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Judge to Rule on Willis Case; Crumbley Found Guilty; Schumer Calls for New Elections in Israel; Mnuchin Could Buy TikTok. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 15, 2024 - 06:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a live look at the skyline in Miami, Florida. It's 6:30 on the East Coast.

In the next few hours here, Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee is expected to announce whether District Attorney Fani Willis will remain as the prosecutor in the Georgia election subversion case. The defense is seeking to disqualify Willis for having a romantic relationship with her lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade. Judge McAfee, who is up for re- election, thank CNN affiliate WSB that the ruling won't be based on politics.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us live now from Fort Pierce, Florida.

Katelyn, good morning. Always wonderful to see you.

So, there's this claim that the ruling won't be political. It's sure to receive political reaction. How do you expect this to go today?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are just waiting to see what Judge Scott McAfee in Fulton County is going to do. He held so many hearings that we were able to see publicly about this issue that originally bubbled up as something like a little bit of a sideshow, having Fani Willis on the stand testifying, having Nathan Wade, the top prosecutor in that case, also testifying.

But there is a real issue here that Judge McAfee is looking at, and it is this question of some sort of ethical impropriety. Was there a benefit to Fani Willis because of her relationship with Nathan Wade? She hired him. Her office was paying him to take on the prosecution of Donald Trump, and all of these other defendants, to bring that case. And she did have a relationship with him in her testimony and his after he started in that office. And so there is a lot of questions about how Judge McAfee is going to look at the facts here and if he thinks that it is enough to remove her from the case.

The big picture is that legally Judge McAfee says he is basing it on the facts. He says these kinds of orders take time to write. We've been waiting two weeks for a decision here. Today he says is the day -- or the last day in that two-week period that he could rule. He needs to make sure he says exactly what's - what he wants and he says, I plan to stick to the timeline I gave everyone. And also that no ruling of his is going to be based on politics. He said that in a radio interview last week.

But, of course, there's always politics involved in these cases against Donald Trump, Kasie. And one of the issues here is, how do damaging, if Fani Willis remains on this case, how damaging is it to the prosecution team for people to have seen all of this testimony about her personal life. And then separately, if she is removed from the case, does that derail the entire Trump case and its ability to go to trial. If it gets reassigned to a different prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, to lead it, does that mean that the case against Donald Trump is months, if not years away from going to trial, if an even survives a prosecutor change like that.


HUNT: A pretty dramatic day on tap here.

Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, thank you very much, as always.

All right, now this, a Michigan jury last night found James Crumbley guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter over his failure to prevent his son, Ethan Crumbley, from killing four students and injuring seven others in the state's deadliest school shooting. The verdict makes Mr. Crumbley and his wife, Jennifer, the first parents to be convicted for a mass shooting carried out by their child, raising serious questions about who can be held responsible for such crimes as our country continues to struggle with a gun violence crisis.

Listen to how some of the parents of Crumbley's victims responded to the verdict last night.


BUCK MYRE, FATHER OF TATE MYRE: Our kids are not doing well these days. We're in a mental health crisis.

We need to solve this because no parent should go through the hell we're going through.

NICOLE BEAUSOLEIL, MOTHER OF MADISYN BALDWIN: We need to start focusing on the school. The school and its failures. The things that they don't want to admit to.

STEVE ST. JULIANA, FATHER OF HANA ST. JULIANA: It's crazy the way that our society is currently reacting to this.


Our children are dying on a daily basis, in mass murders, and we do very little about it.


HUNT: All right, our CNN chief legal affairs analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams joins our panel.

This is a really difficult conversation all the way around, right? I mean the heartbreak visible on those parents' faces.


HUNT: This is something that, you know, I, as a parent, just actively try not to think about. But when I do, I -- its -- I mean your - your - your mind just goes really, really difficult places. I know you're a parent as well, Elliot.

But this - this precedent of holding parents accountable for the actions of their minor children in something like this, what do you make of it?


HUNT: It's a major precedent. And what implications does it have?

WILLIAMS: Sure. I mean, I think it's important to strip away a lot of the feelings everybody has about two very profound issues. Number one, firearms. And, number two, how other people ought to raise their kids, right? Everybody's emotional about all that - that - it's just sort of not relevant here. And there's a very simple legal question, it's what happens and when is someone responsible for something that can be reasonably foreseen from their actions.

And there's one big piece of evidence in here that the parents could not get around. They went to a meeting the morning of the shooting. They were shown drawings that their child had done that show blood everywhere, people going to die and so on, and the parents sort of brushed it off, as did the school, and we'll talk about that in a second, and let - you know, it effect let him go ahead and commit this act. The simple fact is, they were put on notice that something bad was going to happen, and they did nothing about it.

Now, under the law, that's negligence. Whether you're a parent, whether you are a friend or whatever else. And the simple fact is, if you are going to be made aware of possible violent criminal activity and don't do anything about it, you ought to be held responsible regardless of the parenting questions.

Now, how people raise their kids and all this stuff -- should guns be locked up? That's a fight for another day. But the legal question here, I think, with respect to at least that one piece of evidence is pretty straightforward. And then, on top of that, when you consider there were the diaries and the statements and all of the above, there actually was some serious failures on the part of the parents here to prevent something that they could have.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But why shouldn't the issue of locking up guns and some accountability for parents, particularly when you have minor children in the home -

WILLIAMS: Yes. FINNEY: And we're talking about a mass shooting, but we also know there are shooting, unfortunately, that happened when kids get access to guns and accidents happen.


FINNEY: So why - I'm just curious why you say that's a different issue.

WILLIAMS: Sure. I'm saying separate guns - so, the firearms are designed to operate in a certain manner and can obviously hurt or kill somebody, right? Lots of things in your house are like that. And it's not necessarily negligent under the law for you to fail to lock up things in your house that might hurt somebody.

So, for instance, if you were to break into my kitchen, you would find a knife block that's secured - that's unsecured and right on the counter. Someone could make an argument that I was negligent by having a knife on the counter. Now, guns are a little bit different there.

FINNEY: I was going to say, looks like maybe that - that should be next.

WILLIAMS: No - no, fair enough. No, but - but you don't - there's - there's different rules under different state law under -

HUNT: I was going to say, does it depend on what the state says you have to do?

WILLIAMS: Yes, so it depends on the state and it's - and it's not on its face a failure to not lock your guns up.

Now, should you lock your guns up? Yes, because someone can be seriously hurt by them, but - but it's not necessarily an act of negligence to fail to do so under the law. Under the law.

HUNT: Sarah, how do you see this? You know, and I realized we are often talking to you - to you in the context of Donald Trump, which is kind of separate, but you are a lifelong Republican otherwise, right, and there are kind of political ways people think about this, about the Second Amendment, about parental, you know, rights, independence. What do you see in this case?

SARAH LONGWELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I got to say, so I grew up in a small town in central Pennsylvania. And, like, I had a few go into my friend's houses. There were guns. There were gun racks in the middle of people's living rooms and, you know, people had gun displays. And so I grew up very comfortable around guns. But mass shootings were not a feature of our culture back then.


LONGWELL: And I also have young kids now. And the way that our society is now where - where kids have to go through active shooter drills, like -

HUNT: My kid did it at a nursery school.

LONGWELL: Yes, and it is like -

HUNT: They have like two-year-old children like being silent in the hallways. I just -- anyway, sorry. Go on.

LONGWELL: No, it's a - it's a thing that we're living with now and I -- it does feel crazy to just live with it and say that this is the reality and there's nothing we can do about it.

And so, I've always been sort of just a general Republican, pro-Second Amendment. But I think that on the school shootings in particular and on the high-capacity magazines in particular, because the difference between a knife and a gun in a house is, the knife has a different purpose.


The gun really only has one, especially one of these high velocity. So, I just - I feel like as a society we are allowing our children to live in an environment that is unacceptable and that we should do something about it.

HUNT: And, I mean, Laura, that does, though, make an argument that it's about the system and we should be figuring out how to fix this system as opposed to - I mean Eliot's right about the specific.


HUNT: That meeting at school is - is - I - I really take your point about that.


HUNT: However, the idea that like were going to tell parents that, you know, we all live in this same society where this happens all the time, that it's like, we're going to hold you accountable when it happens and we're not going to do anything about the systems in which you live. That seems to be our reality, I guess.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, because Congress can't even agree to pass an assault weapons ban. Again, you know, we used to have one in this country -

HUNT: Yes, now, we're so far from that it's -

BARRON-LOPEZ: We don't anymore.

HUNT: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And despite the fact that Democrats, the president, President Biden would like to do that, Democrats would like to pass one of those, Republicans have decided that they don't support that anymore. So, I mean, I think you are going to see President Biden in his re-election campaign, as well as a number of Democrats, make an argument on guns because it still is very salient with - with some voters.

I mean, in 2018, Democrats won the House in part because of the number of mass shootings and because of the fact that they made a really big argument in swing districts in Virginia to moms, to parents about guns and gun safety.


BARRON-LOPEZ: So, I think that, is it going to be as big as abortion or potentially immigration? No, but it is definitely going to be something that's talked about on the campaign trail.

HUNT: Yes. I mean it's -- how many -- how many dead children does it take?

All right, America's highest ranking elected Jewish official breaks with Bibi.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me the Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7th.


HUNT: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calls for new elections in Israel. What's Netanyahu going to do?

Plus, a former Trump cabinet member, now a possible suitor trying to buy TikTok.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah. Nobody expects Prime Minister Netanyahu to do the things that must be done to break the cycle of violence.

I believe a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government.


HUNT: All right, that's America's highest ranking Jewish elected official calling for new elections in Israel. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer making the case that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no longer fit to lead.

Our panel is back with us to talk about this.

I mean this has landed on several of our front pages this morning, Karen, because it is a pretty extraordinary call. It was immediately - you know, Mitch McConnell immediately pushed back. In fact, here, let's - let's show what McConnell had to say and then we'll talk about it.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It is grotesque and hypocritical for Americans, who hyperventilate about foreign interference in our own democracy, to call for the removal of a democratically elected leader of Israel.


HUNT: Right. Now, to be fair to Schumer, that's -- he did not call for him to be removed -

FINNEY: Correct.

HUNT: He called for new elections to be held.

FINNEY: Right.

HUNT: Which under the Israeli system is an option in a way that is not an option here in the U.S. system.

But that said, this is a pretty significant call. Is it the right one?

FINNEY: It seems so. I mean if you look at what's happening in the papers in Israel and on the ground there, I think it's like 19 percent of Israelis think that Netanyahu should stay. And we've seen pretty consistently since what happened in the October 7th attack that Israelis blame Netanyahu for what happened, and I think they see, not dissimilar from what we're seeing in our own country, you have a leader who is facing very serious corruption charges and there are concerns that, you know, he is not the person who is going to keep Israel safe, that they need a different leader, and that he is perhaps - I've seen some reporting that says that perhaps he is perpetuating this as a way to push off his own -- the trials of his own corruption.

HUNT: Where have we heard that before?

FINNEY: So, for him -


FINNEY: I think Schumer, most importantly, articulated what your hearing and seeing on the ground from the Israeli people themselves.

HUNT: I mean what's your take on this, Sarah?

LONGWELL: Only that I think Bibi was in a lot of trouble before the October 7th, and I think that since then people believed that there was tremendous security failures and they blame him for it.

HUNT: Yes. LONGWELL: I don't know how I feel about Schumer particularly calling

for it. I - you know. I - I - I don't think it's election interference though, and I think Mitch McConnell framing it as such and saying that we hyperventilate about it here is pretty dismissive of the issues that we have here. But I - I do think sort of it's up to the people of Israel, and I think they are going to take this action soon, but they're also in the middle of this conflict.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, it's a seismic shift from where we saw Democrats right after the October 7th attacks.

HUNT: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, this is a major deal that the Senate majority leader said what he said. And, you know, the White House saw what he was -- remarks ahead of time. It was not whether they were going to try to edit it or approve it or say they didn't approve it. The White House isn't changing their line despite the fact that you increasingly see a number of Democrats, like Schumer, start to say that they're frustrated and done with Netanyahu and that they want a significant change in the way the war is going.

The president, the White House, National Security Coordinator John Kirby yesterday simply said, look, we're still going to help Israel as much as possible to defend itself, while also telling them over and over again to limit the number of casualties.

HUNT: Yeas.

WILLIAMS: With the caveat that I used to work for Senator Schumer, and should put that out there, no - no -

HUNT: Thank you for that.

WILLIAMS: No, I think it's important to - just full disclosure.

HUNT: Yes. Sure.

WILLIAMS: But, you know, it was actually quite savvy, I think, as a political move, only because something that Democrats have been struggling with for quite some time is this -- frankly, many Americans, this distinction between criticizing Israel versus criticizing either the aims of Israel or the Israeli people or whatever else. And the one sort of American politician with standing or, a, with particular standing to say this is about politics and the Israeli government, it allowed him to sort of thread a needle a little bit.

FINNEY: And doesn't it also though provide -- for those Israeli who want to move forward with this, it does say that they're - there's very seriously leadership in the United States that would support that.


That are - that -- so that they're not out there on their own. I think that's important as well.

HUNT: And, I mean, I think one thing that's -- we should also notice that that it's not like Schumer and Bibi don't know each other.

FINNEY: Right.

HUNT: Have known each other for many years.

WILLIAMS: Right. Right.

HUNT: I mean -

FINNEY: Right.

HUNT: There's a lot going on under the surface here as well.

One thing I do want to touch on very briefly before -- just to -- because I'm interested to talk to you guys about it is, one, Aaron Rodgers.


HUNT: We are expecting that he may be RFK Jr.'s vice presidential running mate. The DNC, Karen, just announced they've got like a little team aimed at taking on third-party candidates. You're looking at, you know, one of the potential tickets that they're really focused on here.


HUNT: So Rodgers put out a tweet yesterday after CNN reported, and this was our Pan Brown, so I'll start here. Brown was - or actually here. Look, this is the tweet. "I'm on the record as saying in the past, what happened in Sandy Hook was an absolute tragedy. I am not and have never been of the opinion that the events did not take place."

Again, this is after CNN reported that Aaron Rodgers has been in private conversations a, quote/unquote, Sandy Hook truther. Pamela Brown, my colleague, "was covering the Kentucky Derby for CNN in 2013 when she was introduced to Rodgers, then with the Green Bay Packers, at a post-derby party. Rodgers brought up the tragic killing of 20 children and six adults by a gunman at Sandy Hook, claiming it was actually a government inside job and that the media was intentionally ignoring it." And Pam was disturbed by this.

Sarah, what does it say that we're looking at these - these two faces, Rodgers and RFK Jr. as part of this conversation?

LONGWELL: That while we live in the most dangerous timeline for democracy, we also live in the stupidest timeline that we ever have in politics.

I don't know. I didn't know who Aaron Rodgers was before all this. I'm not a huge football person. But -

HUNT: I mean a lot of Americans do know him, right? Like that's why that's potentially a big deal for him to be on the ticket.

LONGWELL: Yes. Well, sure, but why not just put Alex Jones on the ticket?

FINNEY: Exactly.

LONGWELL: I mean this is about a really one kook saying, boy, I'm going to grabbed this other kook and together we're going to build this really kooky third-party ticket that is actively dangerous because when you have these celebrities that have these conspiracy theories, or are grounded in conspiracy theories, they do appeal to a certain sort of set of Americans who are not paying a ton of attention but know who these people are.


WILLIAMS: That last sentence is the critical one because having elected a reality star as president with 25 percent of Democrats thinking government's going to do the right thing, 8 percent of Republicans saying the same thing according to some research, this taps into something that many Americans who aren't following closely might actually find quite appealing. And we dismiss it at our peril.

HUNT: I think -- I think that's - that's a very -- dismissing it at our peril, agreed.

All right, Elliot, thank you. I really appreciate it.

The rest of us, everyone else is going to stay with us. It is 52 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

Ex Trump adviser Peter Navarro will have to report to prison by March 19th. A federal appeals court denied his attempt to remain free while appealing a four-month sentence for contempt of Congress.

The political group No Labels announcing it's launching a country over party committee to vet possible candidates for a unity ticket, quote/unquote, in 2024 that will compete against President Biden and Donald Trump.

Lyft and Uber say they'll stop operating in Minneapolis after the city council voted to increase drivers wages to $15.50 an hour. That is minimum wage there.

An Apple camera feature hijacks business meetings and job interviews after users accidentally trigger balloons, fireworks, and even confetti at serious moments, like Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman during this live news interview.


SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): In '22 when now people were saying that it's - you had two are not popular enough to -- to be seen with them.



Sara Fischer is with us.

Sara, what - what makes it do that? Like, what should I not do if I'm doing this?

SARA FISCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that's -- we don't know. That's why they're looking to address this.

HUNT: It's just random?

FISCHER: It's just random. But the thing that's so funny about it is, Apple's constantly tinkering with features, right? Every time you update your Apple IOS, you're getting something new. And typically they're really, you know, serious things, back end security, whatever.

HUNT: Right.

FISCHER: So, this is kind of a funny one that we're getting here.

HUNT: Yes. Well, I think it's probably helpful.

All right, let's - Sara's here to actually talk about TikTok because if buying TikTok for $100 billion was part of your weekend plans, well, you might be behind. Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has announced he's assembling a team of investors to try to make a bid to buy TikTok after the House overwhelmingly voted to force a sale of the app or ban it.


STEVE MNUCHIN, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: I understand the technology. It's a great business. And I'm going to put together a group to buy TikTok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're trying to buy TikTok?

MNUCHIN: I am, because this should be owned by a U.S. - U.S. businesses. There's no way that the Chinese would ever let a U.S. company own something like this in China.


HUNT: Sara, you are the perfect person to have on because yesterday you were just saying that it is really hard to buy it because it is so expensive, it's so valuable.


Do you think this is real?

FISCHER: I think it's real that he's trying to collect a bid, but he's going to need to raise a ton - a ton of money. And, remember, a lot of investors are already in TikTok. A lot of them have already wanted to liquidate for a long time. So, he's going to have to raise new capital outside of the folks that are already in. That's not going to be easy. Then the other challenge is, China has said that they don't want to allow TikTok, to allow ByteDance's - TikTok's parent ByteDance to be sold. And so even if he is able to assemble the bid, even if he is able to get regulatory approval, will China let it happen? There's a lot of ifs there that make it hard to believe this actually goes through.

HUNT: Yes.

I mean, Laura, the reality is that China, while they are pushing back against America in doing this, you know, they control what apps are allowed in China. There's plenty of apps, American made apps, that aren't allowed to operate in China. What is your view of how that argument cuts for them here in the U.S. and also the - you know, the politics of this. The White House is ready to sign this if it goes through.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, they are. I mean President Biden has said, despite his campaign and himself being on TikTok, has said that they would sign this bill that potentially bans it if - if they don't sell the company.

I'm not sure that that argument totally flies, especially with the majority of lawmakers in Congress. I mean we saw this got -- got bipartisan support. There are some Democrats, though, even some that are on President Biden's campaign co-chair re-election team, Maxwell Frost, who is a gen z Congress member who has said that they -- he thinks that it would be a mistake for the president to sign this bill. In part because of the fact that -- that he just thinks that social media writ large, social media apps, social media companies should be regulated in the U.S. rather than just outright bans, and that also the president may be cutting off a big channel that he has to reach young voters ahead of the election.

HUNT: Yes.

Sara, can you help me understand, I was reading -- Kevin Reus has a column -- a technology columnist in the -- from "The New York Times" this morning, where he basically says that he previously wasn't on board with this but he's reluctantly gotten there. And then David Sanger, his colleague, who writes about this from kind of a national security perspective, also raised some questions about like the algorithm itself that drives TikTok. And if, in the event that there is a sale, what happens to the algorithm, because for someone like Steve Mnuchin, if you're going to spend $100 billion, right, it's the algorithm, arguably, that is where the value is.

Does that go with the company?

FISCHER: So, this is the big debate, right?

HUNT: Yes.

FISCHER: Like the whole algorithm is not just one set of employees managing it for TikTok in the U.S., it's all of ByteDance. And TikTok is available all over the globe. In China there's a version of it called Del Yen (ph). It's the same type of engineers all at ByteDance. So, how do you physically separate it is the question.

And, by the way, if you're Steve Mnuchin, you might be trying to gather a bid for $100 billion. Is it worth $100 billion if it doesn't have the secret sauce, right? If you can't actually pull the algorithm out.

One of the other things being debated is, well, can you just move all of the U.S. data to data centers that are overseen by U.S. companies. That's something they've already done. So, Oracle oversees all of the U.S. data for TikTok and clearly it's just not enough, which is why we are going through this ban process.

I just want to go through one thing that you had talked about, which is sort of the principles of the quid pro quo. The thing to understand is that China blocking U.S. apps, that's because that is what their society is, communist party full control. We are a democracy. We are an open capitalistic society. We allow businesses in the U.S. to accept capital from China. We allow Chinese apps and foreign apps to flourish in our economy here. If we were to do this with TikTok, the question becomes, do we set a precedent that we would be blocking out all foreign investment, foreign technology coming into the U.S.? That's a pretty seriously, you know, precedent we would be setting.

HUNT: Yes.

And, quickly, Sara, do you see any - do you have any concerns about someone like Mnuchin owning a major social media account in the -- app platform in the U.S.?

LONGWELL: I would say my first instinct was to have some concern, the idea that somebody who was in Donald Trump's cabinet would now be in charge of this very powerful algorithm. But because I talked to Sarah in the green room and she explained - and she explained to me about how, you know, really it's, you know, Mnuchin is not buying TikTok, right, it is all of these American companies that have a lot of capital that would be putting it together, that did -

HUNT: It's not like Elon buying Twitter.

LONGWELL: It's not Elon buying Twitter where you're at the whims of sort of one guy who -

HUNT: Mercurial personality.

LONGWELL: Mercurial is a great word. Thank you for throwing that out. That bailed me out.

HUNT: All right, thank you, guys. It's been a great conversation.

And I'm going to leave all of you with this.

Caitlin Clark fever has hit Indianapolis as the Iowa Hawkeyes' superstar gets ready for her final NCAA tournament, a massive mural awaits her in what is likely her new hometown. An artist recently completed this mural of the sharp-shooter, right next to one of Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton. I love seeing women's sports like this. Last month Clark announced she plans to enter the WNBA draft.


And because the Indiana Fever hold the number one pick, Clark is basically a lock to be first off the board and to land an Indie.

Clark's Hawkeyes are expected to be a top seed.