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Memphis on Edge Ahead of Video Release Showing Police Beating; U.S Transportation Department Launches Probes into Southwest Meltdown; Meta to Restore Trump's Facebook, Instagram Accounts After Ban. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 26, 2023 - 07:00   ET




DIANE TOSCANO, LAWYER FOR ABBY ZWERNER, TEACHER SHOT BY SIX-YEAR-OLD STUDENT: Had the school administrator acted in the interest of their teachers and their students, Abby would not have sustained a gunshot wound to the chest.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The school superintendent has been ousted and the assistant principal has resigned. More fallout this morning after a Virginia teacher is shot by her six-year-old student.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And, Poppy, this morning, we're learning what was in the classified materials found at the former Vice President Mike Pence's home.

HARLOW: And the Department of Transportation is now looking into exactly what caused Southwest Airlines' travel meltdown last month.

LEMON: But this is what we are going to begin with. Memphis on edge this morning, the city is bracing for the release of police body cam video of officers beating Tyre Nichols, a traffic stop that turned deadly. We're also waiting to see if officers involved will face criminal charges. And I have a warning for you, we're about to show you a photo. This is a photo of Tyre Nichols in his hospital bed before he died.

Now, Nichols' family has already seen the body cam footage. They say it is horrific and they are demanding murder charges. The family's attorney says that the officers beat Tyre nonstop, like a human pinata for several minutes.

CNN's Sara Sidner following this story for us from Memphis this morning. Sara, good morning to you. They're bracing for this video. The chief condemning what happened to Tyre. This is just an awful sorry all the way around.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Because we have not seen the video and I think because the public has not seen the video, there is great concern here about what the response is going to be. But we do know that this was a vicious attack really on the part of these five officers.

And there are a lot of questions. We heard from community members who told us that they're worried this place is going to blow. But the thing that has tempered some of this is the police chief's reaction that she quickly reacted, she fired the officers and the community and family are demanding charges. And those two things may tamp down emotions to see that something is finally being done in this case.


SIDNER (voice over): The Memphis police chief speaks out in a recorded statement making clear there will be absolute accountability for those responsible for the death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols.

CHIEF CERELYN DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity towards another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane.

SIDNER: Nichols died earlier this month after a violent arrest by five officers. Five Memphis police officers and two members of the Memphis Fire Department have been terminated. Nichols' family is calling for charges to be filed as the community anxiously awaits the police camera footage to be released.

ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, ATTORNEY TO TYRE NICHOL'S FAMILY: The family wants nothing but the absolute, most charge that they can bring and what they want are murder charges.

SIDNER: attorneys for the family have already viewed the footage and an independent autopsy paid for by the family reveals Tyre Nichols died from, quote, extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.

RAVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOM: I hate to think that us as black people are out here killing each other.


WELLS: For what? I don't know why. What happened to the humanity and kindness?


SIDNER: Nichols was a driver for FedEx. He'll be remembered as a loving father and son, the baby of the family with a tattoo of his mother's name on his arm.

WELLS: Nobody is perfect, okay, nobody, but he was damn near. My son was a beautiful soul.

SIDNER: He liked to go to Starbucks every morning where he befriended an unlikely group of people. One of those friends tell CNN Nichols was a free spirited person, gentleman who marched to the beat of his own drum. He enjoyed skateboarding and taking pictures of sunsets. A friend who knew Nichols in Sacramento said this of him. He was his own person he didn't care he didn't fit into what a traditional black man was supposed to be in California. He had such a free spirit and skating gave him his wings.

KEYANA DIXON, TYRE NICHOLS' SISTER: For this to happen to him in his way, the pain is just -- it's just -- I have no words.


SIDNER (on camera): So, we also heard from the police chief who said that, you know, the reason for the firing of the officers was use of excessive force, duty to intervene, they failed to do that and duty to render aid.

There is a bit question about these two members of the fire department. Because if they were there as emergency services, their duty is not to enforce the law, it is to save lives. The question is why were they fired? Because if they were there to save lives, and that's not what they did, they didn't take part.


That leaves a really nasty taste in people's mouths.

And I just want to mention to you that last night, I was able to go into the church where they are going to have the funeral for Tyre on Wednesday. And the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Boulevard Christian Church said that their hearts are so heavy after sort of hearing about all of the details of this and he's very worried about how the community is going to respond, but they have been trying to be there for the community so that they have an outlet for their emotions.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, there's a reason why they're waiting to release this video, why they're being so cautious about it. And I think they're giving people time to absorb that it is going to be emotional, and as you said, horrific, vicious I think were your words. So, we'll see. And then to get some answers not only on the beating but also why these two members of the fire department, that's very important.


LEMON: Sara Sidner has been covering this for us and she will continue. Thank you, Sara. I appreciate that. Poppy?

HARLOW: Don, thank you so much. We'll get back to you guys in just one moment.

At least one person has died and two are injured in Kyiv, Ukraine, this morning after Russia launched more than 30 missiles at the capital.

That is an air-raid alert. It remains in place over the city. Moscow's latest attack has forced many people there to seek shelter in the underground metro system. Remember those first images of the beginning of the war, people hiding in the subway? That is happening again. The city's military spokesperson said around 20 of those missiles have been intercepted and destroyed. The attacks come less than 24 hours after the United States and Germany announced that they would both send those battle tanks to Ukraine.

LEMON: And, Poppy, school officials in New Newport News, Virginia, repeatedly failed to act after being notified that a six-year-old had a gun. That's what the lawyer for the teacher who was shot weeks alleged during a press briefing on Wednesday. Watch.


TOSCANO: Abby and these other teachers tried to do the right thing on January 6th, the day of the shooting. On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times, three times, school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people.


LEMON: Abby Zwerener's attorney says just after 11:00 A.M. on January 6th, Zwerner told an administrator the child threatened another student but nothing was done. By noon, a second teacher told the administrator she believe the student put a gun in his pocket and had taken it out at recess. At 1:30 P.M., a third teacher told administrators that a student said the six-year-old showed him a gun and threaten to shoot him if he told anyone. Abby Zwerner was shot almost an hour later. CNN has reached out to the school about these allegations but they declined to comment about it.

Following these allegations, the assistant principal of Richneck Elementary resigned and the school board voted to sever ties with its superintendent. Straight ahead on CNN This Morning, we're going to speak to a mother whose son was at school the day of the shooting. How it has impacted her family and what she said needs to be done.

HARLOW: That is ahead this hour.

Also this morning, the Transportation Department says it's in the early stages of a probe into the Southwest Airlines' holiday travel meltdown. Pete Muntean joins us now from Washington, D.C. What kind of probe? What are investigators hoping to find?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Department of Transportation, Poppy, says this is going to be a rigorous and comprehensive investigation. Up until now, it is focused on that backend meltdown at Southwest Airlines. It originally triggered by the weather that led to the cancelation of thousands of flights.

But now, the focus seems to be shifting a little bit into whether or not Southwest overextended itself in the first place and whether or not, by doing that, it broke the law. This is the new statement from the Department of Transportation. It says it's also probing whether Southwest executives engaged in unrealistic scheduling of flights, which under federal law, is considered an unfair and deceptive practice.

Now Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he's using the full extent of the investigative and enforcement powers of the Department of Transportation. We're talking 16,700 flights canceled by Southwest between December 21st and December 29th. That means about 2 million passengers were impacted by this.

The focus until now has been getting those refunds back to passengers, about $400 million of the $725 to $825 million this caused Southwest to lose because of this meltdown. We're going to find out a lot more today in a new financial filing from Southwest Airlines, Poppy.


MUNTEAN: We actually just got those numbers. They've posted this quarterly loss and they're warning more losses are ahead.

What about their response just in general? I know they said they'll cooperate. What does that mean?

MUNTEAN: Yes. The interesting thing here is that Southwest insists its schedule and staffing were in the right place leading up to this. But Southwest, in this statement, says, our systems and processes became stressed while working to recover from multiple days cancelations across 50 airports in the wake of an unprecedented storm and that we will continue to cooperate with any inquiry or request from government oversight or elected officials.

This is a really big focus by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He wants consumer advocacy here because passengers have dealt with so many cancelations and delays, not only in 2022 but also in 2021, and the big question now is whether or not airlines recovering from the pandemic have simply overexerted themselves and they can handle all the people who want to fly again.

HARLOW: Pete, thank you very much.

LEMON: All right. Now, to a CNN exclusive this morning, we are learning more about the 12 classified documents discovered at former Vice President Mike Pence's home in Indiana. Sources describe them as briefing binders prepared for Pence's foreign trips. Sometimes these binders simply include basic biographical information on foreign leaders. But sometimes they have more sensitive information.

CNN is told that the papers may just have been overlooked as they would not have been visible unless the packers went through the binders page by page.

Well, today, President Biden will try to leave the classified documents scandal in the rearview mirror here by giving his first major economic speech of the year.

CNN's M.J. Lee live at the White House with more. M.J., good morning to you. Is this all one big move to distract from the documents scandal?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, as you said, this is a speech that the White House is building the president's first major economic speech of the year. And, frankly, it is probably one of the topics that the White House wishes that the president could be talking about more.

We know that in large part this will sound sort of like a victory lap speech. He wants to be talking about, according to officials, things like jobs growth under his watch, low unemployment rate, the fact that wages are up, the fact inflation does appears to be finally moderating some. And we also know that he intends to take on House Republicans in particular as the White House tries to continue making that contrast between the Democratic economic agenda and what House Republicans are wanting to do.

We have to, of course, point out that the political environment for President Biden now for the next two years is incredibly different on Capitol Hill now that Republicans do control the House. In order to get anything done, it is important that Democrats at least work with some of the House Republicans. And the first big test of this that we are about to see is over the debt ceiling. House Republicans have made really clear that what they need in return to raise the debt ceiling are deep spending cuts. And, of course, the White House has said we are absolutely not negotiating.

So, it is about to be crunch time come a couple of months because, remember, the Treasury Department has said that they probably have only until about early June or so for these so-called extraordinary measures to make sure that the government is preventing itself from defaulting, essentially. So, this will be a major speech but, of course, the White House trying to turn back to some of these bread and butter issues because the last few weeks they have been distracted by the classified documents issue, Don.

LEMON: All right. M.J. Lee at the White House for us this morning, thank you, M.J. Poppy?

HARLOW: Don, thank you.

Former President Trump can once again post on Facebook and Instagram. Meta announced, that's the parent company, that it will allow Trump back on those platforms as long as he doesn't post about fraud in the next election cycle. Trump was kicked off the site two years ago after posting this during the insurrection, quote, these are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory so unceremoniously, viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and peace. Remember this day forever, close quote.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the risk of allowing Trump to use the platform at the time was simply too great, and that's why they suspended him. The company vowed to assess all of this in two years and they have done so and they're letting him back on.

Joining us now, Axios Media Reporter is Sara Fischer, she broke the story, also had an exclusive interview with Facebook Executive Nick Clegg, and our very own Donie O'Sullivan. Good morning, guys.


SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Good morning. HARLOW: We'll get to that great interview you did with Nick in a minute, but let me just ask you, okay, so at the time, it was Mark Zuckerberg who made the announcement and said, look, there's just too great a risk to public safety, right? We can't do this. Now, it's not Zuckerberg, right? It's a former U.K. diplomat making this decision and/or announcement. And is there any sort of objectivity here or bar he met the former president or is this a subjective decision that Facebook hopes he won't do it again?


O'SULLIVAN: Yes. The former deputy prime minister of the U.K., Nick Clegg, who lost his election in 2017, now announcing the decision to put back on the platform this, of course, losing politician, Donald Trump losing the last election.

Look, this is a super subjective decision, if you read through Facebook's, Meta's reasoning for this. I mean, it's quite wishy-washy. Essentially, they're taking the mood, the pulse of the country and they say, well, we don't think that by putting Trump back on, there is an imminent risk to public safety or public harm.

I would just say, nine minutes after Facebook announced this news, our colleague, Oliver Darcy, pointed out in his newsletter last night that Trump was posting on Truth Social stuff about the 2020 election, right?

HARLOW: Untrue stuff.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, untrue, conspiracy theories, all-out certain claims of election fraud. So, they like they know what they're going to run into here. But, look, on the flipside of this, people say -- a lot of many people, not to sound like Trump many people are saying, but, you know, that he should be allowed back on the platform because a company being able kick off a then-sitting president and now a candidate for 2024, that shouldn't be something that they should have the power to do.

HARLOW: And I was thinking that answer, because he is now a candidate, right, which changes the stakes here on people deciding if they're going to vote for him in 2024. My question to you, though, about this is it included in the folks who think Facebook made the right decision is the ACLU, for example.


HARLOW: What did you take away from your conversation with Nick Clegg?

FISCHER: They've come a long way in instituting new policies and technologies to make it harder for things that someone like Donald Trump or any world leader to post to go really viral. That's why I think this decision makes a lot of sense. So, for Donald Trump, if he were to do things that are not totally volatile of their policies but are controversial, well, Facebook says it is now building its tools that would make it impossible to re-share that content. They would algorithmically reduce it in people's feeds. Even if you follow Donald Trump, you wouldn't see it in your feed and they could potentially take away the ability for him to run ads and they could do it immediately.

HARLOW: So, no one is going to see the lies?

FISCHER: So, no one is going to see them. But if you do want to go and look at them, they will leave it up there for public reasons. And part of it is because they have this policy that they've implemented since, which is like a newsworthiness policy. If a politician says something that's crazy, do we need to make it so that you can't see it? Maybe there's a news value in being able to actually see that policy, what they said.

HARLOW: Yes, that's really fascinating.

Donie, how politically important, because I remember how much money the Trump campaign spent on these targeted Facebook ads?

O'SULLIVAN: I mean, I think even Democrats would say the Trump campaign is so good in 2016 and 2020, are running these hyper targeted ads. They'd spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the last election cycle.

Look, one thing when it comes to the lies that he can post, we clarified with Facebook, Meta last night, Trump can post lies, he can attack the 2020 election, and that's not going to break --

HARLOW: He can what?

O'SULLIVAN: He can attack the 2020 election. He can still continue to post conspiracy theories about the last election --

HARLOW: That have led to violence?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. But he can't do it about the next election. But, I mean, I think the result is still the same, still an attack on the election integrity of the U.S.

HARLOW: Yes and what it prompts some people to do. How do they explain that?

FISCHER: Because attacking a previous election doesn't impact a future decision that a voter might need to make. But attacking the authenticity of a future election might actually have an outcome. If Donald Trump wants to attack the 2020 election, yes, it's misinformation, and, yes, they should reduce it in the feeds, but it's not going to alter history at this point. If he is to attack a future election, that could impact the way a voter is thinking. I think that's why Meta made that distinction.

But one thing I want to make very clear that was a big takeaway for me at that interview, Nick Clegg said, this is my responsibility and my decision.

HARLOW: Not Zuckerberg? FISCHER: Not Mark Zuckerberg's. And that's very strategic. If you look at a lot of big tech companies, they put people in power, Microsoft did this with Brad Smith, to take some of the heat away from the CEO so that they can make the decisions without the CEO being called before Congress, et cetera. And now Nick Clegg, this is his first major decision politically as the president of global affairs.

O'SULLIVAN: I think Clegg is a bit of a lackey here. I mean, I think he's taking a hit for Mark Zuckerberg.

HARLOW: Founder, CEO, built the thing, now not making the decision.

O'SULLIVAN: The buck still stops with Zuck, I think.

HARLOW: Yes, I hear you. Thank you both very, very much. Everyone should look at your interview with Nick Clegg. Thank you, guys. Don, back you.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, guys. Back here in Memphis, officials and community leaders are bracing for what may come when officials release the video of Tyre Nichols being beaten by police officers. The executive director of the Memphis NAACP chapter will join me live next.



DAVIS: I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results. But we need to ensure that our community is safe in this process.




DAVIS: This incident was heinous, reckless and inhumane. And in the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.


LEMON: That's the police chief here, Chief Davis, and we're back live in Memphis this morning where the community is bracing for release of video of Tyre Nichols being beaten by officers. Family members have already seen the video and their attorneys say that the footage shows police beating Nichols nonstop for three minutes. He later died in the hospital.



LEMON: All right. We are back now, everyone. Sorry, we had a technical issue. We're live on location in Memphis. That often happens. Sometimes it happens when you're on location.

So, we are going to turn to the looming release of this video showing a man being beaten by police, which preceded his death.

So, joining us now, the executive director of the Memphis NAACP, Vickie Terry, she met with the members of the family. I'm so glad that you could join us because you know the people involved. You met with the family, you know the police chief. You've been a member of the community for a long time and you're the executive director, the perfect person to talk about this.

So, I just had to get some information from you. We have heard that possibly the officers are going to surrender. Do you know anything about that? Have you heard that?

VICKIE TERRY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MEMPHIS NAACP: I have heard it and I'm thinking that that is going to happen.

LEMON: Some time today? Do you have any idea of what time?

TERRY: Around 10:00 A.M. --

LEMON: Around 10:00 --

TERRY -- is what I have been told.

LEMON: Memphis time?

TERRY: Memphis time, Central Time.

LEMON: Which would be 11 Eastern that they will.

So, listen, overnight, and you know the chief, you know Chief C.J. Davis, she spoke out for the first time about this and gave a very, very important statement.


I want to play it and I want to get your response to it.

TERRY: Okay. Thank you.