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Inside Politics

Jury Begins Deliberating in Ahmaud Arbery Killing Trial; Biden Releasing 50M Barrels from Emergency Oil Reserves; Jury for Arbery Murder Trial: 1 Black Member, 11 White Members; Jury Deliberating in Arbery Murder Trial; Jones, Stone Signal They Won't Cooperate with Jan 6 Committee. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Thank you both so much for being here. I really appreciate your time. And thank you all so much for being with us always. I'm Kate Bolduan. "Inside Politics" with John King starts now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Joe Biden breaks the glass and a gas price emergency, the president today will tap into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It's a bid to lower your pain at the pump, ahead of the holidays and ahead of the midterm elections.

Plus the January 6 Committee targets a dirty trickster and a reckless conspiracy theorist Roger Stone and Alex Jones, the latest received subpoenas related to the insurrection. And the prosecution rest just moments ago in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial. The jury right now has that case and America waits for an important hurdle.

We begin, though with President Biden and a new effort by the White House to lower your pain at the gas pump. The president later today will announce he is releasing 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's strategic stockpile. And at the request of the Biden White House, a handful of other big global economic powers are also tapping their reserves.

The goal is to bring down gas prices as we head from Thanksgiving to Christmas and then into an election year. AAA says the national average for a gallon of regular right now is $3.40 that is a seven year high. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has the latest lie for us from the White House Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, President Biden is trying to show first and foremost that he is acutely aware of these inflation concerns of Americans. So he's going to order the Department of Energy to release as you said 50 million barrels of oil from the nation's stockpile. Interestingly, though, also asking five other nations to do the same China, Great Britain, India, Japan and South Korea so certainly taking a big global step here to try and make a difference with a global oil prices. The president's top economic adviser explained it like this earlier this morning.


JARED BERNSTEIN, MEMBER, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISORY COUNCIL: This is Joe Biden doing precisely what he said he would do using every tool at his disposal to help the American get - American consumer get through this period where production isn't quite up to demand.


ZELENY: So using every tool at his disposal, a political tool, certainly, but it is an open question how much this will actually lower gas prices? But certainly going into the holiday season ended next year's midterm elections this is a top concern here at the White House. We'll hear the president addressed this afternoon.

Of course, no coincidence also, this comes just two days before Thanksgiving again, the White House trying to make the case that they are on this inflation worry, John.

KING: Jeff Zeleny live from White House. I appreciate you're kicking us off. This has been described this action by the president is the biggest U.S. action ever to try to ease energy costs. Let's bring in our CNN Global Economics Analyst Rana Foroohar. Rana obviously, the president wants to show the American people he's trying to do something explain the significance of here, what will the impact be?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMICS ANALYST: We know the impact is a bit of a band aid, it's going to have some impact at the pump. But it's really more a political move. You know, Biden is trying to reassure American consumers, hey, before the big holiday travel season, we've got your back; we're going to do whatever we can to lower these oil prices.

It's going to be good politics for him at home; it also makes him look good that he was able to build an international coalition around it. But I got to say, John, I think that we're going to see higher prices for some time because there is a fundamental mismatch between what OPEC wants and what oil consuming countries like the U.S. want?

You know, we need the lower prices now certainly before the holidays, you know, lower income families spend about 20 percent of their incomes on gas, but don't pick wants to keep prices high, particularly because it knows we're going into a clean energy transition. And so they want to keep fossil fuels as high as they can for as long as they can.

KING: Right. You say potentially a band aid is a description, the president when it comes to whether it's gas prices or other inflationary pressures on the economy right now, really doesn't have a lot of direct tools at his disposal, does he? FOROOHAR: Well, that's right. And you know, oftentimes the president takes the blame and gets the credit for a lot that's going on in the global economy that he can't really control. Oil is a global market. It's set by OPEC. It's set by countries like Russia, which have been hoarding recently.

You know, the president is doing everything he can. He's even looking at whether there might be some monopoly issues in the U.S. market. He has FTC cheerleader - looking at that. So I think he's doing what he can politically will it make a difference at the pump maybe a small one.

KING: Maybe a small one? Well, I think - at the White House if they get credit for a small and they take that at this moment in time. Rana appreciate the important analysis for us. Let's bring it in studio now with me to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Lauren Fox, Olivier Knox of "The Washington Post", and Tia Mitchell of "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution".

Here's what the president's dealing with right now. Number one, just the personal pain Americans feels as you're paying the price. And it's unfair in some ways to the president but guess was a lot lower one year ago because of the pandemic. There was no - demand was way down so the price was way down.

Now demand is up the price so compared to last Thanksgiving, you look at that you say wow! Again not quite fair but politics is not fair to the president sometime but Olivier even more broadly Biden's handling of inflation this is a poll of all adults.


KING: 67 percent disapprove 33 percent approve two thirds the American people think the president's not doing enough. Again, there's only so much a president can do. But showing you're trying matters.

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure. It's about motion as much as movement as one of my mentors used to say this is about showing that he is trying to do something about something Americans feel.

We talk about the price of gas at the pump and it's obviously very important, because it's something tens of millions or hundreds of millions of Americans experience don't overlook winter heating oil costs. So the energy crisis that we're facing is much broader than the pump.

And I wonder, you know, releasing this a few days before Thanksgiving, obviously a big driving holiday, that's probably not going to have an impact on the price of the pump. But going to the next several months, there's a chance that it will have an impact on other areas of high American energy demand.

KING: And so and you get to so look, again, I think the movement thing is important that you try to do something to try to show you're doing something. This is the mood of the country, right now. I just showed you what people think of inflation?

Well, what are Americans think about the economy right now? You know, in the middle of the summer 45 percent thinking the economy is good. Now that number has dropped down to 30 percent thinking the economy is good right now that the president is fighting psychology, as much as he's fighting, you know, the math that people go through when they go to the grocery store, or when they go to the gas station.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: And I think it also shows disconnect between regular people at home. I think if you ask a lot of American businesses, the economy is great. They're making good profits. They're seeing demand coming back.

And so that's disconnect, because these businesses want higher prices, because it's helping them to recover some of their losses from the pandemic. But that's affecting people at home as they're shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and things like that. And that's the push and pull. So it's hard for the president to do anything because he can try to help people at home. But the business community won't like that.

KING: And those are the numbers you remember, when you're standing there filling up your tank, and you're just watching. Not a dial anymore, but you're watching the numbers go by or when you're standing in the grocery line, and you watch the numbers go up and up and up, which makes it hard for the president to make the case that.

It's dangerous for president to be sound optimistic when people are failing a punch. But if you look at these numbers, 5.6 million jobs created since Joe Biden became President, the unemployment rate is 4.6 percent. Disposable income is up 2 percent.

There are positive economic indicators out there. But it's very hard for a president or his party to sound hey; you're fine when people are feeling pain?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the delicate balance of going out and selling something like the infrastructure bill, or going out and selling this big social safety net bill, because you might be able to argue, look at all these projects coming to your community, but people might think to themselves, but what about my family?

What about the fact that when I go to the store milk costs more than it did two weeks ago? Those are the sort of challenges that the president has and the Democrats really have in messaging their agenda right now. Because it is a push and pull it is a balance to go out and say things are going to get better or things are fine, when that may not be the perception of many Americans.

KING: And you wrote about this, Joe Biden is not known as a fiery populist by any means. It's just not his DNA. But there are - there's a lot of evidence that yes, a lot of this is the pandemic economy. A lot of this is the economy trying to find its way out of the pandemic.

But there are also a lot of corporations that are saying, hey, prices are up. So no one's going to notice, if we jack us up a little bit more to and make some profits.

KNOX: Right. And that goes to the - that goes to the attitude or the psychology that you're referring to before there are CEOs and other senior executives of major corporations that are saying on earnings calls so to your point, on earnings calls bragging about the fact that in the current climate when consumers expect higher prices is a pretty great time to raise prices actually.

And so you have massively profitable businesses that are telling their investors look, this is a great time for us. Because we can raise these prices we can pass on cost to the consumers. And then you've got of course the consumers who are feeling the cost passed on.

KING: And then tend to blame the politicians or at least they get a chance they get a chance to blame the politicians when they go vote. So we'll see fascinating to watch. We'll keep on top of that. Up next for us, right now a verdict watch in Georgia closing arguments wrapped this morning. And the jury in the trial the three men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery right now deliberating.



KING: Jury deliberations began just minutes ago 20 minutes ago 11:53 am in the trial of three men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery. 11 members of the jury are white one is black. The 25 year old unarmed black man was killed back in February 2020.

Prosecutors say he was jogging and yes he did trespass briefly at a construction site but left without taking or disturbing anything. The defendants argue they had the right to pursue a citizen's arrest and that the shooting was it justified use of force. Let's get straight to CNN's Ryan Young he is outside the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia Ryan Now very important deliberations underway?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. When you think about all the emotions in this case and how it wraps this entire community, we've been here for over two weeks watching this play out. And every single time when you think the inflection and the pain has gone down, you see something that sort of just rises to the top when you think about this.

And in the end, the way the prosecution ended with was two faces. Both of them Ahmaud Arbery, one while he was alive, and one when he was dead. And I can tell you to watch the people's faces inside that court. They were shocked by that second image that really stood with a lot of people.

You can only imagine the pain the family is experiencing by looking at that photo since that moment in court. But people have left court the defense attorneys and the prosecution in this and on the way out of defense that they believe their clients are innocent and they believe and trust in the jury. But the parents of Ahmaud Arbery also stepped out of court and this is what they had to say.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I do think that we will come back with a guilty verdict. We will get justice for Ahmaud.


MARCUS ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: Thanking God that God showed up there have been shoulders old ever dented convict the man.


YOUNG: John, when you think about the not only the makeup of this jury, the fact that only one person of color is on that jury, there's a lot of people asking questions about all the references to race, even subtly, in this case, something that stood out yesterday was the talk about Ahmaud's toenails that really struck a chord with a lot of people.

We'll see how that plays out when the jury is now in deliberations. The clock is ticking. And a lot of people in this community and across the country are watching John.

KING: Ryan Young grateful that you're there for us to keep track of this as it plays out I appreciate the live report. Let's discuss this now with two Former Federal Prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers and Elliot Williams. And let's start, Jennifer to you first.

But let's listen the prosecutor gets the last rebuttal at the closing arguments and with the prosecution rebuttal. And Linda Dunikoski this morning trying to get to the point these defendants say they had the right to a citizen's arrest.

She saying no they did not because she laid out the facts that she said simply don't support they had no right no reason to get in their cars and chase after Ahmad Arbery listen.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, PROSECUTOR: How do you analyze this case? Well, was it a citizen's arrest you decide? But if they were not conducting a lawful citizen's arrest, you do not have to consider you may still if you want to. But you don't really have to consider self-defense. It's not the citizen's arrest this is the states' argument.


KING: So it's a key point, Jennifer in the sense that if the jury agrees they had no right to do this, then that's almost means you're done. Because if they - if they're not properly conducting a citizen's arrest, then they have no right to use force.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's right, John. It's really the whole ballgame. I mean, if the jury decides, and there's very strong evidence that this is the case, that they had no right to be going up to him at all, no right to stop him no right to question him, no right to use their trucks to stop his movement. You know, and then they don't have the right to do any of that, which means that when they get into the scuffle with them, they don't have the right to use self-defense to shoot him. So, you know, this really is the key issue. And I thought the prosecutor did a good job not only of marshaling the evidence, she's been workman like and capable the entire time.

But of really kind of upping the ante with respect to the emotion and arguing to the jury now that they should do the right thing, that it is the right thing to find the defendant guilty, you know, not only because of the facts in the law, but you convey this through your tone and your demeanor during closings, that it's the right thing to do for them individually as jurors. And that's for the prosecutor to do so I was happy to see her do that today.

KING: And Elliot is it is chess, I don't want to over simplify to make it a game. But it is chess as the prosecutor listens yesterday to the defense closing arguments that she gets her rebuttal this morning. You think she had an effective adjustment?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: she did. And if - the judge gave her quite a gift by breaking the stopping the trial last night letting the jurors go home and have dinner. She could have let the prosecutor just go through and finish that night what she would have been given the prosecutor is a tired jury that's burned out from eight hours of listening to testimony.

What they have now is fresh folks who've just come back from breakfast or whatever, who are hearing as the last things that they hear the prosecutor an argument. And she really did is Jennifer and said dismantle pretty systematically all of the defendants arguments.

Now look, you never know what a jury is going to do. I've had my heart broken by juries before but it was effective arguing.

KING: And so if you go back to yesterday to one of the defense lawyers that her summation, this is a racist dog whistle. I don't know of any other term for it. But then you makes you ask you know why? Why would an accomplished attorney appears didn't in the area say she's a good attorney? Why would she bring race in like this?


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


KING: Jennifer Rodgers to you first that is a line from the autopsy report that the - when they conducted the autopsy, Ahmaud Arbery had dirty toenails. Ahmaud Arbery was wearing running shoes when he was arrested that context missing there and a whole lot more. Is it anything but helped me out as an accomplished attorney? Is that anything but trying to play to some racial factor in the jury? RODGERS: Well, it's very risky is what it is John because, you know, you really risk alienating the jury here; first of all, just saying that he's not a victim here. Are you kidding me? The man is dead. He was gunned down. Of course he's the victim here.

You know, the other lawyers I thought did a better job of saying, you know, listen, there was a tragedy that happened are different. You know, our clients are not guilty but it really is a tragic event this woman just really went over the top I think it was a poor mistake strategically.


KING: Elliot do you agree with that in the sense that if you listen to a lot of commentary this morning, there were a lot of attorneys raising the question trial attorneys saying, do they have some research on the jury? Did they scrub the social media one or two jurors because you only need one? If you want to hang up - if you get one juror who refuses to go guilty?

WILLIAMS: Yes, John, you started - you started this with a rhetorical question of why would she even make that argument in the first place? Well, why would they strike almost all the black jurors because it works? And you can get a legal argument for saying that it's lawful.

What they did was get rid of most of the black jurors and then provide a basis for saying that that they had a reason for getting rid of them so it is - it's an ugly argument, but they can get away with it within the bounds of law. The other thing about that toenails thing that that's sort of lost in this is that none of the defendants would have seen his feet so it's entirely an irrelevant point.

It's a point from the autopsy not something that they would have seen so yes, it's a dog whistle and it's really a shameful point to me.

KING: Williams and Jennifer Rodgers grateful for your help obviously, we'll come back to you as we walk through the deliberations. Up next for us though brand new subpoenas in the January 6 investigation, including two of Donald Trump's biggest and loudest defenders where things stand in the investigation that's next?



KING: Five new subpoenas Monday from the January 6 Committee including two marquee Trump World names Roger Stone and Alex Jones. The subpoenas tell us who organized and paid for rallies is still a big committee focus. Jones and Stones initial responses don't tell us don't expect cooperation.


ALEX JONES, CONSPIRACY THEORIST: The committees have launched this witch hunt dragnet against people that peacefully went to D.C. to protest what they thought were fraudulent results in the election. If I've done nothing wrong. But I know this is a political witch hunt, similar to the Soviet commissar is that how do you respond to that?


KING: Yes. Our panel is back with us. Elliot Williams, I'm going to go to you first the attorney. So this is a challenge in any investigation because investigations involve criminals or bad actors and criminals and bad actors lie.

And Alex Jones is just a renowned conspiracy theorist and liar. Roger Stone goes back to the Richard Nixon days, liar. But they're important to the investigation because they're involved with the organizers involved with people coming.

So how do you - how do you launch an investigation when you know the person across the table either is going to refuse to cooperate? Or what they tell you is probably a lie?

WILLIAMS: You know, John, this is the big challenge, because you can make people do a lot of things, but you can't make people talk. You can make them pay money, you can lock them up in jail, but you can't make them testify if they've got a really strong will. I mean, that's the simple fact.

Now look, I would assume that the committee has information around all of them to support the things that they're saying, you know, but at the end of the day, you may just not get their testimony. So we'll see what happens.

Fortunately, these individuals don't have any kind of personal privilege or executive privilege to protect them. And it's just a question of, are they going to go after them with criminal contempt citations or whatever else?

KING: Right. So let's take for example, Roger Stone, again, longtime Trump ally, a lot of involvement back in the Muller report days and all that. He is - this is a pretty common refrain from people close to Trump. I have nothing to hide. I did nothing wrong, but I still won't cooperate.


ROGER STONE, FORMER ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: Well, I'm not worried about it because I know nothing whatsoever about it. I was not on the lips. I did not march to the Capitol. I was not at the Capitol. I know nothing whatsoever. On the other hand, as one who was framed for lying to Congress, I would probably assert my Fifth Amendment right and declined to be interviewed.


KING: In the Trump silo, I'm a victim. That's the constant refrain. I'm a victim thereafter me?

MITCHELL: Yes. And I think it's interesting, because what they're not saying, you know, the subpoena is about their involvement in the "Stop the Steel Rally" prior to the insurrection. And what he's saying is, well, I didn't march to the Capitol, and I didn't know anything about what happened at the Capitol?

But that's not what you're asked to talk about. And what the January 6 Committee is trying to determine is how connected were the two? You know, we know that it started at that rally, and then it turned into something else. Connecting the dots is it looks like that's what they're trying to get. And that's what the Trump allies don't want to talk about.

KING: And to that very point, who was involved? Who paid for it? What did you know about who was coming? Well, Alex Jones himself makes clear, he knows a lot.


JONES: We weren't paid for it. Thank God, a donor came in and paid for like 80 percent of it because it cost close to half million dollars for all the equipment, all the stages, and the rest of it. The White House told me three days before we're going to have you lead the march.

The Secret Service before Trump then is just 30 minutes before so will lead you to a point take you out of the front row and lead you to the place where they want you to start to march and Trump will tell people go and I'm going to meet you at the Capitol.


KING: Well, if that's the truth, which is always and if when it comes to Alex Jones, but if that's the truth, that's pretty valuable piece of the narrative about how involved was the Trump White House? What was then presidents plans, who else was involved, where this money come from, and so on?

FOX: Well, you can understand why the committee is really torn. Maybe this witness may not be honest, but maybe they have very valuable information. It might be a fight to get that person to testify you may never get that person to testify or if they come in they may plead the fifth but you can understand exactly why--