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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Four Officers Facing Federal Charges In Breonna Taylor's Death; Alex Jones Ordered To Pay Sandy Hook Parents $4.1 Million In Damages; Four People In Critical Condition After Lightning Strike Near White House. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 05, 2022 - 05:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The Department of Justice has charged four police officers, former and current, in the death of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, of course, was killed two years ago in her Louisville home during a botched police raid. Joshua Jaynes, Kyle Meany, Kelly Goodlett, and Brett Hankison all facing now federal civil rights violations and charges of unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force, and obstruction of justice.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We share but we cannot fully imagine the grief felt by Breonna Taylor's loved ones and all of those affected by the events of March 13, 2020.


HILL: These charges mark the first federal counts leveled against any officers involved in Breonna Taylor's death.

Joining us now is civil rights attorney and lawyer for the family, Benjamin Crump. It's good to have you with us this morning.

You know, we heard from Tamika Palmer yesterday -- Breonna's mother -- saying she's waited 874 days for this moment. How is the family reacting?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY, LAWYER FOR BREONNA TAYLOR FAMILY (via Skype): Obviously, Tamika Palmer has been waiting, as she told Attorney General Merrick Garland, 874 days and 10 hours for this moment when he first told her at 8:30 in the morning about the charging of the officers and the one officer that was admitting that they had conspired before they issued the false warrant and then after Breonna was killed. So, Breonna Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, was overcome with emotion.

HILL: And understandably so.

These federal charges -- you noted yesterday -- tweeted it's a "monumental win for Breonna, her family." You also went on to say "and all the other Black women who have been denied equal justice in this country for far too long."

This is one step. This is an important step. But do you sense things could begin to change?


CRUMP: Well, have to always believe that it's going to be a better tomorrow, but we always have to fight for it. After George Floyd received justice when the officers Chauvin and the others were convicted, we wanted to believe that there would not be as much unjust killing of Black people by police. But we know right now we are on a record number, if it holds, of police killings in 2022. However, we note the progress.

This was the first time in the history of the United States of America where a police officer was charged and found -- have guilty for killing a Black woman on the federal level.

HILL: Some of these details here, too -- you know, allegedly meeting in a garage basically to come up with a plan for what was going to be said.

As you learn more here -- as more of this is brought out for the public and perhaps more of the public is made aware of what happened, how important is it that this remains as part of the conversation?

CRUMP: It's critical because when Black people would say that the police killed my loved one unjustly and now they are trying to cover up or they're conspiring to cover it up, they will call us crazy. Where, no, you can now tell people look at what happened with Breonna Taylor and how the police officers killed her unjustly by falsifying a warrant.

As Gen. Kristen Clarke, head of the Civil Rights Division said in the press conference, this went beyond just reckless or careless execution of a no-knock warrant.

This was a falsifying of a warrant that led to deadly consequences of Breonna Taylor and it was for civil that when you falsify a warrant it would lead to deadly consequences as in the case in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 2020.

So, we have to always remind people that this was real and hopefully, we can learn from it. It could be a teachable moment that we always listen to people, whether they wear a badge or not, as to we have to have a thorough investigation and equal justice no matter where the facts lead.

HILL: Mr. Crump, good to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

CRUMP: Thank you.

HILL: All right. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will have to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook shooting victim. A Texas jury, today, will not begin deliberations on punitive damages related to this case. The case involves the parents of Jesse Lewis, one of the 6-year-olds who was killed at Sandy Hook. Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin are his parents.

Here's how Jones responded to that defamation decision.


ALEX JONES, RADIO HOST, THE ALEX JONES SHOW: I admit I made a mistake. I admitted that I followed disinformation, but not on purpose. I apologized to the families and the jury understood that. What I did to those families was wrong but I didn't do it on purpose.


HILL: Well, the parents had asked for $150 million in damages. Jones, using his somewhat twisted logic, called the jury award a major victory for truth.


JONES: They thought they would shut us down but that jury understood the truth and resisted the propaganda. The trial lawyers, the ambulance chasers lost. America and the First Amendment won.


HILL: Neil Heslin has said none of this was about money but it was about stopping those lies.

The punitive phase of the trial will be held today, as I mentioned.

The attorney for the plaintiff said they are thrilled with the compensatory damages judgment.

Today, the jury will hear more testimony. We're told Jones will not testify, though, as they consider those additional damages.

The July jobs report coming out in the next few hours. Why the Federal Reserve is really hoping to see a slowdown.



HILL: America's job machine has been firing on all cylinders for some time now. When the July report, though, comes out a few hours from now, it could actually show the smallest number of jobs added in the past 18 months, and that's what the Fed would like to see.

John Leer joins us now, chief economist for Morning Consult. John, good to see you this morning.

So, why would a slowdown in job growth be good news, especially in the eyes of the Fed?

JOHN LEER, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MORNING CONSULT (via Webex by Cisco): Yes, thanks for having me on this morning.

I think what the Fed is trying to do is essentially suck some of that excess demand for workers out of the economy which hopefully, in turn, will reduce some of the price pressure that we've seen and start bringing inflation down. So that's sort of what the Fed's trying to do. Of course, it's a tricky balancing act because what they don't want to do is, in fact, move the economy into a recession and drive, essentially, a pretty dramatic downright contraction in jobs.

HILL: And that is the big fear, right? It's the -- it's the big "R" word and the big "I" word. And even if -- as we've seen over the last several months, despite strong job growth and despite low unemployment, it's about how people feel when it comes to the economy. Their sense of how things are. And inflation -- those high prices at the grocery store -- those are still sticking around.

LEER: That's certainly true. We've seen inflation and gas prices erode consumers' views of the economy. Morning Consult's consumer confidence is at record lows. But I think there are some signs of sort of near-term optimism with gas prices now starting to come down. And we've started to see in recent days consumer confidence tick back up.

But again, I think the big question out there is what does the second half of the year look like as it relates to jobs growth.


HILL: And where do you see potential for continued growth? Which industries, specifically, look fairly bright at this point?

LEER: Well, the net winner I think for the last two years has been transportation and warehousing and that's largely because a lot of us have been buying these large durable goods and things online like TVs and computers. And so, as a result, that industry has benefited and those jobs have followed consumer demand.

I think the loser thus far has been leisure and hospitality.

HILL: Yes.

LEER: For as many gains as they've made recently where they're still about a million jobs behind where they were prior to the start of the pandemic, and probably closer to a million and a half jobs behind where they would be if that trend line had continued. So that's the industry that really needs to make up a lot of the jobs growth.

HILL: And that's the one where I think anybody feels it, right? Any time you go to a restaurant you know what it's like. You know there are staffing shortages. I've seen so many signs, right, reminding us to be kind --

LEER: Yes.

HILL: -- as we should all the time, to folks who are working there because of staffing shortages. As we pull all together, right, and as we said at the top here, a lower slowdown would be a good thing for the Fed. Look, there's a lot of -- a lot of focus on interest rates at this point, especially after these rate hikes. What could that mean moving forward?

LEER: I think where we are right now is just sort of at the end of a fairly long 2-year job growth -- a cycle. And so, it's not surprising to me that we would continue to see this month and July's jobs growth -- jobs report, and then also going forward, maybe for the next month or two, a sort of gradual slowdown in jobs growth.

I think what we're starting to see -- some of our higher frequency data is showing that the prevalence of lost pay and income has started to tick up. We expect to see that translate into slower jobs growth towards the end of Q3 and beginning of Q4. And so, I think in terms of a number, we're probably looking right now closer to sort of the 240,000 net jobs created in July. But we would see that sort of gradually moving closer to 200,000 over the next couple of months.

HILL: We will be watching. Again, that report comes out just a few hours from now.

Good to see you this morning, John. Thank you.

LEER: My pleasure.

HILL: The Biden administration has declared the monkeypox outbreak now a public health emergency. This, as cases continue to rise across the country. More than 7,100 cases reported so far. Of course, some cities and states had already declared their own health emergencies for additional resources to fight the outbreak.

The CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services says some three million doses of vaccine are needed but so far, just over 600,000 have been delivered. One hundred fifty thousand more are expected in September.

An important programming note. W. Kamau Bell and his friends in comedy and media getting together this week to talk about the ongoing fight for Asian-American representation. This is all in the latest episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with W. Kamau Bell. Be sure to catch it right here on CNN Sunday at 10:00 pm eastern.

Just ahead on EARLY START, WNBA players linking arms in solidarity and support of Brittney Griner.


WNBA PLAYERS: Bring her home! Bring her home! Bring her home!



[05:52:39] HILL: Four people critically injured by a lightning strike just across the street from the White House during a severe thunderstorm in D.C. last night. D.C. fire and EMS report the victims had been sheltering under a tree at Lafayette Park. The Secret Service and park police helped with the response.


VITO MAGGIOLO, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: There were officers who witnessed this lightning strike and immediately began to render aid to the four victims, which is very critical in helping with survivability.


HILL: Two men and two women were transferred to area hospitals. No updates on their conditions yet this morning.

A frightening scene on Smith Island, Maryland. Take a look.


Waterspout comes ashore as a tornado in Smith Island, Maryland.


HILL: Look at that massive waterspout coming ashore as a tornado. As you can imagine, it caused significant damage on the island. You could see here in the video it's just a waterspout crossing the bay before it makes landfall Thursday night, violently tossing everything in its path. According to Maryland's governor, more than 50,000 homes are without power in Somerset County.

Severe weather and scorching temperatures also expanding across several regions of the country today. Boston, New York, Philadelphia once again under heat alerts. Temperatures topping 100 degrees in many areas heading into the weekend.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has a closer look for us. It's a hot one, again.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, again, right? And that's what it's going to feel like under your exposed skin as you step outside. And you factor in the humidity levels and we'll get to that triple- digit heat.

But that's not our only story that we're focusing on today. Also, a flash flood threat across some of the areas that have been hardest hit by the flooding just a week ago across eastern Kentucky. More on that in just a second.

Excessive heat warnings and advisories in place for the central portions of the country, and then some of the most populated areas of the U.S. Boston, New York, Philadelphia -- heat advisories. And that heat indice value will scorch over the 100-degree mark for many locations. You can see by this afternoon temperatures for the nation's capital will feel like 99 degrees as you step outside.

It's not only New England and the mid-Atlantic, it's also the Deep South. Look at Dallas-Fort Worth. Your heat index today, 105 degrees. Take care. Take a break under the shade if you get a chance.

Look at the slight risk of flash flooding anywhere from the mid- Atlantic right through Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley. This area, of course, was hit hardest by some of the flash flooding. The National Weather Service just recently has issued a flood watch for this particular location, including West Virginia and much of eastern Kentucky, with the potential for one to two inches of rainfall through the weekend -- Erica.


HILL: Oh -- the last thing they want to hear there --

VAN DAM: Right.

HILL: -- especially in eastern Kentucky.

Derek, appreciate it. Thank you.


HILL: Brittney Griner's WNBA teammates getting emotional after learning of her 9-year prison sentence in Russia.

Coy Wire joining us now with this morning's Bleacher Report. Look, a lot of frustration, understandably, and a lot of anger at this point.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Erica. Good morning to you.

Phoenix Mercury -- they were -- they were about to begin their shootaround ahead of their game in Connecticut when Brittney Griner's sentence came down. Players watching it live on their phones and then crying as that judge handed down the punishment.

Less than nine hours later, they had to take the court against the Sun. The teams locking arms before tipoff, holding a 42-second moment of solidarity for the 8-time All-Star. Players hugging, wiping tears, and the crowd was too. They then began to chant "Bring Her Home."

Mercury star Skylar Diggins-Smith said it was hard to focus on the game having just watched what their teammate had been through.


SKYLAR DIGGINS-SMITH, PHOENIX MERCURY GUARD: This is our real-life and real-life sister. So imagine if your real-life friend or real-life sister was out here. I don't expect everybody to give a damn but we really do.

We come out here and supposed to play this (bleep) game. Nobody wanted to even play today. How can you -- how are you supposed to approach the game and approach the court in anything with a clear mind and the whole group is praying before the game? Because you try to honor her and you try to come out and still play hard for her.


WIRE: The Las Vegas Aces and Dallas Wings also locking arms in solidarity before their game last night.

The WNBA and NBA putting out a joint statement on Griner's sentence, saying the sentence was "unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected." They added that their "commitment to her safe return has not wavered" and "hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home." The fate of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will not rest in the hands of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Under the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell could have heard the appeal himself. Instead, he appointed former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey to hear the league's appeal of Watson's 6-game suspension.

Harvey was on a panel that advised Goodell on the domestic violence case involving Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott five years ago.

Watson was suspended on Monday by an independent judge for violating the league's personal conduct policy after being accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women. Watson has denied any wrongdoing.

The NFL reportedly wants an indefinite suspension for Watson lasting at least one year, and they want him to be fined. No timetable has been set for the hearing to begin.

Erica, we also had, last night, the NFL preseason kicking off. It was the Jaguars and Raiders. Raiders getting the best of them. And we will have football every week from now until mid-February. So that could be a great thing or maybe not so great for some.

HILL: It depends where you stand, right? But even if you're not into the football, you could use that time for something else.

I have to tell you, I have two sons who I'll be picking up from camp tomorrow. We're very excited about the start of this.

WIRE: Oh, good.

HILL: So you can put them in -- put them firmly in your camp, Coy.

Nice to see you this morning, my friend.

WIRE: All right, you, too.

HILL: Thank you.

Lady Gaga, the latest star to join the D.C. Universe.


"JOKER 2" teaser trailer. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: There you see the YouTube. The 36-year-old pop icon will be joining actor Joaquin Phoenix in the highly anticipated sequel "JOKER." Folie a deux, French translation -- madness for two.

Gaga's character not yet confirmed but she is likely to play Harley Quinn, the Joker's psychiatrist who then becomes his partner in crime. Look for that new movie to premiere in October of 2024.

Thanks very much for joining me this morning and this week. I'm Erica Hill. Stayed tuned -- "NEW DAY" starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It's Friday, August 5, and I'm Brianna Keilar with John Avlon in for John Berman this morning.


KEILAR: Good morning.

One small step for an Arizona senator, one giant leap for the Biden agenda. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the lone Democratic holdout on the president's major climate and economic bill is now on board. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer agreed to change some of the tax provisions to get Sinema to move forward on the bill. Democrats expect to have 50 votes, plus the vice president's tiebreaker to push their marquee economic legislation through the Senate.

AVLON: The Inflation Reduction Act represents what would be the largest investment in energy and climate programs.