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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

House Committee Subpoenas 6 Top Trump Campaign Associates; Astroworld Organizers Had No Plan for Surging Crowd; Armed Paramedic Shot By Rittenhouse Testifies at Murder Trial. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 09, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. It is Tuesday, November 9th. It is 5:00 a.m. exactly in New York. Thanks for getting up early with us. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We have reports this morning from Taiwan, Washington, Paris, Wisconsin, and the Germany/Poland border.

But we begin here with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection moving full steam ahead with six new subpoenas. All six targets, top members of former President Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.

ROMANS: First, campaign manager Bill Stepien. The committee believes Stepien may have been deeply involved in the messaging behind the lie the election was stolen. The so-called Stop the Steal effort. And John Eastman, the lawyer who crafted Trump's six-point plan for the vice president to overturn the election, then blamed Mike Pence for the Capitol riot.

JARRETT: Also subpoenaed here, former senior campaign adviser Jason Miller, the committee is focused on Miller's presence on January 5th. So the day before the insurrection, at the Willard Hotel, the command center to overturn the will of the people. Also national security adviser Michael Flynn who supported military intervention to flip the results of the election.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Mike Flynn was apparently at a December Oval Office meeting where they talked about using emergency powers, declaring a national emergency, or seizing voting machines. He gave an interview in which even I think talked about martial law. As you point out, this was someone, albeit for a short period of time, who was the national security adviser to the president.

But the other witnesses are also very important. Some participated in the so-called war room at the Willard Hotel on January 5th, and we want to hear what they have to say. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Angela McCallum was also subpoenaed. She was the national executive assistant to Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. And lawmakers believe she was involved in the effort to spread false information about voter fraud.

And finally, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, the committee wants more information about the work he did with Rudy Giuliani to, quote-unquote, investigate voter fraud that never existed.

JARRETT: Bottom line here, the question, how far will the committee go to enforce the subpoenas if these Trump allies follow past practice and don't comply? They have been having trouble getting some of the most prominent witnesses to cooperate.

So let's dig in on all this. It's time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin. He's a former federal prosecutor and also host of the podcast "That Said with Michael Zeldin".

Michael, good morning to you. Nice to have you this morning.


JARRETT: Good morning. It includes people who were incredibly close to the former president obviously. But among all these people, who would you say is most significant and why?

ZELDIN: For me as a lawyer, it's John Eastman because east-man is the one who fabricated the basis for the argument to pence that he could send this back to the state legislatures for review and recertification. So you have two parts of this. Those who were perpetrating the big lie, and then Eastman who's creating the legal cover for Pence to send it back to the state legislature, which was the whole purpose of this Stop the Steal effort.

JARRETT: Does this list, sir, provide any new hints about the scope of the committee's investigation into President Trump personally, do you think?

ZELDIN: Well, it's interesting because this list seems to show that the committee has moved, in part, at least, beyond what happened on the Capitol steps and in the Capitol building to how did this thing get planned. Who was behind it, who spent the money for it.

And Trump could well be a part of, if you will, the conspiracy of players here who was actively involved in planning and executing this strategy. So it could touch him. But it depends what others have to say about him.

JARRETT: So, Michael, let's talk a little about what's going on over at DOJ a little over two weeks ago as we know, the committee referred the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for prosecution because he defied their subpoena. Now, we don't know if that has gone to a grand jury yet.

When reporters asked about it yesterday, listen to what his response was.



MERRICK GARLAND, UNITED STATESE ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is a criminal matter. It's an ongoing examination of the referral. We evaluate these in the normal way we do, the facts and the law, and applying the principles of prosecution.


JARRETT: -- why that answer would be unsatisfying to many people who want to know why in their view this might be taking so long. Two weeks, for many of these cases, might seem like a regular amount of time.

But put aside the timing. If DOJ doesn't prosecute Bannon, Michael, why would any of these other witnesses that they've now subpoenaed comply?

ZELDIN: Well, that's exactly the point, that they wouldn't comply because this sets the precedent that you can stonewall the committee without consequence. I think what Merrick Garland has to figure out, though, is like with Don McGahn and with John Bolton during the Mueller period, is there a, you know, palatable defense that I don't have to appear until a court resolves whether or not former President Trump has the right to assert executive privilege with respect to their testimony.

So that is, I think, a bit of a wrinkle in the Merrick Garland decisioning process. We talked about this previously, though.

Bannon has no credible claim to executive privilege. He was not an employee of the White House. He did not give counsel to the president as contemplated by executive privilege. It's frivolous.

And so it seems to me that this is the case that Merrick can easily say there's no viable defense here. This is pure obstruction and, therefore, we have to bring charges.

JARRETT: Michael, just quickly if I could, do you think if this actually, for whatever reason, there's a declination, if the grand jury doesn't indict or the grand jury decides not to indict, do you know if we will get a statement or some indication of that?

ZELDIN: Yeah, I would think so. I think the pressure is politically for Merrick to explain what happened here, why there was a declination, why the grand jury decided not to indict or why he decided ton proceed with request for indictment is an imperative for him.

The one last thing I would add is he may defer. He may defer until the court case with Trump and the executive privilege claim is settled, and then make a decision.

JARRETT: Yeah, that might be one of the things slowing this whole thing down which was the entire intent. Michael Zeldin, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

JARRETT: Appreciate it.

ZELDIN: My pleasure.

ROMANS: All right. A challenge for the Biden administration balancing optimism the economy is strong and recovering with pessimism over inflation. A new CNN poll found more than a third of Americans call the economy the most pressing problem facing the country. Fifty-eight percent say President Biden hasn't paid enough attention to the nation's most important problems.

Rising gas prices probably has a lot to do with that. The price at the pump still a 7-year high. Gallon for regular, 3.45. Last year, it was 2.11.

The fact is, there is not much the White House can do for gas prices. OPEC has declined pressure from White House and other leaders to further increase oil production that would cool off prices. And President Biden has so far declined to tap the strategic petroleum reserves, that's America's emergency supplies. Even if he did, it would only provide temporary relief from higher prices meaning an important inflation indicator for American families is flashing red.

Sticker shock is causing anxiety for millions of Americans. Over the weekend, Goldman Sachs warned inflation might get worse before it gets better, as supply and demand issues take longer to work themselves out.

Yet triple record highs in the stock market again yesterday, I think about the differences between these two administrations, the Trump administration, the Biden administration. Donald Trump personally took credit every time there was a record high in the stock market. Joe Biden and his team are trying to say a recovering economy isn't felt equally by everyone. You still need to make investments in the working class. That's the line they're trying to walk.

JARRETT: The problem is if you don't take credit for it, people don't know when you've won.

ROMANS: Exactly, that is the balancing act.

JARRETT: All right. Still ahead for you, Astroworld concert organizers had a detailed plan, but it didn't include provisions for handling a surging crowd. That crowd, the stampede that left eight people dead in Houston. That's next.


[05:14:04] ROMANS: A detailed operation planned for the Astroworld Music Festival in Houston did not include contingency for a crowd surge even though three people were trampled at the same festival two years ago. The plan identifies the executive producer and the festival director is the only person with authority to stop the concert. The concert went on for some 40 minutes after injuries were first reported.

JARRETT: Yeah, the promoter of Live Nation says it has turned over closed circuit video from that event. Live Nation has been cited in the past about safety violations about a dozen times, including in 2018 when someone had to be hospitalized after being hit in the head with a 6 foot metal post.

ROMANS: So, crowd control has also been an issue at other Travis Scott concerts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push up against the front and spread all away the cross and fill in the whole front. The pressure becomes very great up against the barricade. You will see a lot of crowd surfers in general, but also you see kids trying to get out for safety because they can't breathe, it's so compact.


People don't know how bad it will be with the crowd until we turn on.


ROMANS: Wow, that's from a 2019 Netflix documentary. A member of Scott's team telling security guards to expect rowdy fans. Scott reportedly pleaded guilty twice before to charges after encouraging fans to rush the stage. Not including the 2019 crowd surge or Astroworld.

Houston's fire chief says Travis Scott shared responsibility for the crowd safety.


SAMUEL PINA, HOUSTON FIRE CHIEF: If the lights would have been turned on, the promoter or artist called for that, it would have chilled the crowd. And who knows, who knows what the outcome would have been. But everybody in that, in that venue starting from the artist on down has a responsibility for public safety.


JARRETT: Also this morning, "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting that investigators are looking into whether a tainted batch of illegal drugs, fentanyl played a role in some deaths and injuries. A doctor told CNN the compression of the crowd left little room to breathe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. ESTER CHOO, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE: As crowds get more tightly packed together, it doesn't take much for what's happening in one place to kind of ripple through the crowd. We think of outdoors as being plenty of air, plenty of space, and yet as long as you have debt ends for a crowd, so places where people can push up against each other, it doesn't really matter if you're indoors or outdoors. It just -- what matters is bodies can get packed in very quickly.


ROMANS: All eight of the victims have been identified. Scott says he is paying for their funerals.

One of the injured is just 9 years old. Ezra Blount is in a medically induced coma to help ease his brain trauma, according to his family. His grandmother says Ezra was in Astroworld to see his favorite artist. Late Monday, organizers at a music festival in Las Vegas announced that Scott is no longer performing there this weekend.

JARRETT: So, said, hopefully, some remedies will be taken in the future. This can't possibly happen, so senseless.

ROMANS: Young people are just trying to have a good time after two years. Yeah.

JARRETT: All right. Coming up for you, a paramedic who responded to chaos last summer in Kenosha, testifying now in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. How his testimony may have helped the defense.



JARRETT: Welcome back. The prosecution could rest its case today in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial. On Monday, the jury heard critical testimony by a paramedic shot by Rittenhouse last year in Kenosha and survived.

We get more now from CNN's Omar Jimenez.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Good morning, Laura.

Gaige Grosskreutz was the only survivor of those Kyle Rittenhouse shot back on August 25, 2020. And his testimony really centered on what happened in the moments leading up to the shooting, the loaded gun he had on him at the time which he said was routine, and the position of that gun at the time of the shooting.

Now, as Grosskreutz testified, he heard the shots that killed Joseph Rosenbaum and not long after, saw Rittenhouse and believed he was an active shooter. Then he was among the group that began chasing in the direction of Rittenhouse. Some people even confronted Rittenhouse physically, then gunshots, including the one that killed Anthony Huber and Grosskreutz testified he was scared he was going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, after you raised your hands like this, you saw the defendant re-wrack the weapon?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think was going to happen?

GROSSKREUTZ: In my experiences and in my inference in that moment, for the defendant had pointed his weapon at me and I had put my hands in the air. Re-wracking the weapon in my mind meant that the defendant pulled the trigger while my hands were in the air, but the gun didn't fire. So then by re-wracking the weapon, I inferred that the defendant wasn't accepting my surrender.

JIMENEZ: And then during cross-examination, the defense honed in on that same moment, but went past the time when Grosskreutz's hands were up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you were standing 3 to 5 feet from him with your arms up in the air, he never fired, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him, with your gun, now your hands pointed at him, that he fired, right?


JIMENEZ: As you can imagine, that's a pretty critical exchange in this case. And not long after that, prosecutors came back and further pressed Grosskreutz on the positioning of the gun as he testified he did not intentionally point the gun at Rittenhouse and felt he was imminently going to die.

Now, remember, this just involves Rittenhouse and Grosskreutz. Rittenhouse is also facing homicide charges to which he's pleaded not guilty to stemming from the killings of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: Wow, all right. The latest now in the trial of the three men charged with killing the jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The state calling three more witnesses, including the first officer to arrive at the scene. Graphic body camera imagery from Ricky Minshew showed Arbery lying motionless in the middle of the road.


Minshew asked why he didn't provide aid to Arbery, he told the court he didn't have the proper equipment with him.

JARRETT: Minshew also testified the defendant Roddie Bryan admitted using his pickup truck fiver times to block or stopped Arbery as he jogged. An investigator for the Glynn County police department testified she found no sign of weapon on Arbery despite the defense claim they pursued him because they thought he broke into a home.

ROMANS: Listen last night from Ahmaud Arbery's mother. She saw the video of the shooting of her son for the first time in court on Friday.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I hope the jury sees what the world see, that Ahmaud hadn't committed a crime. He was simply out for a jog. He did stop by that unoccupied home, but again, Ahmaud didn't commit a crime.


ROMANS: Today, the prosecution will call its fifth witnesses. One of the officers responded to the scene in the aftermath of that shooting.

JARRETT: Amazing that she has to keep reiterating he didn't commit a crime.

ROMANS: I can't imagine how difficult it would be for her to be in that courtroom, but also important for her to see justice here, the process of justice.

JARRETT: Or some measure of accountability.

All right. For the second time in two days new satellite images show reason to keep an eye on China's expanding military. That's next.