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Trump Lawyers in Talks with Justice Department; Russian Court Sentence Brittney Griner to 9 Years in Jail; Sinema Agrees to Move Forward on Stalled Economic Plan; Jury Orders Right-Wing Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones to Pay $4.1 Million; Officers Face Federal Charges in Taylor's Death; Jurors to Decide if Parkland Shooter Gets Death Penalty. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 05, 2022 - 04:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and all around the world. I'm Max Foster in London. Just ahead --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These conversations are taking place now between the Justice Department's top prosecutor who is leading the investigation into January 6 and into the efforts to interfere with the election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today's sentencing is a reminder of what the world already knew. Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is obviously going to go on and on and on for him and I hope it goes on for the rest of his life. Because he deserves it. I mean, he put these people through hell.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster.

FOSTER: It's Friday, August 5, 9:00 a.m. here in London, 4:00 a.m. in Washington. Where we're getting more revelations in the January 6 investigation including this CNN exclusive. Donald Trump's lawyers are now in direct talks with the Justice Department for the very first time. Sources tell CNN they're discussing the former president's claims of executive privilege which he hopes will stop members of his inner circle from testifying about their conversations.

We know that the federal investigators have subpoenaed Trump's White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin to answer questions about schemes to overturn the 2020 election and there is more. Sources tell CNN Trump's own attorneys are warning him that there could be indictments on the horizon. The former president apparently skeptical grilling his legal team about whether they think that he will actually face criminal charges. Meanwhile the vice chair of the January 6 committee is giving her

clearest indication so far that Trump should be prosecuted for his role in the Capitol riot. She spoke to exclusively to CNN's chief national affairs analyst Casey Hunt.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The question for us is are we a nation of laws, are we a country where no one is above the law, and what do the facts and the evidence show. And certainly, I've been very clear, I think that he's guilty of the most serious dereliction of duty of any president in our nation's history. You've had a federal judge in California say that it's more likely than not that he and John Eastman committed two crimes.

So, you know, I think that we're going to continue to follow the facts. I think the Department of Justice will do that. But they have to make decisions about prosecution understanding what it means if the facts and the evidence are there and they decide not to prosecute, how do we then call ourselves a nation of laws. I think that's a very serious, serious balancing.


FOSTER: You can hear more of Casey Hunt's exclusive interview with Liz Cheney throughout the morning right here on CNN.

Now, after a year of intense negotiations, the Democrat's lone Senate holdout Kyrsten Sinema has now agreed to move ahead with President Biden ambitious economic agenda. A vote could come as early as Saturday. Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin seen here highlighted in the Senate chamber on Thursday but balked at many provisions within the initial proposal. Manchin finally signed on last week and Sinema revealed on Thursday she was ready to move forward.

With midterm elections looming in November getting Sinema and Manchin on board was crucial. CNN's Manu Raju spoke to us by phone after the deal was struck.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Sinema has just announced that she will agree to move forward with this legislation after a deal that she cut with Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, on changes to this package.

Now, let me break it down. To get this bill through, you need all 50 Democrats to be on board. Sinema was the one, or the biggest holdout, because of her concerns, over the tax provisions.

One of the tax provisions in there was the tax, what's called known as carried interest, which is a tax on hedge funds, and private equity. She has done an agreement, to remove that from this proposal that would have raised about $14 billion on a plan that Democrats estimate would save about $300 billion in deficit savings.


She also -- excuse me, raised concerns about the issue of -- excuse me, about a 15 percent minimum tax on major corporation. Now, this issue became a major -- a key concern for her because manufacturers in her state raised concerns about how they're able to -- whether they'll be able to deduct depreciation of their assets on their tax returns, the way that it is allowed under current law. Democrats are saying that they're backing in order to raise more revenue.

She had pushed back about that. She wants a significant change on that issue as well. And as a result, she announced that she knows the deal, she said, to move into a (INAUDIBLE) and move ahead, because of the deal to, quote, protect advanced manufacturing, she said, and removed carried interest, and boost clean energy, from this deal.


FOSTER: Well, Senator Sinema released this statement saying: we have agreed to remove the carried interest tax provision, protect advanced manufacturing, and boost our clean energy economy in the Senate's budget reconciliation legislation. Subject to the parliamentarians review, I'll move forward.

Now, we are tracking a flurry of major courtroom developments including legal reckonings two high profile U.S. school shootings. In Texas, a jury has ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay just over $4 million in damages for lying about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre and calling it a hoax.

In Florida, jurors are being if the shooter behind the high school massacre in Parkland should be put to death or in prison for life. The jury visited the high school on Thursday which has been preserved since the gunman killed 14 student and three adults on Valentine's Day in 2018.

Also, a Russian court has sentenced American basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in jail.

Plus, four current and former Kentucky police officers now face federal charges over the death of Breonna Taylor a black woman killed in her home in a botched raid.

Let's start though with Brittney Griner's nine year prison sentence. Russia's top diplomat says Moscow is ready to discuss a possible prison swap -- that's according to Russian state media. The U.S. has offered Russia arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan, another American held by the Russians. On Thursday Griner was found guilty of deliberately smuggling drugs into Russia despite apologizing and pleading for leniency.


BRITTNEY GRINER, AMERICAN BASKETBALL STAR: I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent, I do not conspire or plan to commit this crime. I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn't end my life here. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: Well, the decision comes after Griner's arrest nearly six months ago at a Moscow airport. Russian customs officials say they discovered vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. She maintains she accidently put them in her suitcase.

U.S. President Biden released a statement that read in part: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It's unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately.

Nina dos Santos is tracking developments for us from London. Was the result a surprise?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The length of the sentence. It was a surprise to her defense team who said that this type of crime would attract the sentence on average of about five years, compare that to nine years here. And also, one of her defense attorneys said that normally actually a third of people who are convicted of this type of offense, don't just get five years, they actually get parole as well.

Now when it comes to the judge's decision to hand down the sentence, she said she'd already knocked off about half a year to take into account the fact that Griner has been in custody for now 169 days. And also, the fact that she had admitted to bringing in the less than one gram of cannabis oil into the country.

But aside from the minutia of Russian jurisprudence, Max, this is now fast becoming obviously a political issue. We've learned just earlier this morning from Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, speaking at a conference in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, but Russia now that the sentence has been handed down, appears to be amenable to starting to discuss a prison swap with the United States.

As you pointed out, who could be on the list there? Well, obviously the United States have offered up Viktor Bout who famously is an arms trafficker who has been custody in the United States for quite some time, about a decade now. But also, Russia has reportedly asking for a hacker as well serving 27 years in jail and potentially an FSB colonel who was found guilty of murdering a Chechen fighter in Germany.

So, the question is, will that be amenable to the United States. Lavrov has said in this news conference: We're ready to discuss this topic but we're in the framework of the channel that has been agreed by the presidents, essentially between President Putin and President Biden himself.


They want to get them at least on the telephone or around the table. Whether or not that is a step too far remains to be seen -- Max.

FOSTER: OK, Nina, thank you.

The sports world was quick to react to Griner's sentence. Coach Becky Hammon of the Las Vegas Aces who also represented Russia in two Olympics gave her thoughts.


BECKY HAMMON, HEAD COACH, LOS ANGELES ACES: It's heartbreaking. It's beyond concerning if you're an athlete. I don't think athletes really have to think twice about now where they go because all of a sudden you can just be snatched and become basically a prisoner of war or a political pawn. It's hard to play against an opponent that doesn't play by the rules or makes their own rules. So, it's disturbing and wrong.


FOSTER: Griner's own team in the U.S., the Phoenix Mercury, held a 42 second moment of silence during a game to show their support for the star. Carolyn Manno has the latest.


CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: In Connecticut tonight, a moment of unity, members of the Connecticut Sun joining the Phoenix Mercury at half court for 42 seconds of silence, of reflection, in recognition of the verdict today. 42, Brittney Griner's number. And I'll tell you from being here, hearts were very heavy when these players took the court earlier this evening. The Phoenix Mercury came up just a little short in this game, a game that has playoff implications. But honestly, who could blame them, their friend, their sister, a world away receiving the news that so many expected but weren't ready to hear.

SKYLAR DIGGINS-SMITH, PHOENIX MERCURY PLAYER: We come out here and we're still supposed to play the (BLEEP) game. Nobody even wanted to play today. How are you supposed to approach the game, approach the court with a clear mind and the whole group is crying before the game. Because you try to honor her and you try to come out and still play heard for her and you know regardless if she here or not, right now we still got to try to keep our spirit alive, to honor her spirit and try to get some momentum for the team, something to feed off this.

VANESSA NYGAARD, HEAD COACH, PHOENIX MERCURY: The bottom line today is just wanting them to know that we care about them and I was so incredibly proud of them. They had so much courage to just even go out there and play.

MANNO: As you heard there, we were able to speak with a couple of the players to get a sense of how they were feeling. The WNBA actually making an exception and closing the rest of the locker room because of how emotionally charged this day has been.

But Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard told me, listen, that they had not hung their hat on the Russian legal system. They know that it's diplomacy that will ultimately free Brittney Griner. And they also know that this sentencing today is something of a positive step. They've been briefed by the State Department. They know that it is a process, they are all just desperate for her safe return back to the United States. For CNN in Connecticut, I'm Carolyn Manno.


FOSTER: A jury in Texas has ordered right wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay up. They found the Infowars host liable for defamation in a suit brought by the parents of one the young victims in the Sandy Hook school shooting. But 26 people killed in the 2012 massacre at the Connecticut elementary school, Jones repeatedly claimed that the shooting was staged and called it a hoax. But admitted during the trial that he now believed to be 100 percent real. CNN's Drew Griffin has more on the damages awarded.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: The jury returned a verdict of $4.1 million in damages, that is how much Alex Jones and Free Speech Systems, his company, is going to have to pay Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis for lying about the death of their son and so many others for so many years calling the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax.

Alex jones himself calls it a victory, a major victory for truth is how he called it, because the parents were seeking $150 million. But this is not over. This morning the jury returns and they will begin deciding punitive damages which could be far more. And Alex Jones still faces two similar lawsuits from other Sandy Hook Elementary School parents who have already won against him by default and will similarly go through a penalty phase just like this is being done in Texas.

Drew griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


FOSTER: The life or death of the Parkland school shooter is now in the hands of the jury. How they got an up close look at the scene of the massacre more than four years after it happened.

And later U.S. federal prosecutors go after police officers involved during the Breonna Taylor death.



FOSTER: The government set to release its jobs report for July, and the Dow fell 85 points or a quarter of a percent on Thursday. The Nasdaq finished up 52 points and the S&P 500 was basically flat.

That jobs report is expected in just about four hours from now. But economists are worried that the red hot labor market may be starting to cool. The U.S. Federal Reserve will be watching closely ahead of its next meeting and another anticipated interest rate hike. CNN reporting the U.S. likely added 250,000 jobs with the unemployment rate holding a 3.6 percent according to estimates from Refinitiv. Stay with CNN for coverage of the report and reaction from financial markets throughout the morning.

Now Thursday was a rough day for air travel in the U.S. more than 1,200 flights in the United States were canceled according to tracking site Flight Aware. Making it the second worth day for cancellations in the last month. Severe storms across several major airports in New York, New Jersey and Washington caused flights to grind to a halt.


Southwest Airlines accounted for at least 370 of those canceled plus delaying a whopping 43 percent of all its scheduled flights.

The U.S. is following the lead of the World Health Organization in declaring monkeypox is public health emergency. This comes as infection numbers are rising in the U.S. There are currently more than 7,100 confirmed cases of monkeypox, more than any other country in the world. The declaration will free up funding, expand the ability of health authorities to shared data and increase the number of personnel to help fight the virus. The Biden administration has been criticized for failing to recognize the severity of the outbreak.

We'll go back now though to our legal stories. Four current and four former Louisville police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor are now facing federal charges. Attorney General Merrick Garland laid them out.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department has charged four current and former Louisville Metro Police Department officers with federal crimes related to Ms. Taylor's death. Those alleged crimes include civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force, and obstruction offenses.


FOSTER: The four were involved in a botched drug raid at Taylor's home that led to her death more than two years ago as Josh Campbell reports.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Four current and former Louisville, Kentucky police officers have been federally charged in connection with the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. She was shot and killed by police during a botched drug raid in March 2020. The Justice Department alleges two of the officers falsified and affidavit that was used to obtain a search warrant of Taylor's residence, a third is charged with conspiracy in the incident.

GARLAND: The affidavit falsely claimed had officers had verified that the target of the alleged drug trafficking operation had received packages at Ms. Taylor's address.

KRISTEN CLARKE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION: That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor's death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant.

CAMPBELL: Prosecutors say as police entered Taylor's residence, her boyfriend fired one shot towards them believing that the officers were intruders. Police then opened fire, one officer has been charged by federal prosecutors with using excessive force after allegedly shooting ten times into the residence through a window and glass door, both covered by blinds and curtains.

CNN has reached out to the attorneys for all four of the officers for comment, two were previously fired by the police department, the agency said Thursday that it had started termination proceedings for the other two officers still on the force.

Josh Campbell, CNN.


FOSTER: Jurors in the sentencing phase of the trial against the Parkland School shooter are deciding whether he should be put to death. Nikolas Cruz has already pleaded guilty to killing 17 people in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. On Wednesday jurors were given the opportunity to visit the scene of the massacre as CNN's Leyla Santiago reports.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 1200 building has haunted the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community for four years, a crime scene left untouched since February 2018 for this state. Today, jurors would walk through what remains after the horror unfolded within those walls.

After survivors escaped, the bloodstains, the shattered glass, Valentine's Day gifts, even random shoes, were left behind. Today, jurors saw it all.

IVY SCHAMIS, FORMER MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS TEACHER: I kept thinking about these kids that should not be experiencing this.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Former teacher Ivy Schamis remembers what she left in room 1214 that Valentine's Day.

SCHAMIS: There's a box of Valentine chocolates sitting on my desk with puppies on it a student brought me.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): The jury will have to decide if Cruz gets the death penalty or life in prison, after pleading guilty to 17 murders and 17 attempted murders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there something that you would like to tell the jury about your dad?



HIXON: I miss him.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Far more damage left behind for loved ones -- agony, an emptiness that will never go away, strains on relationships.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a void in our life that will never be filled.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): For days, loved ones told the court about the realities of their lives.

ANNE RAMSAY, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM, HELENA RAMSAY: Helena was murdered on her father's birthday.


articulate how it has affected me would be for me to rip my heart out and present it to you shattered into a million pieces.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Testimony that brought even the shooter's defense team to tears. This all comes after weeks of the prosecution making the case that this was a methodical and calculated school shooting.


Prosecutors showed the jury's social media posts by the shooter months before the massacre.

Some reading, quote: I'm going to be a professional school shooter.

And multiple posts expressing hatred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just want to kill people.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): There were also internet searches including one for, quote: good songs to play while killing people.

Revelations in a court and at the crime scene that explain to a jury what led up to the massacre that forever changed a school, and shattered lives in this community.

SCHAMIS: Just being able to say the truth of what happened in front of the shooter, like that does not happen very often. Most of these mass shooters don't survive these shootings. I'm sorry to say I really don't have any sympathy for him. I really don't. I don't hate, I don't hate anyone, but he deserves whatever he's going to get.

SANTIAGO: It was a lot for the jury to take in, a lot to see, a lot to understand. We noted one juror took and handful of tissues and two jurors were seen sobbing in the courtroom.

Leyla Santiago, CNN, Parkland, Florida.


FOSTER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from London. Just ahead, next stop Japan, the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's tour of Asia generates another day of controversy and forceful reaction from China.

Plus, more Ukrainian grain is heading to world markets as more ships depart Black Sea ports.


FOSTER: Just a day after China fired ballistic missiles over Taiwan for the first time, Taipei is reporting new activity by Chinese fighter jets and warships in the Taiwan Strait. The military might comes after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan which Beijing strongly condemned. Now in Tokyo, Pelosi met with Japan's Prime Minister who made it clear the U.S. will not allow.