Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Memphis Braces for Protests; Graphic Murder Scene Played at Murdaugh Trial; Four NFL Teams Face Off Sunday; RNC Votes for Leader. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 27, 2023 - 06:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: 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 of a community devastated by the actions of those officers. Davis is the first black woman to serve in that role. She has condemned their fatal beating of Tyre Nichols as a, quote, failing of basic humanity.

CNN's Ryan Young is live in Atlanta.

You know, Ryan, obviously she is one of these officials who is going to be dealing with the potential fallout from the release of this video. What do we know about her, about Chief Davis, specifically?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, I'm in Atlanta right now, Kaitlan, and this is where she worked for some over 20 years. I can tell you by talking to two former chiefs of the Atlanta Police Department, they call her an exemplary officer, someone who always was out in the community forging connections between the community and the police department.

Look, you were talking to pastors just in the last few minutes on this show and we know that it's that community forging that has to take place to make this thing move forward in terms of making sure that people stay peaceful in the streets.



YOUNG (voice over): As Memphis and the nation brace for the release of what is expected to be disturbing video of Tyre Nichols being beaten by five now former Memphis police officers -

ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF TYRE NICHOLS: He was a human pinata for those police officers.

YOUNG: The spotlight is once again on policing tactics in black and brown communities. The top cop in Memphis, a city that is nearly 65 percent African American, is Cerelyn J. Davis, a role she's held since 2021 when she made history by becoming that city's first female police chief.

JIM STRICKLAND, MEMPHIS MAYOR: She's the right person to lead this department here in Memphis.

YOUNG: But over the last two weeks, the actions of five of her police officers has brought unwanted attention to her department.

CHIEF CERELYN "C.J." DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT: This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane. And the in the vein of transparency, when the video is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves.

YOUNG: Davis started her career in Atlanta where for more than 25 years she moved up the ranks as a police officer, leading several high-profile units, becoming the police chief in Durham, North Carolina. Former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, who was at the helm during the protests of 2020, says Davis is a top-notch cop.

YOUNG (on camera): You had a chance to work with Chief Davis.

ERIKA SHIELDS, FORMER ATLANTA POLICE CHIEF: We came up through the Atlanta Police Department. I probably worked with her about 20 years. C.J. embodies class, grace, and she is a strong, intelligent person who does the right thing every time.

YOUNG (voice over): Shields believes transparency is a police department's best tool to speak directly with the public.

DAVIS (June 16, 2020): Justice must be transparent, and justice must be equal.

YOUNG: Following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in 2020, Davis and the head of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives testified on Capitol Hill about the need for police reform.

DAVIS: We are also alarmed and mourn the horrific killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and now Rayshard Brooks. These names represent just a few in a much longer list of tragedies impacting communities of color.

YOUNG: Now, years later, the chief's experience and management will be counted on as she faces one of the biggest challenges of her career.

DAVIS: Finding truth in this tragic loss, ensuring we communicate with honesty and transparency, and that there is absolute accountability for those responsible for Tyre's death.

SHIELDS: As bad as I'm afraid that this video may be, if I had to pick someone to be at the helm of navigating through it, it would be her. She is - she is that solid.


YOUNG: Kaitlan, you can see one of the barricade that has been put up here in the city of Atlanta. A lot of police departments throughout the southeast are having plans just in case protests get out of hand.

But one of the things everyone's been talking about is the fact that police departments have been working all around the clock to talk to their partners in the community to make sure that it doesn't get out of hand. And that's the same thing that C.J. Davis has been doing in Memphis.


COLLINS: Yes, and we heard it from his family as well.

Ryan Young, that was a really good look at her. Thank you so much for that.

Ahead, that police chief that Ryan profiled there, C.J. Davis, is going to join Don for her first interview since the beating occurred. That's coming up.

Also up next, on the political front, a bold prediction about George Santos' future here in Washington from a former member of his inner circle, the embattled Republican congressman's ex-boyfriend is weighing in.

Also, this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever see any tears in your interactions with Mr. Murdaugh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He did not appear to be crying. He was upset But I did not see any visible tears.


COLLINS: Prosecutors in South Carolina are drawing attention to Alex Murdaugh's emotions at the scene of the crime.


We have a live report from South Carolina as testimony is beginning in the trial of the century.



STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Well, let's talk about people who don't care about public policy. George Santos is --

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: The last couple of years have taught everyone ride it out. Just like tweet through it. Just keep saying -- like calling the media liars, saying it's about your enemies. There is a playbook for this that has been fairly successful. And now you're seeing it like in this moment, you know what I mean, where someone, no matter what lie they're caught in, they know that maybe you just don't have to do anything at all. And I think that's something that we really have to wrestle with going forward in the media. It's fun to make jokes about this person --

COLBERT: It is. It is.

CORNISH: It's - I -

COLBERT: Trust me.


CORNISH: I totally get it.

COLBERT: Yes, I fact checked that.

CORNISH: But, you know, where - where did their money come from, you know?


CORNISH: What loans do they owe? Who's going to want influence with them because - and will --

COLBERT: Will they have access to classified material?

CORNISH: Will they have access to classified material?

COLBERT: Will they take it home and store it in their garage?

CORNISH: I mean, who among us has not at this point had -

COLBERT: You should check your garage, Audie Cornish.

CORNISH: I - I - I will.


COLLINS: I have a feeling Audie's garage is safe and sound.

That was CNN's Audie Cornish speaking with Stephen Colbert, asking good questions, talking about embattled New York Congressman George Santos, obviously getting a lot of attention here on Capitol Hill. Also last night the former boyfriend of George Santos is speaking out saying that he doesn't think the freshman lawmaker will ever resign from the House because, quote, his ego is too big.

Here's his exclusive interview with Erin Burnett.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR, "OUTFRONT": I mean, do you think that he'll ever resign?

PEDRO VILARVA, EX-BOYFRIEND OF GEORGE SANTOS: I don't think so. His ego is too - is too big, is too high. He's not going to resign. If they don't find out something to get him off, he's not going to do it.

BURNETT: Pedro, you were 18 and Santos was 26 when you met him. When did you know that you couldn't trust him?

VILARVA: Towards the end of the relationship. It was more -- it started like -- I started finding out about the lies in December. And then it went on until February, I think. And then that's when I broke up with him.

BURNETT: I want to play George Santos -- what we've all now heard, Pedro, explaining who he is in his own words over the years.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): My grandparents survived the Holocaust.

I'm a Latino Jew.

My mom was a 9/11 survivor.

They sent me to a good prep school. So - which was Horace Mann Prep in the Bronx.

I actually went to school on a - on a volleyball scholarship.

When I was in Baruch, we were the number one volleyball team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you graduate -

SANTOS: But I put myself through college and got an MBA from NYU.

I also founded my own non-profit organization. Prior to - to running, I decided to close it. It was an animal rescue.

We - we had a great organization. We were able to save animals, dogs, cats, horses.

I've lived an honest life. I've never been accused, sued of -- of any bad doing.

BURNETT: Why does he do this?

VILARVA: I don't know. I think he's just out of his mind. And one lie led to the other. And now this -- everybody found out - like, they're founding out, like, the little stuff as well. I just think that he should not be in Congress.

What he always looked for was fame and power. That's all the -- all he cared about. And he got it. He got the fame of the lies and he got the power that he's in Congress now.


COLLINS: We should note, Pedro also told Erin Burnett that George Santos never mentioned 9/11 and his mother when they were dating.

Also this morning, in South Carolina, the first witnesses are taking the stand as Alex Murdaugh's double murder trial gets underway. Prosecutors are trying to draw a contrast between his once prominent attorney's emotional state in the courtroom to the emotions he had upon seeing his wife and son dead.

CNN's Randi Kaye is live in Walterboro, South Carolina, for CNN THIS MORNING.

Randi, you know, this is a trial that has captured the attention certainly of South Carolina but also of the nation. What are we hearing from these first witnesses who are taking the stand?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, it was so interesting -- good morning to you. For the first time we saw Alex Murdaugh interacting with investigators at the crime scene the night of the murders. This was the first time we've seen this. This was the first investigators who were on the scene testified, their body cam video was shared.

Now, it was so disturbing that they shielded it mostly from our view, which is why we're not showing it to you this morning. But the jury was able to see it and they were fully engaged. Some of them were closing their mouths, holding their hand over their mouths because it was so horrible to see. It was - it was the bodies and -- of his wife and son and a lot of blood. But it was -- it was so disturbing. And this is just a clip of what we were able to see in court.


SGT. DANIEL GREENE: When was the last time you were here with them, or talked to them or anything like that?

ALEX MURDAUGH: Um. I can't remember. It was earlier tonight. I don't know the exact time, but -


MURDAUGH: I left -- I was probably gone an hour and a half from my moms and I saw them about 45 minutes before that.

Somebody gonna check them?

GREENE: Yes, sir. They've - they've already checked them.

MURDAUGH: They did check them?

GREENE: Yes, sir.

MURDAUGH: Then it's official that they're dead?

GREENE: Yes, sir, that's what it looks like.


KAYE: And, Kaitlan, for the first time we had new information in court about Paul Murdaugh's truck. It wasn't at the scene the night of the murders. It turns out they said in court that they had put out a BOLO, a be on the lookout for it.


And it was found quite a ways away, in Hampton County, on the side of the road. No explanation as to why.

And also there's one point on the body cam video where, in the middle of this horrific scene, where the bodies of his wife and son are laying there, an investigator shows up and Alex Murdaugh very calmly turns to him and says, hey, what's up? Which was very bizarre but they did explain that most of the time, most of the night he was quite distraught in -- at the scene.

Kaitlan, back to you.

COLLINS: Yes, absolutely fascinating trial.

Randi Kaye, we will stay with you for the updates. We know they'll be back in the courtroom today. So, thank you.

Also this morning, the NFL is now in the final four. Harry Enten is going to break down who is making it - or who may make it to the Super Bowl. We'll see Harry next.



COLLINS: All right, it is NFL conference championship weekend. The two playoff games are happening on Sunday. They will decide who will play in the 2023 Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles are going to face the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC title and the Cincinnati Bengals will play the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC championship.

Our CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten is in New York.

Harry, it's amazing to me how evenly matched the two teams are. How are - how are things looking ahead of the weekend?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, you are right. I mean I'm expecting some awesome football games. SO, let's take a look at the favorites right now. We'll starting in the AFC, right, remember, the winner advances to the Super Bowl. Right now the odds makers have Kansas City to beat Cincinnati but just by a point.

Look in the NFC, that one also a tight match expected. The Philadelphia Eagles to beat the San Francisco 49ers by just 2.5 points.

And if you look historically, look, the average of the 2023 favorites margin, 1.8 points. If you look back over 50 years of history, right, the smallest average favorite margin was two points. So the games this weekend are expected to be tighter than any weekend slate of any AFC, NFC championship games ever dating back more than 50 years.

But there's another reason why I'm interested in these weekend's games, and that is because the AFC championship is a repeat of last year's between the Bengals and the Chiefs. And if you look, that has happened very few times in our history.

One other thing I'm going to point out here is, my Buffalo Bills, last weekend they went adios amigos. They haven't made a Super Bowl appearance since 1994. The last Super Bowl win, never for them.

But remember, though, when it's too tough for them, it's just right for us, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: All right, Harry, going to be some close games this weekend. We'll be watching. We'll check back in with you. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COLLINS: Also today there's going to be a contentious battle over the future of the GOP. The RNC, the Republican National Committee, is set to vote on whether to keep Ronna McDaniel or oust her after the party's string of election failures in the 2022 midterms. We are live here on Capitol Hill with more on that.

Also, in Memphis, we're live there on the ground. Don is going to speak in just moments with the Memphis police chief. It is her first interview since the death of Tyre Nichols. That's going to be head of tonight's expected release of that video. He'll have a lot of questions for her. Stay with us for both of those important moments.




GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We've had three substandard election cycles in a row, '18, '20, and 22. And I would say of all three of those, '22 was probably the worst.

I think we need a change. I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC.


COLLINS: That is Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis calling for change at the Republican National Committee. The GOP is gearing up to vote on whether or not to re-elect or replace Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel after a disappointing midterm elections for Republicans. McDaniel is running for a fourth term. She is a favorite in the race, we should note. But that fight within the Republican National Committee is mirrored by a fight here on Capitol Hill to keep House Republicans together when it comes to their agenda.

CNN's Lauren Fox is live here with more.

Lauren, you've been doing some reporting, I know, on the behind the scenes, these efforts that -- you know, everyone can see the divisions. We all saw it play out with the fight over Kevin McCarthy. What are they trying to do to try to keep their conference together? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's one man

really in the middle, Kaitlan, and that is Tom Emmer. He is the Republican whip. And he is going to have the tough job of keeping the Republican conference in line.

I talked to him this week about what his message, what his style is going to be to make sure that this narrow majority doesn't go off the rails, that they can actually accomplish legislation. He said he has a lot of experience, both in the state house and actually as a youth hockey coach back in Minnesota. And he said one of his styles is to be direct, to tell people what he knows and what he doesn't. He also said his message to conference this week was simple, I need to know your personal business. He said, quote, we are not in the business of discussing your business, but you've got to view us as a small-town law office. Information comes in but it doesn't go out.

And the reason he said that it's so important he know if people are - have children who are getting married, if they have illnesses, is the fact that absences really matter when you have a tight majority. You also can't have any last minute concerns about legislation. He says they need to come to him early and often when it comes to bills. And, Kaitlan, this is just going to be such a challenge for Tom Emmer to keep Republicans in line.

COLLINS: Yes, on major issues, including the debt ceiling, is going to be one of the biggest fights I think that we see play out, among others.

Lauren Fox, great reporting, though. I'm sure we'll be talking about a lot of this in the future. So, thank you.

FOX: Thank you.

COLLINS: All right, and also CNN is going to continue this morning live here in Washington and also in Memphis.


ROWVAUGHN WELLS, MOTHER OF TYRE NICHOLS: If you guys are here for me and Tyre, then you will protest peacefully.





WELLS: You can you get your point across but we don't need to tear up our cities, people, because we do have to live in them.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And that was Tyre Nickels' mother speaking last night at a vigil. [06:59:59]

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. I'm live in Memphis. Kaitlan is in Washington, D.C. Poppy is off.

We're going to take you through what is going to happen here in Memphis today.

And live right now at the police department.