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Memphis to Release Video Showing Police Beating of Nichols; Biden Calls for Peaceful Protests in Memphis; Book: Federal Prosecutors Discussed Charging Trump in Stormy Daniels Case. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired January 27, 2023 - 06:00   ET





All right. Thanks for joining us this Friday morning. Hope you have a great rest of your day and a wonderful weekend. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.


DAVID RAUSCH, DIRECTOR, TENNESSEE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: I've been policing for more than 30 years. I've devoted my life to this profession, and I'm grieved. Frankly, I'm shocked. I'm sickened by what I saw. I've seen the video, and as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stated, you will, too. In a word, it's absolutely appalling.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm in live in Memphis. You see Kaitlan is in D.C. We have it all covered for you.

The questions are this morning what happened here? What happened to Tyre Nichols? Why are -- we are hours way from finding out. Police body camera video set to be released tonight after 7 p.m. Eastern. Video that the family has seen, video that has been described as appalling, horrific, inhumane. Video that has Memphis and the country really bracing for what could come next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice for Tyre.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice for Tyre.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Justice for Tyre.


LEMON: It has been 20 days since a traffic stop led to an arrest so violent that Tyre Nichols ended up like this, hospitalized in critical condition. Three days later, he died.

Five ex-police officers are now charged with murder.

CNN THIS MORNING is covering this from every angle, with the people central to understanding what happened and how it happened. Over the next three hours we're going to be talking exclusively to the police chief, C.J. Davis.


CHIEF CERELYN DAVIS, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE POLICE: This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane.


LEMON: You're going to hear from Steve Mulroy, the district attorney whose office brought the murder charges against the officers.


STEVE MULROY, SHELBY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I think after everyone sees the video, I don't think they'll have any questions about those charges.


LEMON: I'm going to speak with Tyre's mother and stepfather, another exclusive interview.


ROWVAUGHN WELLS, MOTHER OF TYRE NICHOLS: I want each and every one of you to protest in peace. I don't want us burning up our cities, tearing up the streets, because that's not what my son stood for.


LEMON: And you'll hear from an attorney for one of the accused officers.


BLAKE BALLIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: From the standpoint of representing Mr. Mills, I don't want there to be any prejudice against him when it comes to the court of law.


LEMON: But beginning us off this morning is our very own Sara Sidner, who's been covering this story.

Sara, good morning to you. By all accounts, this body camera video that is coming out later on today will be disturbing.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It will be, from all accounts and from some of the descriptions we are starting to hear. But so far, this community has been prayerful. It has been peaceful,

and it has reacted just as the family, the mother of Tyre Nichols last night asked people to do, to please, if they're going to protest, do it peacefully.

There was a beautiful vigil last night in honor of Tyre Nichols. Where? At the place where he felt most free, a skate park.



SIDNER (voice-over): In Memphis, candles burn for a life snuffed out. The life of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols being remembered where friends say he felt the most free, a skate park.

Twelve years ago, Nichols seen here doing what he loved. Twelve years later he ended up dead, officials say, beaten by five men sworn to protect and serve.

MULROY: The grand jury returned indictments against all five with the same charges.

While each of the five individuals played a different role in the incident in question, the actions of all of them resulted in the death of Tyre Nichols. And they are all responsible.

SIDNER (voice-over): Justin Smith, Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills, and Emmitt Martin III were all fired from the Memphis Police Department and now stand charged with seven crimes: second- degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression.

And there is police body cam and sky camera video showing it all. Something police will soon release to the public.


RAUSCH: I'm grieved. Frankly, I'm shocked. I'm sickened by what I saw.

What happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal.

SIDNER (voice-over): Attorneys for two of the former officers responded to the TBI's damning statement.

SIDNER: When you heard that, what did you think? And have your clients heard all of the charges against them?

WILLIAM MASSEY, ATTORNEY FOR EMMITT MARTIN III: I thought, I wish I'd seen that video so I could evaluate what he said.

BALLIN: To say things like that when you have a tinderbox that we're all concerned about, I have questions about whether those were the right words to use, whether this was the right timing, and whether the government should be saying those things about people who are innocent until proven guilty when you know that's going to be broadcast to potential jurors.

SIDNER (voice-over): But Nichols's family wants people to know more about Tyre Nichols than how he died.

WELLS: Nobody is perfect. OK? Nobody. But he was damn near. My son was a beautiful soul. And he touched everyone.

SIDNER (voice-over): Nichols had his mama's name tattooed on his arm. He wasn't just her beautiful boy. He was also a father, who loved having fun.

His friend, who knew him in Sacramento, told a local newspaper, "He had such a free spirit and skating gave him his wings."

He worked at FedEx but had other dreams: photography. In his own words, he posted, "People have a story to tell. Why not capture it? Instead of doing the norm and writing it down, and speaking it."

It turns out, what led to his death was captured on camera.


SIDNER: And we now know that we will be seeing what led to his death, according to officials here. We also know that two of the five officers have bonded out. When I talked to the two defense attorneys of two of the officers, they said that they expect their clients to plead not guilty in this case.

LEMON: And there's a difference in bond for those officers and we'll get to all of that throughout the coming hours here on CNN.

Sara Sidner, thank you very much.

Kaitlan, there is -- We're going to continue on, Kaitlan, here. President Biden joining other leaders who are calling for protests to stay peaceful, as he says the family of Tyre Nichols deserves a full, swift, and transparent investigation into his death.

We're going to get to the White House now. M.J. Lee joins us this morning from the White House. The president also renewing calls for police reform. What have you learned?


The White House has, of course, been watching Memphis very closely, and we know that the president is being briefed on these developments.

And last night the president put out a statement offering his condolences to the Nichols family and said that the family deserves a full investigation by the Justice Department and state authorities authorities, and he also said this.

He said, "I join Tyre's family in calling for peaceful protest. Outrage is understandable, but violence is never acceptable. Violence is destructive and against the law. It has no place in peaceful protests seeking justice."

So you can really hear from that statement that there is a real concern at the White House that the outrage, the emotions, the pain prompted by this incident could lead to protests that could potentially turn violent.

So the president trying to get ahead of that and trying to urge everyone to stay peaceful.

And Don, as you know very well, this wouldn't be the first time that this president has confronted a country grappling with this kind of trauma. You'll remember, for example, that he spoke to the nation when the verdict for Derek Chauvin came down.

He also, then, of course, subsequently met with George Floyd's family, as well.

LEMON: What about, though, M.J., any plans for the president to come here to Memphis at all?

LEE: Yes. No word right now on any kind of plans for the president to travel down there himself. Just keep in mind, though, Don, that this White House, too, like most everybody else across the country, they are bracing for the release of this video, too, that is expected to be so traumatic and cause so much outrage.

So I do suspect that we will continue hearing from the White House and the president directly as we continue learning more in the next 24 to 72 hours.

LEMON: And we'll be checking back with M.J. Lee at the White House. M.J., thank you very much.

Straight ahead, we're going to speak with Tyre Nichols's mother and his stepfather and the Memphis chief of police. So make sure you stay with us. Our special coverage in Memphis continues. A lot to get throughout the day here, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Certainly something that everyone in Washington is watching what you're doing there in Memphis, just as well, Don.

Also here, we are learning brand-new reporting this morning on an investigation into those hush-money payments to the former actress, adult actress, Stormy Daniels and then-former President Trump's alleged involvement in those payments.

This morning, new details show just how involved investigators believed that the former president was. The revelations that are coming from the new book, "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It," which looks at how Trump and other powerful people have managed to evade the legal consequences for their actions.

This book is authored by CNN's senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig. Elie, this reporting in here that you have is fascinating, because

it's essentially saying that days before Trump was leaving office, these prosecutors in New York were looking at whether or not to charge him with campaign finance violations once he was out of office. What else did you learn?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: OK. And so there are some very high-stakes meetings within the Southern District of New York during that key period in January 2021, when Donald Trump was getting ready to leave office.

We know that the Southern District could not indict Donald Trump before that, because he was the sitting president. But he was a focus of their investigation on this campaign finance case.

And when it came time for Donald Trump to leave office, there were meetings inside the SDNY when they had to grapple with the very difficult question, do we charge him now? Of course, we know the answer is no.

I got inside those deliberations and why they decided not to. What was really interesting, though, was the consensus on the team at the Southern District of New York, where I used to work, was that they did have sufficient evidence to indict Donald Trump.

Some thought it was just barely enough. Others thought it was more than enough. But they still decided not to, first of all, because the Southern District believed that there were prudential concerns, as it was put to me, with charging a former president.

They were cautious about the potential political fallout of it. And also, sort of perversely, the fact that Trump had been involved in so many other controversies between those two time periods really sort of weighed in his favor, because he had had the Mueller investigation. He had had the Ukraine impeachment. He had had January 6th.

And so by 2021, these hush-money payments almost felt to the prosecutors like they were ancient history and like they were fairly low on the list of his offenses.

COLLINS: Yes, but this draft indictment that you got a hold of is fascinating, because of course, we know in the end that in the court, Trump was referenced as Individual 1. It was something we talked about at the time.

But the draft indictment really didn't leave any doubt about his involvement, saying he wasn't just a bystander or some unwitting force here. He was the driving force behind this, they believed, according to this draft indictment.

HONIG: Yes, so there was a draft indictment of Michael Cohen that the Southern District was working on in 2018 that would have been enormously explosive, but it never saw the light of day. It never made it out the door, because the bosses at main Justice in D.C., frankly, stepped on it.

So the Southern District, when they were writing the draft indictment of Michael Cohen, laid out all the facts they had as to Donald Trump: that he was centrally involved, that he was the key player in this hush-money scheme.

But when the bosses at DOJ got wind of it, they said absolutely not. We're not putting that in there. And as a result, there was a heated back and forth between the Southern District of New York and the bosses at DOJ. Ultimately, as independent as the SDNY is, they are part of DOJ, and DOJ prevailed.

And as a result, what we saw in the final charging document against Michael Cohen was something that barely mentioned Donald Trump and only ever called him the infamous name Individual 1. So we got, really, a sanitized version of what the SDNY wanted to put out in the public.

COLLINS: Yes. This is fascinating reporting, all in your new book, "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It." It's out January 31. Elie, I can't wait to read it. Thank you so much.

HONIG: Thank you.

LEMON: All right. That is fascinating. Thank you, Elie. Thank you, Kaitlan.

Meantime here in Memphis, Memphis is on heightened alert, awaiting tonight's release of the body cam video showing the police beating of Tyre Nichols. We're going to speak to the president of the Memphis NAACP, who was with the family just yesterday.

Plus this.


PEDRO VILARVA, FORMER BOYFRIEND OF REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I think he's just out of his mind, and one lie led to another. His ego is too -- it's too big, too high. He's not going to resign.


COLLINS: That's a prediction you're hearing from someone who knows George Santos very well. The embattled Republican congressman's ex- boyfriend is now speaking out about his own suspicions he had about the freshman Republican.



LEMON: Hello, everyone. We're back now live in Memphis, Tennessee, as a nation braces for the release of the police video.

Tyre Nichols' mother pleas for peace at a candlelight vigil for her son last night. Nichols's death led to five police officers being charged with second-

degree murder on Thursday.

So joining us now to discuss what's going on here is the president of the Memphis NAACP, Van Turner, and retired bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Henry Williamson Sr.

And we're so glad to have both of you gentlemen here. It's very important. This affects the family, obviously, but the entire community. Good morning to you. Thank you for joining us. I'm going to start with you, because you have been with the family recently. Right?


LEMON: What are they saying? How are they doing? I'm going to speak with them a little bit later on in the hour.

TURNER: Well, at the vigil last night, they were appreciative of the outpouring of love. Skateboarders came. Folks from all walks of life all throughout the city came to support this family. And they were so appreciative.

And so they are uplifted by what they saw last night. They are ready for the city to see this video. And they're asking for peaceful protests. But they still are saying, justice for Tyre. So that's what we're seeking.

LEMON: Bishop, I want to bring you in and to talk about the healing that needs to be done with this community. And look, this is open wounds, and probably they're going to become more open as this video is released later on tonight. What is your message here?

BISHOP HENRY WILLIAMSON SR., RETIRED BISHOP OF THE CHRISTIAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Let's turn tragedy into triumph. Compassion for this family and justice and eventually police reform is needed.

We've come a long way. We have a fine police chief. She's done a great job, swift justice. They have been fired and now charges have been given. We're grateful for the progress.

But we still need to follow through on the justice process and call on the mayor and the governor for police reform in our city. And then across the nation.

And, of course, we need the George Floyd bill passed that President Biden has called for in light of this tragedy.

LEMON: You have -- You're speaking to a whole world of issues, right, a whole country of issues. Let's put it that way. But a lot of it has happened here in Memphis, Tennessee. There have been issues with the police department.

You have been in the community. You've been trying to get those issues fixed and changed. How do we do that? You said the George Floyd Policing Act. But Memphis has a history of, quite frankly, bad policing. WILLIAMSON: Well, Dr. King gave his last breath here. Let's turn this

into peaceful protests, justice, and positive change.

So we must communicate. Let's build bridges, rather than walls, to all of the community involved. Let's call all faith leaders -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim and others -- and community activists together.

That's why we are proud of the work of the NAACP. Church doors are open and with this family, first of all, compassion, counseling. And then let's -- with the nation, let's call for peaceful protests and positive change.

Homeless children need to be educated. Let's have the Tyre Nichols Scholarship Fund. Let's make sure HBCUs are funded. Turn tragedy into triumph.

LEMON: You mentioned Dr. King, and, look, he was a pastor. You're obviously a bishop. And in dealing with these issues, you're out in the community. And the community comes to you to worship, to mourn, to pray. So what are they saying to you, in particular, about the issue here towards Tyre Nichols and with policing in Memphis?

WILLIAMSON: Well, righteous indignation and anger, of course. So we must deliver justice to be them and allow them in to be heard so that they know that positive progress can be made.

We're asking our churches to partner with schools to make sure that they value life and value learning. So we have to communicate that. We have to compassionately do that.

Jesus, of course, from the cross said, Look at my mother, Mary. So this mother and this father need our concern and hope. And if we bring justice and peace to them, then we will move forward in progress. That's what's needed at this time.

LEMON: In moments, in just moments, Van, I'm going to speak to the police chief, the first interview that she has given as it concerns this.

What do you want to know or hear from the police chief? She has been ahead of this --

TURNER: Right.

LEMON: With trying to get people acclimated to what they're going to see in this video. So I'm going to speak with her in moments. What would you like to know from the police chief?

TURNER: Well, I would like to have her explain that there is training to take place, but we need to see that training implemented throughout the entire force.

This squad was created to combat the crime in the community. Yet, these officers went overboard, and they acted excessively when it came to the arrest of Tyre Nichols. So what we want to hear from Chief Davis is what can be done going

forward to prevent something like this from ever happening again. And I think that's what she will hopefully speak to. That's what the community wants to hear.

This is not a condemnation of the entire force, but this is an inquiry as to what happened, what went wrong, what can we do to better implement policies and how can we prevent this in the future.

LEMON: So quickly, we had the police officers who were fired and charged up on the screen there. All black police officers --

TURNER: Right.

LEMON: What is your message? What do you say to them?

TURNER: You know, it doesn't matter who's behind the badge. You have authority, and you have the ability to arrest, and you are to serve and protect.

And so we want to hear the message loud and clear, that if you are wearing that badge, whether you are African-American or you're not black, we want you to do what you were trained to do, and we want you to do it with fidelity. And we want you to do it, no matter who you are arresting, who you are taking in.

You should treat them like a citizen. You should treat them with respect, and you should not beat and kill that individual. Because that was not your training.

So the color of the police officers is not important. The fact that what they did was criminal, that's important. And they should be, you know --

LEMON: Accountable.

TURNER: -- they should be held accountable.

WILLIAMSON: Responsibility and accountability in this case.

LEMON: Thank you.

WILLIAMSON: For all of our police officers.

LEMON: I'm glad you listened. It's very important, because you mentioned the George Floyd Policing Act. You mentioned the president, because this is -- this is a country-wide effort that it's going to take. Democrats, Republicans, white, black, every single ethnicity in this country to help fix these problems.

Thank you, Bishop.


Thank you very much, gentlemen. WILLIAMSON: Thank you, the media, for exposing it and teaching us and learning how to turn tragedy into triumph in police reform, for men and women.

LEMON: We appreciate your candor. We appreciate you speaking for the community and helping to heal this community and tamp down whatever issues that we may have when the -- that video is released later on tonight.

We will be leaning on you guys to guide us through this, because we're outsiders, so to speak, but we're here to help. So thank you very much, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

So I'm going to be -- I'm heading to talk to the police chief in just moments. So you may not see me here for a bit. But the next time you will see me, I'll have the police chief here in Memphis for an exclusive look, a closer look at Chief Davis and her career and how she is handling one of her really biggest moments here, her biggest challenges yet.


DAVIS: -- the furtherance of finding truth.



COLLINS: We're live in Memphis and here in Washington this morning, where cities like D.C. are taking extra security precautions ahead of tonight's release of the video showing the police beating of Tyre Nichols.

The Memphis police chief, C.J. Davis, is facing the outrage.