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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Jan. 6 Committee Issues Ultimatum to Mark Meadows; Rittenhouse Trial Heads for Closing Arguments; Suni Lee Says She Was Targeted in Racist Attack. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 12, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Show up or risk contempt. An ultimatum for the former president's chief of staff after another delay for the January 6th investigation.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The Kyle Rittenhouse trial headed for closing arguments soon. What each side needs to do before the jury gets the case.

ROMANS: And a racist attack on a U.S. Olympian. What Suni Lee is saying this morning.

It is Friday, November 12. It is 5:00 a.m. exactly here in New York. Thanks for getting up early with us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. We will have some extraordinary reporting this morning from the Poland-Belarus border this hour.

But we start with breaking news overnight from Washington. The January 6 committee giving a top aide in the Trump White House an ultimatum. The panel is now demanding former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows show up for a deposition and hand over documents today or risk criminal contempt. This after his attorney made it clear that Meadows had no plans to cooperate until the courts ruled on Trump's claim of executive privilege.

ROMANS: And that, by the way, is now delayed as well. A federal appeals court has paused the release of Trump White House documents to the Select Committee. The national archives was supposed to start handing them over today, including handwritten notes from Meadows himself.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill with more for us this morning.

Good morning, Daniella. What do we know?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: This is what we know, guys. The select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection took its first step last night to possibly referring former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt of Congress if he fails to comply with Friday's deadline for a deposition and to turnover key documents that they need for their investigation.

Look, this is what chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, wrote in a letter late last night. He said the -- such willful noncompliance with the subpoena would force the select committee to consider invoking the contempt of Congress procedures.

Now, meadows has been facing new pressure from this committee to cooperate with this committee after notified by President Joe Biden that they will not assert executive privilege or immunity over documents and testimony requested by the panel. This is all, of course, according to a document obtained by CNN.

You know, this move to set a final compliance date for meadows comes after his attorney issued a statement earlier Thursday, of course, before the committee moved forward with this possible criminal contempt, saying that Meadows would not cooperate with the committee until courts ruled on former President Donald Trump's claim of executive privilege.

Now, something to keep in mind here, Laura, Christine, is that this is not the first time the committee would be doing this. They actually already moved forward with a criminal contempt charge for Steve Bannon, a former ally -- excuse me, close ally of former President Donald Trump and former White House aide.

They voted for this. They moved this through the House of Representatives. And as a result, it is all in the hands of Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice. But this really all depends on Trump's last-ditch effort as I mentioned, to turn away Friday deadline of 46 records after a federal appeals court granted a pause for this release of key White House records.

So the bottom line here, we're turning back to what we were initially discussing, everything is up in the air about whether Mark Meadows shows up today. He is supposed to be here at 10:00 a.m. for his deposition and to turn over key records. But right now, it seems like that's not likely to happen.

ROMANS: All right, Daniella. Thank you so much for that.

JARRETT: All right. It's time -- yes, thank you, Daniella.

It's time for three questions in three minutes. Bring in former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin. He's the host of the podcast, "That Said with Michael Zeldin".

Michael, thank you for coming on. You're an unofficial third member of EARLY START with so much legal news this week.

So, the January 6 committee is threatening to hold Mark Meadows in contempt if he doesn't show up for his deposition. I think it's notable here that he has this very well-respected, very seasoned defense lawyer George Terwilliger. Where do you think this goes next? It doesn't seem like to me that George Terwilliger wants his client to be found in contempt.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right. I also want to make sure that the executive privilege claim is litigated properly.

Remember, Meadows, unlike Bannon, really is the type of person who the executive privilege would apply to under normal circumstances. So I think that the committee may begin the process of referral to let future witnesses know that they mean business.


But I'd be surprised if they go forward with a full referral to Garland until the court of appeals, at least, makes a decision, because I don't think they want multiple contempt citations languishing in the department of justice as Merrick Garland makes a decision, when is the best time, if ever, to bring a contempt, criminal prosecution.

ROMANS: So we also know now yesterday, a three-judge panel on the D.C. circuit, all political appointees, gives the former president a bit more time, delaying the release of the Trump White House documents from the national archives about the insurrection.

Now, the court said it is doing it to protect the court's jurisdiction. Made the point of noting the order should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits.

How do you think, Michael, this will affect the Justice Department's decision on contempt for Steve Bannon?

ZELDIN: Well, this is a great question. And we've discussed this a couple of times this week whether or not Garland is going to wait until the courts decide the executive privilege so as to take away the defense of the Steve Bannons and Mark Meadows of the world, the non- cooperators from saying, look, I'd like to cooperate, but the president, the former president has told me to not to, and so I have to let the court make that decision for me and then I'm happily willing to come in.

So I think that Garland has got to weigh carefully when, if ever, he's going to bring these charges because he does not want to lose. And so I think were I counseling Merrick, I'd say to him let's at least wait until the court of appeals decision which should be no later than mid- December and then make a decision about who to proceed against.

ROMANS: Yeah, the court set a speedy briefing schedule as we expected it knows how important it is. It knows that Trump's plan is obvious, you know. The playbook is clear. Run out the clock, right, because if he loses at the D.C. circuit, this is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court, don't you think?

ZELDIN: Well, if he loses at the circuit and the circuit gives a powerful decision, then, yes, of course, Trump is going to apply for the court, the Supreme Court to take the case. But a strong opinion in the Court of Appeals following a strong opinion by the district court may allow the Supreme Court the leeway to say, you know what, we're not going to take this case. It's settled law and we're done with it.

But for sure Trump's mode of operation is delay. He is going to seek whatever last-minute pardons he can get for himself. And we'll have to see what the courts say.

JARRETT: We shall see.

Michael, thank you for getting up with us early.

ROMANS: Nice to see you.

ZELDIN: My pleasure. Okeydoke.

ROMANS: All right. Literally the most important job most Americans have never heard of, inflation is raging and the fed has the tools to cool it off.

So, will the fed chair keep his job?



ROMANS: Welcome back.

Closing arguments in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial are expected Monday. After more than eight days of testimony, the prosecution tried to show Rittenhouse was a reckless vigilante, killing two people and injuring another during protests against police brutality in Wisconsin last year. The now 18-year-old took the stand in his defense claiming through tears he did nothing wrong, and he had to defend himself.

JARRETT: Jurors in the trial heard from 31 witnesses. One use of force expert said Thursday that it took just over a minute for Rittenhouse to fire all of his shots.


MARK RICHARDS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, the total between the two events of shooting is less than 7 seconds.

JOHN BLACK, WITNESS & USE OF FORCE EXPERT: Are you asking if you were to put both those two figures together?


BLACK: It's about 6 1/2 seconds.

THOMAS BINGER, PROSECUTION ATTORNEY: Can you tell us the amount of time that passes between the first shot, observation number 8 to Joseph Rosenbaum, and the final shots to Mr. Grosskreutz?

BLACK: Approximately one minute and 20 seconds.


JARRETT: That testimony there underscoring just how quickly these shootings unfolded.

ROMANS: Let's bring in CNN legal analyst and civil rights attorney, Areva Martin.

Nice to see you. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

You just heard the use-of-expert, Areva, explain the time the shots Rittenhouse fired. What stands out to you?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, the significance of that testimony was to buttress the defense's argument that this was a chaotic scene and that Rittenhouse was responding in real-time to what he perceived to be real threats.

Now, the judge didn't allow this use of force experts to give his opinion about the reasonableness of Rittenhouse's conduct. But clearly by showing how quickly the time shots were fired, it conveyed to the jurors that as Kyle himself testified and as other witnesses have testified, that he was under attack, and he was responding after he was being attacked.

JARRETT: Yes, of course, the hope is all this is unfolding in a matter of seconds, the jury will feel more sympathy for him, more sympathy for the idea that he didn't somehow plan this, even though he crossed state lines, got a gun. There was, in fact, a plan.

But put that aside for now. At the end of the day, this case comes down to whether or not prosecutors, of course, prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Areva, do you think the defense has injected enough doubt to give the jury some pause on at least some of the charges?

MARTIN: Definitely I think the defense has made some significant headway with respect to this, their self-defense claim. They've had several witnesses that have come forward to testify that, you know, the individuals that were shot like Mr. Rosenbaum were, in fact, the aggressors.


The last witness of the day for the defense testified he witnessed Mr. Rosenbaum chase Rittenhouse. That he witnessed Rosenbaum charge at Rittenhouse. Again, all supporting the self-defense claim of Kyle Rittenhouse.

But I think he made an excellent point about this case has always been about this underage person getting a gun that he wasn't legally entitled to have, crossing state lines, violating the curfew that was in place in Wisconsin at the time, and injecting himself into this rather chaotic scene.

So I think the jurors are going to have to juxtapose that bigger narrative with the evidence that's been presented by the defense that Rittenhouse believed that his life was in danger when he fired those shots.

ROMANS: So, the prosecution indicated that it will ask for lesser included charges to be submitted to the jury. Do you think that that gives the jury an opening to find him guilty of something even if not the most serious charges that carry the most prison time?

MARTIN: Well, I think it signals a couple of things. One, I think it signals the prosecution doesn't have 100 percent faith that it has established beyond a reasonable doubt evidence that would allow the jurors to find on the more significant charges. And definitely they want the jurors to be able to look at the facts that have been presented and to determine if those facts will support, you know, the lesser charges, maybe not the intentional homicide, but maybe the negligence, maybe the recklessness.

So, I think the prosecution realizes there may be some holes in its case.

JARRETT: All right. Areva Martin, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

ROMANS: Nice to see you. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you, ladies.

JARRETT: All right. A little weekend programming note for you. More than 20 years after her death, Princess Diana's story is having a second look, it's having a moment. Go inside her lasting legacy on a new episode of the CNN original series, "DIANA", Sunday night at 9:00, only on CNN.



ROMANS: It may be the most important job most Americans have never heard of. President Biden is nearing a decision on his pick to lead the Federal Reserve. With Jerome Powell seen as the front runner for another term, this decision is critical. The fed is the official inflation fighter with the tools to raise interest rates to cool off the economy.

The economy is bouncing back from the COVID crush, jobs and wage growth have been strong. But inflation is running hot, at a 30-year high. There are kinks in the global supply chain and surging demand for goods.

The Fed Chief has called this inflation transitory, continuing to back the Fed's easing monetary policy. The fed has persisted, raising questions whether Powell and the Fed made a bad call and will have to raise interest rates to avoid a bigger problem in the economy.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has said she would oppose his renomination, calling him a dangerous man to head up the Fed. Still, Powell has general high marks for his handling of the extraordinary economic turbulence since early last year. And he has expertly telegraphed to markets the Fed's tapering of stimulus. His term expires in February. Biden is expected to announce his pick as early as next week.

JARRETT: A 22-year-old woman hospitalized after that terrible stampede at the Astroworld music festival has died. Bharti Shahani was a senior at Texas A&M University. She went to the concert with her sister and cousin and ended up on a ventilator in critical condition days before passing away.

She is now the ninth concertgoer to have died. Her heartbroken family spoke out on Thursday.


KARISHMA SHAHANI, MOTHER OF ASTROWORLD VICTIM, BHARTI SHAHANI: I want my baby back, you know? I won't be able to live without her. It's like -- it's impossible, you know what I'm saying? I'm empty.

MOHIT BELLANI, COUSIN OF ASTROWORLD VICTIM AND CONCERTGOER: They suffocated us. They did this to her. They suffocated her. They did this to the 9-year-old boy right now in the ICU who is fighting for his life. They did this to the other eight people who also lost their lives that night.


ROMANS: The president of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association says the district fire chief was denied access to the Astroworld venue twice ahead of that show.

CNN has reached out several times to the private company that handled security for the event and we have not heard back.

JARRETT: U.S. Olympian Suni Lee said she was pepper sprayed last month in a racist incident in Los Angeles. The gold medal winning gymnast was in L.A. for an appearance on "Dancing with the Stars." Lee told Pop Sugar she was waiting for a ride outside with a group of friends, group of girlfriends also all of Asian descent when her car, a car drove by and people inside that car started shouting racist slurs at them.

Then one of the passengers in the car pepper sprayed her arm before the car sped off. Lee told the site here, quote, I was so mad but there was nothing I could do. I didn't want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen.

Probably so painful about that quote is the classic gendered response in there that she's worried that she's going to get in trouble even though she's the one that's been attacked.

ROMANS: That is just an incredible story.

JARRETT: Yeah. It's terrible.

ROMANS: Weaponizing human suffering, top officials in Europe say Belarus is orchestrating a surge at the border with Poland. The consequence reached far and wide. CNN is live at the border next.



JARRETT: Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, and it's just about 30 minutes past the hour this morning.

Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today. Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has until 10:00 in morning to appear for a deposition before the January 6 House Committee. If he doesn't show up, he risks referral for criminal contempt.

Meadows has said he wants the court to resolve former President Trump's claims before he cooperates.

JARRETT: An American journalist in Myanmar sentenced to 11 years in prison. Danny Fenster has been detained since May. He was accused of incitement and sedition and the aftermath of the country's military coup.