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House GOP Chaos Worsens, Republicans Sink Their Own Defense Bill as Government Shutdown Looms; Reports Show Trump Told Aide to Play Dumb About Boxes; Attorney Says, Police Body Cam Video Doesn't Justify Tasing of Band Director. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2023 - 07:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Office in the world.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that is incredibly damaging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is textbook obstruction of justice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The attorney general taking the hot seat, what Merrick Garland plans to tell lawmakers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They spent a lot of time protecting Democrats and lot of time hunting Republicans.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We do stand up on our side of the aisle for the rule of law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The illegal weaponization of the Department of Justice.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is a Wednesday. We're so glad you're with us. And it's a really particularly busy Wednesday in your old hometown.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: It is Groundhog Day, also, not literally but feels like that on Capitol Hill.

HARLOW: Yes, it really does. And Merrick Garland, by the way, is testifying.

So, here is where we begin. This morning, House Republicans at odds with each other, that's to say the least, as America hurdles towards a government shutdown.

Hear that? We saw the chaos on full display as Republican lawmakers failed to pass their own defense bill after five consecutive hard liners voted to kill it. It's a huge red flag as Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggles to get his conference under control with about ten days left to prevent the government from shutting down.

MATTINGLY: Right after the vote, a group of House Republicans held an impromptu news conference and slammed their own colleagues for derailing the defense bill.


REP. MIKE GARCIA (R-CA): So, our inability to bring the package to a floor vote because of these five individuals who decided to put their personal agendas ahead of the basic requirements of our troops is extremely upsetting to us.

But they're confused and they just handed a win to the Chinese Communist Party as a result of this vote, and we're going to do everything we can to keep folks at the table to get people back in line.


MATTINGLY: Now, the White House is now outlining the consequences of a potential shutdown, and warning that it could undermine the U.S. economy and national security.

We have team coverage this morning. Arlette Saenz is at the White House, but I want to start with Lauren Fox on Capitol hill.

And, Lauren, I think it's important to distinguish here, the bill that failed yesterday, the procedural motion that went down yesterday, which, by the way, is extremely rare, was a defense spending bill. It was just for the Pentagon. Republicans traditionally like the Pentagon and defense. They have nothing moving when it comes to actually halting a government shutdown. These are two separate things, but both equally, hugely problematic.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Phil. In fact, there were really two issues with procedures yesterday, that defense bill that went down on the floor of the House of Representatives, exceedingly rare, but they also had to make a decision from leadership yesterday to pull a vote on a procedural measure on the floor to advance the short-term spending bill. And that is where we stand today.

That is where Republicans are still engaged in around-the-clock conversations trying to find a way forward, and there was a marathon meeting all day yesterday in the office of Republican whip, Tom Emmer, one of the Republicans who was in that meeting, Kelly Armstrong told our colleague, that it was really more of a therapy session, as members were able to sort of get a lot off their chest, have a conversation about what they might need to do to move forward as one united Republican front.

But it's not clear they're ever going to get there, and, in part, it's because you have a number of hard liners, who are not only opposed to moving forward with this negotiated one-month Republican stop-gap spending measure, you also have a number of conservatives who are starting to make clear they may never get to yes on any short-term spending bill. And that is a problem for Kevin McCarthy because he has such a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

And if you zoom out a little bit and think about the bigger picture, we are still focusing on if Republicans can come together in one side of the Capitol. There is still no negotiation that is happening to avoid a government shutdown, even for a month, between Republican leaders in the House of Representatives and Democratic leaders in the Senate. And that is the negotiation that will ultimately matter if we are going to be avoiding a shutdown.

So, a lot of unanswered questions right now as Republicans are hoping to find a way forward. It's just not clear they're going to, Phil.

HARLOW: And, Arlette, the White House is hoping if they remind the American people what a government shutdown would actually mean to them and, by the way, our service members who defend this country, that that may have an impact and push things along?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. The White House is really seizing on the chaotic nature of these discussions amongst House Republicans trying to paint them as engaged in extreme partisan politics. Something that we have heard consistently from the White House is that Republicans have been prioritizing issues, like a potential impeachment inquiry, which the White House calls a political stunt, and also loading up a bill with items that would simply just not pass the Senate.

Now, this morning, the White House is focusing on laying out what the consequences of a government shutdown would be, including furloughing federal workers. There would be active duty military members who would be forced to work without pay, also air traffic controllers and TSA agents that the White House argues could cause airport delays down the road.


There are also concerns that the FEMA disaster relief fund would be depleted. We have consistently heard from FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell that if Congress does not authorize the $60 billion request from the president, that they're going to run out of funds quickly after those wildfires in Hawaii and the hurricane down in Florida. There is also concern about delay for infrastructure projects if reviews and permitting can't be completed.

But one thing that the White House has consistently pointed to is their belief that House Republicans need to stick to the budget agreements that they brokered with the White House back in May. Now, so far, we haven't seen any direct involvement from President Biden as Republicans are engaged this chaotic nature up on Capitol Hill. But we will see whether that changes as they barrel closer to a potential shut down.

HARLOW: Yes, we'll watch closely. Arlette, Lauren, thanks very much.

MATTINGLY: I want to turn to new reporting in the investigation into Donald Trump's alleged mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a- Lago. ABC News and New York Times were both reporting that a close aide to Trump has told her investigators that Trump told her not to talk about the boxes of documents. Here's the exact line that she says Trump told her, quote, you don't know anything about the boxes.

Now, this assistant is Molly Michael. This is not an unimportant person in Trump world. She worked closely with Trump in the White House, and then followed him to work in his office at his Florida resort. She resigned last year.

Now, according to reports, she told investigators Trump would write to-do lists on documents that were marked classified.

Joining us now, CNN Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Thanks so much for being here.

I want to start with something that Chris Christie said, because, obviously, a former federal prosecutor, brought a lot of cases, also running against the former president, political and legal always intertwined here. Take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I mean, that is active witness tampering, that's active obstruction of justice. And if she's telling the truth, then we have more evidence that will be presented at the time of trial, and this case will be tried, and this is the guy that we want to make our nominee?


MATTINGLY: Putting the political race aside, is Chris Christie right in terms of the implications of this?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. If it's as reported, he absolutely is right. This is obstruction of justice, knowing full well as both Trump and Michael did, that she knew all about the boxes of documents, right? He says, you don't know anything about them, as she's poised to go in and talk to investigators, it's pretty classic obstruction of justice.

The question is what do prosecutors do with this. I mean, she's obviously a valuable witness on the case that exists now both on the side of the substantive document charges and the obstruction of justice cases they have charged it. Do they now add another obstruction of justice count as they move forward?

HARLOW: That's interesting. Also the question is, Chris Christie will note, he said there, if she's telling the truth. There's no reason to believe that she's not, and I just want everyone to listen to Sarah Matthew, who was the deputy press secretary for Trump, explaining how crucial she is in terms of was in her role and in close proximity she was to then-President Trump. Here's that.


SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: So, this is something he knew very well, who would have had a lot of face time with the president. And they can't simply dismiss her, you know, as someone that he would not beware of or who wouldn't be in the know because she was quite literally standing right outside the most important office in the world, someone who the president knew by name, and I think that makes hear a very credible witness.


HARLOW: Your thoughts?

RODGERS: Yes, I agree. I mean, a couple of things here. One, there's no intermediary to the statements that she allegedly has, just directly Trump into her ear, right? We had the prior witness, Taveras, who says that De Oliveira, the co-defendant of Trump, came in and said Trump told me this, this is directly. So, that's really important.

Secondly, she's really unimpeachable, right? She's not someone who went and lied first and now she's in trouble, and then she comes clean. She's someone who just was called in, wasn't about to lie for everyone and get herself in trouble. So, she told the truth, terrific witness for prosecutors.

MATTINGLY: Now, we should note that the Trump campaign put out a statement saying that this was taken out of context, they don't have the full context, the leaks were illegal, haven't responded directly, though. We'll have to wait and see on that.

I do want to ask you, all eyes are going to be trained on Capitol Hill not just because they're once again wandering their way into a boxed canyon of a government shutdown but also because of Attorney General Merrick Garland will be testifying today, the first time since the Hunter Biden indictment since Republicans launched the impeachment inquiry.

It's striking in the excerpts that the Justice Department released of his opening statement. I want to read part of it to you. It says, I'm not the president's lawyer. I will also add I'm not Congress' prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people. Our job is to follow the facts and law wherever they lead, and that is what we do. The A.G. getting out in front of this hearing, releasing these excerpts and making that statement, why do you think he did it?

RODGERS: Well, you can see why he's getting, at least for Garland, maybe a little testy, right?


I mean, if anyone has demonstrated his independence from the White House and everyone else, it's Merrick Garland. I mean, you could even argue that he's been too laid back, it took them too long to focus on the true causes of the January 6th insurrection, you know, that he went too far in saying, sure, go after Hunter Biden for something that, frankly, no one else in the country would have been charged with. I mean, if anything, he's putting his thumb on the other side of the scale. So, you can see why he's saying, I have been as independent as I can possibly be, you know, if you're paying attention, you know that, and all of the rest of this is political. So, I'm not surprised he's coming out swinging, again, for him, Merrick Garland swinging isn't swinging like other people might, but, you know, good for him to try to put the facts out there about what's happened in front of the American people.

MATTINGLY: It will certainly be an interesting hearing to watch. Jennifer Rodgers, thank you, as always.

RODGERS: Thanks.

HARLOW: All right. Now, I want to show you this, new overnight, several protesters were taken into police custody. This is Staten Island, New York, and you see them blocking a bus carrying migrants seeking asylum in New York. The NYPD arrested ten people. One person was arrested for assault, nine others received summons for disorderly conduct.

MATTINGLY: New York City has become an epicenter of the migrant since spring of 2022. The number of asylum seekers surpassed 100,000 with costs projected to run up to $12 billion in the coming years. These people line up in search of housing and other basic services.

Now, the finger pointing between New York City's mayor, New York's governor and President Biden and the Biden administration has been happening now for months. Adams at a town hall event earlier this month said he sees no end to the issue, and said it was possible that it could, quote, destroy New York City.

HARLOW: A high school band director tased and arrested by police for refusing to stop playing after a football game. This happened in Birmingham, Alabama. Coming up, the band director will join us live to describe firsthand what he experienced.

MATTINGLY: Plus, new federal charges after a toddler at a New York City daycare overdosed on fentanyl and died. We'll have that.

Stay with us.



HARLOW: Those are panicked screams after Birmingham Police tased and arrested a high school band director, and we are going to talk to that band director live in just moments.

But, first, we told you about this yesterday morning. Police say they were clearing out the stadium at the end of a football game, this was last week, when they noticed both schools bands were still performing. According to Birmingham Police, when asked to stop playing music in order to get people to leave the stadium, the hometown's band complied but the visiting school's band director, Johnny Mims, and his band continued performing.

MATTINGLY: A physical altercation then ensued and they released this body cam video of the incident. A warning, some of this may be distressing to watch.

Now, Mims was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and resisting arrest. The school he works for has placed him on administrative leave. Birmingham Police's Internal Affairs Division is investigating.

Joining us is Johnny Mims, the band director tased by police in that video, and his attorney, Alabama State Representative Juandalynn Givan. Thank you very much for joining us.

I can't imagine what the last several days have been like for you. But, Johnny, on that front, I know you went to the hospital after this occurred. Mentally, physically, where are you right now? How are you feeling?

JOHNNY MIMS, BAND DIRECTOR TASED BY BIRMINGHAM POLICE: I'm still of course grappling with the situation that took place. It's kind of been an ongoing thing for me daily, just, you know, taking it one day at a time. As you did explain, I did get an opportunity to go and get checked. I had an opportunity to go yesterday and to get a follow-up.

And so I have a great doctor that I have been working with to try to, you know, help me get, you know, readily used to my arm because I was tased in the shoulder as well as the lower torso area. And then on my other side of my -- and, of course, I use my shoulders for, of course, most of the things that I do.

So, mentally, of course, you know, just hearing those screams from the video again, and just, again, recount everything as an educator, of course, you know, you're always trying to figure out anything that happens, you're always going through that process again to see, you know, what you could have -- you know, how you can move forward on everything. And so it's just been a day-to-day process. It's something I'm still grappling with and still very, very concerned about the students who had to witness that situation.

HARLOW: We do want to hear about the students in a moment. I watched, you know, the video more than our viewers just saw, and it appears and the text on the screen says that you were tased three times throughout this.

I do want to play for you what police are saying in terms of putting out this body camera video because you hear multiple officers requesting for you to stop. So, let's play that, and I want your reaction.

At the end, they say you will go to jail, and you say that's cool and give a thumbs up. Can you explain why you did not have your students stop playing?

MIMS: The students were already, of course, engaged in the playing, as you can hear what I'm saying there. I communicated to the officers, hey, we're on the last part of the song. There's, of course, we call it a cadence point of a song where you -- the students know to go into the last part of the song to cut off.

Again, I had students in the stands, about 130 in the stands, then I had 15 students on the actual track.


And so there's a coordination that must happen between those two entities of the band. And so it's not one of those things that you just cut the group off in our case because of the size of the band. We had to split the group up. And so part of the band is in front of me, and then the other part of the band is on the floor.

And so, as I communicated with them, you know, we were at the end of the song, that would be the most appropriate situation to happen because those two groups are not together. The other band, if you look in the footage on the other side, their entire band was up in the stands. So, it's much easier for that director to get total control of what's going on with the group while they're playing.

And so that's the reason why, again, you can see in there that I did communicate that. And then, of course, you know, as a person, you're up, what do I do. So, you're caught off guard. You're confused about why did the officer come and directing the questions in a way that they are directing it towards me, and so, of course, that's going to cause some confusion for a person.

And, you know, so my reaction was just to let them know, hey, we're towards the end of the song, and as the person up, I wanted to make sure they were aware to make sure that this will be the best thing for us to make sure to get to the end of the song, so I can cut off the band appropriately, and both groups would know what's going on. I want to understand too, getting towards the end of the song, so that way I can properly cut off the band appropriately so that both groups that's in the stands and the other group that is on the floor would be able to know what's going on almost at the same time.

I do want to fairly understand too by this time while we're getting towards the end of that song, the lights were turned off. So, that also further complicated the situation for me allowing to be able to cut the band off. And you can see that, I'm trying to cue the group to cut off. But at that time, because I'm a darker person, it's difficult for the students to see me.

MATTINGLY: Juandalynn, I want to ask you, I read what you said, and I think what you have seen and what you have described over the course of the last several days related to the events that transpired. The police, I believe, claimed that Johnny hit them, swung at an officer when he stepped off the platform. It's hard to always kind of put everything together when you're looking at body cam footage or looking at different pieces of things. Is that an area of dispute right now or is there something the police have described that you think is wholly inaccurate or doesn't tell the full story?

STATE REP. JUANDALYNN GIVAN (D-AL): It's an absolute lie and a fabrication by the Birmingham Police Department. I have seen multiple angles of the footage. As a matter of fact, I just met with the city attorney on yesterday. And, unfortunately, what you all -- I'm sorry?

HARLOW: I apologize for interrupting. Go ahead. I wanted to make sure we also had a statement. Please continue.

GIVAN: I'm sorry. What you all have before you on Monday, what was released, that was the police department's first -- what they chose to release, but there are about four, actually, maybe four or five other pieces of body cam footage that they chose not to release initially because it really depicts a different story. And I, again, state that there is a fabrication of the truth.

And it is unfortunately that in this day and time that the police officers of this country, many of them, the first thing they say is that someone attacked them or they thrust at them or they made some type of inappropriate gesture. I met with the city attorney yesterday. I started going through all of the video footage. My client, not at one time, attempted to assault in any fashion the Birmingham Police Department and it's an ultimate fabrication.

And also there's footage, and I think that has now been sent to you all that some of the officers that are Birmingham Police officers that were there were amazed at the fact that my client was even tased. They were totally stunned and they thought that it was totally inappropriate, the actions of the Birmingham Police Department.

And regardless of how this may have started, there is nothing that happened that would have warranted my client being tased multiple times even while on the ground like some total criminal at that point in front of 145 students at Minor High School. Those kids were traumatized. They have been, I think, distraught over this situation.

This is an embarrassment to law enforcement. We have never witnessed this that I can ever recall in this country that an educator would be tased in front of students by law enforcement is unacceptable. It is excessive. And not only that, we are going to be seeking also the information as to who cut the lights off at the school, as well as who the other security was in attendance.

And the other question I want answered is where were the administrators for both schools, where was the principal for Minor High School and where was the principal Jackson-Olin High School? Those are questions that need to be asked and answered.

HARLOW: We will continue to follow this, ask those questions. Of course, we welcome the Birmingham Police to join us and answer some of the questions. And I'm also sorry for interrupting you as well. It was not intentional. We really appreciate you coming on the program. Thank you.

GIVAN: Thank you so kindly.

MIMS: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, two people are now facing federal drug charges in connection with the overdose death of a one-year-old boy and the hospitalization of three other children at a day care facility here in New York City. Police say the children were napping in close proximity to the powerful opioid, fentanyl. Prosecutors say the two suspects, among others, were running a fentanyl distribution business out of the building in an operation which, quote, shocked the conscience of the city.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live with details. Look, I think this story has been rattling in my brain since I first saw the headlines. What's actually happening here?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, right now, the DEA is involved and the NYPD, federal prosecutors. They believe this was a drug trafficking ring that was being run out of this daycare, perhaps this daycare used as some kind of front to hide what was going on there. And pretty significant in the sense that what they found there after this one-year-old who died, they believe, because of an opiate overdose, fentanyl that was in this daycare center, somehow came into contact with the one-year-old and three other kids.

And if it wasn't for the quick actions by emergency responders, using Narcan to save the lives of these other three kids, we could perhaps be talking about a worst-case scenario.

So, now, the feds are involved. They have charged the two individuals, the day care owner, Grei Mendez, who's 41, and another individual, Carlisto Brito, who was living inside this location, with conspiracy to deliver narcotics and possession with intent to distribute narcotics.

But the investigation is not over. In fact, the NYPD said they're going even further to see if this was some kind of global drug trafficking network out of the Dominican Republic. They're looking for the daycare center's, the owner, her husband, who fled the scene. She called him, text messaged him in the moments after all of this happened. Even before she called 911, she's texting and calling her husband.

He comes to the location, as police are arriving, and removes items filled inside a bag. They don't know what exactly it is, but, obviously, investigators believe it has to do with drug paraphernalia, other items that they found at the home.

So, now, they need to figure out exactly was this part of some kind of bigger network, the three other children who were injured are doing okay. But if it wasn't for, really, the quick action of those emergency responders who had to use this nasal spray, right, this Narcan, who would think that kids would need to be treated in such a way?

And just to follow-up, I mean, we're talking about a kilo of fentanyl, which the DEA and others say, can kill up to 500,000 people. I mean, this is enough drugs that you can sell to 500,000 people. It's a lot of drugs. It's certainly very deadly and dangerous, certainly, to have in a daycare.

MATTINGLY: It's horrifying as a parent, but also what are you doing as a human being. Please keep us posted on this. Great reporting, as always, Shimon, thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will head to Washington, D.C. after making his desperate plea for more aid at the United Nations.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: We must act united to defeat the aggressor and focus all our capabilities and energy on addressing these challenges.


HARLOW: He is also facing some pushback from some Republicans. We'll be joined by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy about this fight for funding and much more, right ahead.