting an update from Kentucky's governor in about an-hour-and-a-half, two hours. Right now, the death toll does stand still at 37. He has cautioned that he does expect that to go up. We should get some updates on the situation here on the ground from him then and potentially what to expect as this weather moves in. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I hope you have a great weekend. I'm Jim Sciutto.

At This Hour starts right after a short break.