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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Wisconsin Suspect was Free on "Inappropriately Low" Bail; Jury Expected to be Charged Today in Arbery Case; Powell Part Two. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The suspect in the deadly attack at a Wisconsin Christmas parade was out on bail at a price now being called inappropriately low.

PAUL REID, CNN ANCHOR: And today, the jury is expected to start deliberating the fate of three men charged in Ahmaud Arbery's death. What one of their lawyers said yesterday that drew gasps in the courtroom.

ROMANS: And not transitory, Fed Chief Jerome Powell. What his renomination means for inflation and the economic recovery.

It is Tuesday, November 23rd. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us this holiday week. I'm Christine Romans.

REID: And I'm Paula Reid, in for Laura Jarrett.

Welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. We have reports from Wisconsin, Vienna, the White House, London and Georgia.

ROMANS: We begin this morning in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where they are trying to piece together exactly how and why a driver was able to barrel his SUV into marchers at a Sunday Christmas parade killing five people and injuring dozens. The lone suspect, this man who was out on bail when he not have been, 39-year-old Darrell E. Brooks is set to appear in court this afternoon. The chaos of the first moments after that crash by first responders.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A red Escape, black male, I couldn't stop him. He's going westbound, blowing his horn.

Alert all the hospitals.


REID: Investigators believe the suspect was fleeing an earlier incident when he plowed into the parade route. Meanwhile, a community of Waukesha is reeling, struggling to come to grips with the holiday tradition turned into a massacre.


SUE BAKER, WAUKESHA RESIDENT: I am very sad this happened to our community. I love Waukesha. It's been very hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We elect today stayed to stay as a family, and decided the right to do is to get some flowers, come down, and pay respects and knowing that we had neighbors and friends that were down here that were affected. It felt like the right thing to do.


ROMANS: The victims of the Christmas parade was some of the community's most vulnerable, young musicians. Eighteen children still in the hospital. Some as young as 3. And the Dancing Grannies, a Milwaukee dance troop.

CNN affiliate WJT had previously profiled this group, speaking with one of the women, Virginia Sorensen, who became a victim on Sunday.


VIRGINIA SORENSEN, DANCING GRANNIES: I love it. And I love the ladies. They're my family. They're my friends. And I don't know what I'd do without grannies.


REID: As the community begins the healing process, there is troubling new information about the suspect and why he was a free man in the first place.

CNN's Omar Jimenez reports from Waukesha.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula and Christine, good morning.

Today, we're expecting to see the initial court appearance for the suspect accused of plowing his car through a Christmas parade here in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killing five people and injuring 48 others. Police have said they would be referring five counts of first degree intentional homicide.

Now, on the suspect, first, he has a criminal history going back to the '90s. But earlier this month even, he posted a thousand dollars on bail stemming from charges that include domestic abuse after he allegedly ran over a woman claiming to be the mother of his child as she was walking through a gas station parking lot.

And this woman claimed this car part of it happened after he allegedly hit her with a closed fist.

Now, we reached out to the attorney representing the suspect from those incidents and have not gotten a response. But the Milwaukee County district attorney's office has said that the amount that bail was set for was inappropriately low and not consistent with their risk assessment procedure and it is why they are now launching an internal review.

Now, on the community side, outside of the investigative side, a community is trying to find a way to heal and move forward. Take a listen to the police chief struggling to get through the names of the people that were killed.

CHIEF DAN THOMPSON, WAUKESHA POLICE: I say this with great sorrow. Virginia Sorensen, 79-year-old female. LeAnna Owen, 71-year-old female. Tamara Durant, 52-year-old female. Jane Kulich, 52-year-old female. Wilhelm Hospel, 81-year-old male.


JIMENEZ: School here in Waukesha has been canceled until next Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, as this community continues to try and heal and as investigators continue to search for answers -- Paula, Christine.


ROMANS: Omar, thank you for that. Just awful story there.

All right. In Georgia, now, the jury could begin deliberations in the trial of the three white men accused of killing Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Closing arguments are expected to wrap up after the prosecution and defense spent most of Monday laying out their cases.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: All three of these defendants made assumptions. Made assumptions about what was going on that day, and they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways because he was a Black man running down the street. Three on one, two pickup trucks, two guns. Mr. Arbery, nothing in his pockets. Not a cell phone. Not a gun. Not an ID.

JASON SHEFFIELD, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Travis McMichael spent almost a decade of his life learning about duty and responsibility. He received extensive training on how to make decisions that would ultimately impact his beliefs -- these are real experiences of real people who were very scared. And so they took it upon themselves to do something about it.


REID: The prosecution wasn't able to respond to those arguments immediately because the jury said they had had enough for the day. But not before the defense made another attempt to smear Arbery.

CNN's Martin Savidge has that part of the story.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula and Christine. The prosecution gets two more hours this morning to make their final rebuttal closing arguments. Then what will happen is the jury gets charged. In other words, they're told the charges and they're also told the laws that apply here. And then they are given the case to consider for some kind of a verdict.

During closing arguments, though, on the part of Gregory McMichael, Laura Hogue made some comments in reference to Ahmaud Arbery. One, she seemed to blame Arbery for his own death. The other was the physical description she used. I'm going to let you hear that and then the reaction of Ahmaud Arbery's mother to her words.

LAURA HOGUE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR GREGORY MCMICHAEL: Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toe nails.

WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: What she just said, beyond rude. Regardless of what kind of toe nails he had, what size legs he had, that was still my son. And my son actually was running for his life in that description.

SAVIDGE: Now the big question is once the jury has the case for consideration, how much pressure will they feel with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday to render a verdict before then? Christine and Paula?


ROMANS: All right, thanks so much for that.

Eight minutes past the hour. Ahead of Black Friday, signs of supply chain crunch could be easing in California.



ROMANS: Appointed by President Donald Trump, renominated by President Joe Biden. Fed Chief Jay Powell confronts a second term vastly different than his first. As chairman of the Federal Reserve, he and his board of governors oversaw the emergency rescue of a crashing COVID economy, and now face the next test, unwinding historic stimulus and tapping the brakes before it overheats.

Powell famously labeled rising prices or inflation transitory, but transitory is not how it feels for families paying high prices for gas and groceries and whose heating bills in some places will double this winter.

At the White House Monday, Powell vowed to use the tools of the Fed to support the economy, to support the jobs market and make sure inflation doesn't become, in his words, entrenched.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Challenges and opportunities remain as always. The unprecedented reopening of the economy along with the continuing effects of the pandemic led to supply and demand imbalances, bottlenecks and a burst of inflation.


ROMANS: A burst of inflation, the highest in some 30 years. The Senate must confirm him for a second four-year term.

REID: And speaking of inflation, gas prices finally starting to level off. The national average is now $3.41 a gallon, basically unchanged from a week ago. And CNN has exclusively learned that nearly a dozen congressional Democrats are urging president Biden to combat high gas prices. Not only by releasing barrels from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve, but also by banning U.S. oil exports.

ROMANS: The letter from Democrats read by CNN, pressure from the White House to lower gas prices. Rising prices at the pump are frustrating Americans and contributing to the biggest spike in inflation in decades. Biden hopes to announce releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves, that could help keep a lid on fuel prices into the holiday travel season. But the president needs help from other nations to really make a difference.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more from the White House.




You could see President Biden as soon as today announce that they have decided to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That is something that we believe based on our reporting so far would be done in coordination with other countries, namely, Japan, China, India and South Korea in hopes of lowering those high gas prices and energy prices that you see throughout the U.S. as the economy is trying to come back from the coronavirus pandemic. And this is an issue that President Biden and his aides have struggled with for weeks now with the high prices. Obviously, it is something that is hitting an all- time high and concern now as people are getting prepared to travel not just for the thanksgiving weekend, but other holidays up ahead.

So this could be a move that they are taking in conjunction with other nations to try and combat those prices. One thing we should note is the White House has made clear this is an option that had been on President Biden's mind for several weeks as they are dealing with inflation and with these high gas prices.

But President Biden had been privately advised that really, doing this wouldn't do much to alleviate that problem. So that is some advice he had heard. What they are hoping is that doing so in coordination with these other countries could have more of an impact.

And so, President Biden is scheduled to speak on the economy later today at the White House before he departs the White House for his thanksgiving break, and he could announce the decision as soon as then. The White House appears to still be finalizing things.


ROMANS: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks for that.

A lot depends on what the other big energy producers in the world decide to do. OPEC plus the consortium, cartel of oil producers has been pumping a little bit more oil, but would they then pull back if you start to see other supplies coming on the market because of this. It starts to get really kind of touchy politically.

REID: Absolutely. It's something that literally touches so many voters.

ROMANS: Oh, yeah.

REID: People really feel these gas prices. It will be interesting to watch. Not at all.

Just ahead of the holidays, there are signs that gridlock is easing at the port of Los Angeles and long beach in California. Officials at the county's busiest port complex say they are holding back on imposing fines for containers awaiting pickup as a result of the improvements they've seen in the supply chain over the last month. They say backlogged have been reduced by roughly a third since they started tacking on fees last month.

ROMANS: They plan on reevaluating the traffic measures after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Supply chain back ups, only one factor in the rising prices Americans are seeing in the day to day purchases. While inflation may be temporary, temporary is a relative term.

Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi said it affects 200 bucks a month for the median income. We see it in grocery stores, too.

REID: Absolutely.

The spectacle could turn into a full blown circus. The new subpoenas in the January 6 investigation include two of President Trump's -- former President Trump's biggest and loudest defenders, we'll tell you why it could turn into such a spectacle.



REID: Two well known Trump backers joining the subpoena list of the House Select Committee investigating the capitol insurrection. Republican operative and self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones are among five new subpoena targets. This latest batch shows the committee is still focused on the organization and funding of the Stop the Steal rallies that took place on January 5th and 6th.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA: For example, Mr. Stone, raised money for security through his websites, He reportedly had an affiliation with the Oath Keepers that led some of the assault on the Capitol. He made remarks that he was planning to lead the march to the Capitol from the ellipse that day. Mr. Jones claims to have raised the majority of the funds for the staging of the rally. So, we want to find out what they know.


ROMANS: The committee is asking the five to produce documents by December 6 and has scheduled them for deposition dates throughout mid- December. There are already signs at least some of them will refuse to cooperate. Stone for one says he'll likely plead the 5th.

Also new this morning, video of insurrectionists throwing chairs and attacking officers through a garage door on January 6. I mean, some 600 people have been charged so far, but there are even more incidents of that, especially of the violence specifically against police officers.

Paula, you have covered January 6 extensively. How does this latest batch of subpoenas fit into the larger scope of the investigation?

REID: Well, it's a reminder that the investigation is not just focused on the violence or the scenes like the one we just saw in that new video. They're looking at what was happening in the days leading up to this. The messaging that was being pumped out, the money that was being raised and how it was being spent, and if there was any coordination with the White House or congressional officials.

Now, what I'm most interested to see is how this plays out in terms of cooperation. No one expects any of these five people to roll up and fully cooperate with the committee, so it will be interesting to see, do they stonewall? We saw it with Steve Bannon. That could result in criminal repercussions. Or do they show up and take the 5th or do they try to negotiate some sort of cooperation?

It will be really interesting to see especially with this group because at least two of them clearly wear it as a badge of honor to be charged with criminal contempt.

ROMANS: Absolutely. And I know you'll be covering every twist and turn.


Speaking of, the United States is on the list of back sliding democracies. A report of the European think tank of called President Trump's questions about the election -- historic turning point, historic turning point, noting spill over effects around the world. The report says the bastion of global democracy fell into authoritarian tendencies itself. Significant Democratic back sliding was found in some of the world's largest countries including Brazil and India. REID: Coronavirus making a bit of a comeback in cold weather states.

What that means for the upcoming holidays.