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Two More Memphis Officers Out, Three Fire Personnel Fired Over Response; Brother of Tyre Nichols Speaks On More Removals Over Response; Trump Vows Future-Focused Campaign While Dwelling On The Past. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired January 31, 2023 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone.
Fallout from the deadly police beating of Tyre Nichols now includes the firing of three Memphis Fire Department personnel and an announcement that a total of seven police officers were placed on leave as calls nationwide grow louder for police reform.
I am joined now in his first national T.V. interview by Tyre Nichols' brother Jamal Dupree, and attorney for the Nichols family, Benjamin Crump. Gentlemen, I really appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you so much.
Jamal, let me just say I'm sorry that you're dealing with this and I just am grateful that you're on to talk about your brother and talk about his legacy and what you want to happen from this, so thank you for joining us this morning.
JAMAL DUPREE, TYRE NICHOLS' BROTHER (via Skype): Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you.
So, listen, your brother died three days -- three weeks ago, excuse me. He died three weeks ago. How are you holding up? What has -- what has this been like for you these last few weeks?
DUPREE: Well, for the most part, it's just been a real rollercoaster ride. It's like a never-ending nightmare. And we just try every day -- me and my family and my sisters and my brothers -- we're just trying every day to just take one step each day -- that's all.
LEMON: One step each day. What do you want people to know about him?
DUPREE: I mean, what do people don't know about him? I mean, my brother's legacy is everywhere right now. Everybody knows that my brother was an innocent person.
My brother -- everybody knows that my brother was filled with energy. He was like the light of the room, you know. He cared about people. He put people before he put his self. Like, he was very selfless. He was just all-around a great person to be around.
And, you know, it sucks that this happened to him. Like, some people in this world you just feel like that should have never happened. It should never happen to anybody but at the same time, it's like when you see a person like that and you know a person like that it's just -- it just takes a toll on you different because he was really a people person. He was a people pleaser. And yes, like, the world's going to miss a person like that.
I know that you've been very outspoken in what you believe should happen to these officers who are charged with murder. What do you think should happen?
DUPREE: Most definitely. I mean, I hope they meet the same fate as my brother. That's just how I feel. I mean, I don't know what the laws is in Tennessee or whatnot but for me, I believe they deserve the death penalty.
LEMON: What was your reaction when you saw that video?
DUPREE: That's the thing -- I haven't watched it. But I already knew from looking at my brother, I already knew how they treated him because I've seen it all over the world. I've seen it right here in California all the time. Police brutality is nothing new.
And I already knew -- as soon as I seen them photos from him in the hospital I already knew that they treated my brother like an animal. They beat on him like he was nothing. I don't have to watch the video to see -- to know that. So, yes.
LEMON: You said on Facebook -- you posted that -- basically saying that you were sorry that you weren't there to protect your brother. Are you feeling guilty about not being there or --
DUPREE: Most definitely -- always, always. And I think I speak for all my siblings when I say that because my brother -- I'm 99 -- I'm 99 percent sure my brother has never gotten into a fight before. And the one time he get into an altercation with other humans we wasn't there to protect him.
You know, as growing up as kids having an older brother or an older sister and you get into an altercation your older brother or your older sister will be there to help you.
And on this night -- what was it -- January 7 -- my brother was left alone. Because if I was there they would have to kill me too because I would have fought all of them. My brother was trying to cooperate with them. I would have fought back with them.
LEMON: Ben, let me bring you into the conversation because you know there have been many developments. They seem to come every single day. There are three Memphis Fire Department personnel who have been fired. There are also two other officers now on leave pending an administrative hearing.
What's your response to that, and what questions do you have about it?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, NICHOLS FAMILY ATTORNEY (via Skype): Well, Don, I think as Tyre's family and certainly Jamal have been calling from the beginning, every last one of them should be held accountable for this police lynching of Tyre Nichols. Everybody who was on that scene who contributed in any way should be held fully accountable.
And the fact they relieved two officers weeks ago and were not transparent only brings further questions as to why the five Black officers were fired and charged and why weren't the others not charged. And so, the family wants full accountability.
LEMON: Did you see the original police report? And then considering what the video shows, how does that line up, Ben?
CRUMP: Well, it is consistent with what Ms. RowVaughn, Tyre's mother, said from the beginning when they told them that they could not go to the hospital because Tyre had been pepper-sprayed and tased and that he was arrested. She said then, Don Lemon -- and you talked with Ms. RowVaughn and she's a very sincere person. She said she believed that -- she thought it was a conspiracy to cover it up from the beginning.
LEMON: Ben, I've got to ask you. There's a lot of stuff out there and I just -- in the spirit of accuracy, right, and good journalism, did Tyre have any personal connection to the officers or do you believe that this was completely random?
CRUMP: Don, the family knows nothing about these rumors.
What we do know is that you saw multiple officers violating his civil rights. And we don't have to speculate about anything because they were operating under the color of law. And these police officers know that you cannot violate people's civil rights, Don Lemon.
And this is nothing new to this SCORPION unit when you think about the other citizens who said they were attacked like that. So this is a pattern and practice of police brutality -- period, point blank.
LEMON: Jamal, before we go I just want to know is there anything you want people to know about your brother or what you want to see next from this?
DUPREE: You know, I believe everybody knows my brother now. I've seen stuff on my brother from all across the country and even across the world, to be honest, and I think people really know that my brother did not deserve this. He was not that type of person. Yes, he was just -- man, like -- yes, he was just a good guy around the board. So people know who he is.
And again, I'm going to say the same thing I've been saying. We want justice. We want everybody that was involved with this to get that sentence, like.
Jamal, thank you. Please give our regards to your family. Ben, thank you as well. Give our regards -- especially, Miss RowVaughn and Mr. Rodney. We appreciate you joining us and we will speak to you soon as this continues. Thanks so much.
DUPREE: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think?
LEMON: I think it's tough, obviously. I think this family, under the circumstances -- I mean, I have to commend the way that they have handled themselves.
Look, I'm in the business of being on television every day and if something like this happened to not a loved one but just someone I knew, I don't know if I would have the strength to be able to come on television and open my heart and bare my worst fears in front of the world.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And you know what really stood out too is when he's talking about being an older brother and being there --
COLLINS: -- for your siblings. We've talked about this a lot and I'm really close with my older sibling. And just to hear that it really is so relatable for so many people to think about that relationship and what impact that has had on you.
LEMON: Yes. I just think it's an extraordinary family.
HARLOW: I had seen --
LEMON: You know. You do these interviews. How do they do it?
HARLOW: I don't know. Actually, that's what my husband always says to me is how do these people open up in the way that they do?
I had seen that the -- Tyre's parents, who you just did that powerful interview with on Friday, are going to be at the State of the Union.
LEMON: They're going to be at the State of the Union, but it's interesting.
HARLOW: We'll be there covering it in D.C.
LEMON: Yes, and we'll have to figure it out.
But listen, as I -- when I spoke to the pastor -- not who is giving the eulogy because Rev. Sharpton is giving the eulogy, but the pastor who is in charge of the church -- he says he believes that it has been for the family and for the community -- that in a way it has helped people because they get their feelings out. You know, they're able to --
LEMON: -- get their feelings out and they feel like they have a platform that gives them at least some feeling of having some sort of power, at least in this particular situation, so --
COLLINS: Yes. It's a great interview.
COLLINS: All right. Up next this morning we're going to talk about former President Trump and whether or not he can focus his campaign on the future or if he's stuck in the past like some of his advisers believe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.
They're sending people that are killers, murderers. They're sending rapists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Former President Trump says his 2024 campaign is going to be focused on the future, but there are some grievances he can't just quit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to restore election integrity. We have to. And you go to New York, nobody ever gets prosecuted. I'm the only one they go after.
They're sending people that are killers, murderers. They're second rapists. And they're sending, frankly, terrorists.
We have a woke military that can't fight or win.
And the wind turbines are all made in China.
They said he's not doing rallies. He's not campaigning. Maybe he's lost that step. We didn't. I'm more angry now and I'm more committed now than I ever was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That was not from Trump's first campaign or his second one. That was from last weekend.
Several of his allies are telling me that they're worried he's stuck in the past and are concerned about the viability of this third run. Their message to him has been to move forward, tone down his messages, and stick to the teleprompter in those speeches. But I'm told he's pushing back on that advice, arguing that he believes his message is strong enough and that he doesn't think any Republicans should actually challenge him for the nomination.
Right now, he is having a hard time convincing some people to join his campaign. A source says at least three people have been offered jobs on the 2024 Trump campaign but turned them down, suggesting maybe they'll join later on.
No one knows more about these dynamics than CNN's three insiders -- former Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Alyssa Farrah, who served in the Trump White House; and, of course, Congressman Mondaire Jones from here in New York.
You saw the message. He said, "I'm angrier than ever." Is that -- is that the start to the 2024 Trump campaign do you think?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS: Well look, it was a funny quote if not totally scary. You don't want your elected officials to be running on a message of I am angry -- and not angry over righteous things -- poverty, homelessness, whatever it might be -- but angry because of his own personal grievances. That he didn't win the election in 2020.
This has been a bad launch from the start for Trump and --
COLLINS: Why do you think so?
GRIFFIN: Low energy. I mean, we all watched the launch that day and it didn't come with a lot of fanfare. It took him over two months to even do a campaign event.
He can't pull the rally events. You've covered many of them. I've been to many of them. He can't pull the audience he once did. But point of caution -- he's still pulling the highest. And so long as he has that 30 percent on lock I don't see how anyone can beat him.
COLLINS: What do you think of how he's returned to the campaign trail so far because it has been kind of a slow start. These were his first really --
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, ILLINOIS: Yes.
COLLINS: -- formal events of this year.
KINZINGER: Well, he's tired. He's put on some age. I think he's running the same script. There's going to be teleprompter Trump and then there's off-
teleprompter Trump. Teleprompter Trump may talk a little bit about the future. Off-teleprompter Trump will be all about the past.
And I think one of the areas -- as Alyssa said with this I'm angry and all this negativity, that works sometimes in an election. It doesn't work all the time in an election. And it's time I think, as a Republican, to say leaders have to start actually putting some optimism out there.
When you hear him talk down the U.S. military -- look, I disagree with some of the stuff that happens in the U.S. military as a military member. We spent half our time doing computer-based training and not actually training to fight. But we have the best military in the world. We can defeat any enemy.
And to listen to the former president talk it down and say we can't defeat enemies anymore -- I mean, that's like worse than the old malaise in America kind of thing.
COLLINS: Yes, but he is still the front-runner as of now. No one else has even declared that they're running, though it's only a matter of time.
But I wonder with this kind of a message is this something that would Biden on the cusp of announcing that he's going to run for reelection -- that this is going to be a concern for him. Is he worried about anything like this?
MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK: I don't think so. I think if you're a Joe Biden and you're in the White House you're happy to see this president once again engage in grievance politics that say more about him as a person -- his character defects -- than they do about the people and the institutions that he's criticizing.
When is he going to make the affirmative case for why he should get a second term in the White House? And by that person, I mean Donald Trump, of course. He's not doing that. I don't think he's capable of doing that. I mean, it turns out a lot of the stuff he wants to do is not particularly popular to begin with, and so he's going to keep trying to divide, divide, divide.
But I don't think it's going to go anywhere because he's no different from the guy that voters rejected back in 2020.
COLLINS: Yes. Well, we'll see. That's kind of what his allies have been saying to him -- that you need to change your message.
But I'm curious Alyssa what you think of what Sen. Lindsey Graham said last night because he was asked about the possibility of other Republicans getting in the race. He said he's still betting on Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): To all these people who are very talented, I don't think you could do what he could -- what he did, and I want him to have another shot -- unfinished business. We need to get ready for a real spirited contest.
Now, why Trump? Now, you mentioned, like DeSantis. If you try to tell me that Ron DeSantis is not a good governor in Florida I'm not going to listen to you. If you try to tell me Mike Pompeo is not qualified to be president I'm not going to listen to you because I think he is.
I am for Trump not because of the flaws of anybody. I'm for Donald Trump because I know what I'm going to get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Oh, Lindsey. I know what I'm going to get. Does he mean insurrection? Trying to overthrow American democracy?
It's -- listen, there are some core supporters of his who are always going to be with him but I do think there is going to be a contest. How big it is, unclear. There are people who are going to put their names in the ring.
Listen, if you run as Trump-like -- this is my concern with DeSantis who obviously pulls the closest to Trump -- is he kind of takes up all the oxygen in the room. You have to have a clearly defined lane and this is where some of the governors who are toying with running -- an Asa Hutchinson, a Youngkin, a Sununu I think have a more clear path. They have their own record and their own vision to run on. But again, I caution against the giant field that we saw in 2016 that just cleared the way for Donald Trump.
KINZINGER: Can I say something about Lindsey Graham, by the way? So, I have traveled --
GRIFFIN: Please do.
KINZINGER: -- with Lindsey. Lindsey and I used to be kind of in the same mindset on foreign policy and things like that. Kind of the John McCain way of looking at the world.
Where he has gone now I just completely don't understand. He knows far better than anybody what January 6 was. He knows what Donald Trump isn't capable of, which is true leadership.
And for me, it's just so disappointing every day to watch somebody who was frankly, talented. I mean, Lindsey Graham was able to really bring people that would be considered Independents and maybe some soft Democrats and he's just gone all in. I don't know his play here --
KINZINGER: -- except --
Probably just to survive South Carolina. I mean, look, he is a -- he wants to stay in the Senate the rest of his life. There's nothing inherently wrong with that but the only way to do that is to make it through a primary in South Carolina. And when the Trump thing goes out of vogue in the part, and it will -- maybe it's soon, maybe it's later -- he'll go back to being what he needs to be to be reelected. It's a sad commentary, frankly, on politics.
There was this moment that I know -- I talked to people inside the White House that caught their attention -- is something that Sen. Elizabeth Warren said. She was doing a radio interview and she was asked about Biden running again. And she was asked about Vice President Harris specifically and whether or not she belongs on the 2024 ticket. This was her answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Joe Biden run again for president? He'll be 86 by the time his second term is over if he --
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Yes, he should run again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he's that old in the second term the vice presidency becomes even more important. Should Kamala Harris be the -- his choice the second time around?
WARREN: You know, I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team.
I've known Kamala for a long time. I like Kamala. I knew her back when she was -- when she was an attorney general and I was still teaching and we worked on the housing crisis together. So we go way back.
But they need -- they have to be a team and my sense is they are. I don't mean that by suggesting I think there are any problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: That's not how the White House took it. She later put out a statement saying she didn't mean to intend or imply that she doesn't think they're a great team. But that was kind of a moment that wasn't as emphatic of an endorsement as people suspected it might be.
JONES: You know, I think people are reading too much into it. I think she intended to do what she said initially, which was defer to the president. I don't think that there is any reason that she or anyone else would believe that the president would not run with his vice president for a second term.
And there are concerns within the party. I mean, that's obvious and --
COLLINS: About what?
JONES: I think people wonder about her popularity. But the fact is she won on the ticket back in 2020. If anything, they have more to run on in order to be able to survive a challenge by Donald Trump or I think many of the other people like Ron DeSantis who are thinking about running on their public insight and I think you'll see that happen.
COLLINS: Does she help or hurt Biden on the ticket?
JONES: I think she helps with certain demographics and then, she's -- you know, hurtful with respect to other demographics. But ultimately, it's the top of the ticket that matters, especially when she's clearly qualified, unlike a Sarah Palin who I think was the reason why many people voted against John McCain.
COLLINS: Fascinating times. Mondaire Jones, Adam Kinzinger, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you all three for joining us.
COLLINS: All right. Also this morning, we've been talking about the weather for three hours now. Freezing rain, plunging temperatures -- they are already causing about 1,000 flight cancellations across the country this morning. It is getting worse. We'll tell you about the areas that are getting hit the hardest next.