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Source: Charges To Be Announced Today In Tyre Nichols Case; Atty: One Of 5 Fired Memphis Police Officers Charged; GDP Beats Expectations, Grew By 2.9 Percent Last Quarter; U.S. Economy Grows Despite High Inflation, Interest Rates; Today: Biden Hits The Road To Tout This Economic Agenda; Dems Pounce On GDP Plans To Cut Medicare & Social Security. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 26, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a busy and a sober Tuesday with us. A source now telling CNN, criminal charges are coming this afternoon in Memphis in connection to the beating of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols. And we also are told to expect tomorrow the release of the video of that police encounter, and we are told that is three minutes of Savitri (Ph). Memphis police officers brutalizing Nichols, right now that city fed up.
Plus, a new temperature check of the U.S. economy today. New data does give President Biden reason to brag, the economy growing faster than expected. It is more proof a recession is not inevitable, but it also comes as some big-name companies slash thousands of jobs and releasing right now some brand-new CNN poll numbers. Here's what they show. You think leaders in Washington, especially House Republicans are out of touch with what you think your government should be doing and doing first.
Up first for us though, word charges are coming today in Memphis. A source close to the investigation of a horrific police beating, telling CNN the Shelby County District Attorney one-ounce charges in the Tyre Nichols case. We expect that update this afternoon. Three o'clock here in the east, 2pm local time in Memphis.
And it follows the Memphis police chief pleading, pleading for her city. Please remain calm. Please state non-violent. As that department, her department prepares to release video of this police encounter. Those who have seen it, say prepare to be furious. Second, sad and worse. Nichols 29, died two weeks ago after that confrontation with five Memphis officers.
The officers involved have since been fired. Prosecutors now determining if they should be indicted. That incident also under federal investigation, and the video from police and perhaps from witnesses as well is coming, a source also telling CNN tomorrow Friday after today's announcement from the district attorney. What it shows, according to the police chief, is a blatant disregard of human rights, a blatant disregard of decency. Her offices doing the opposite of their oath.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF CERELYN DAVIS, MEMPHIS POLICE: This is not just a professional failing. This is a failing of basic humanity toward another individual. This incident was heinous, reckless, and inhumane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's get straight to Memphis, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is there for us. Shimon, obviously a big afternoon ahead and a tense several days ahead in the city of Memphis.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly, John. I'm just getting, trying to figure out what the charges are right now. They haven't been documented. So that's what we're waiting for word on exactly what these officers - what charges these officers are facing. How many officers are facing charges? And the details of that we just don't have yet. But it could come at any moment. And we're just waiting for that. And certainly, we'll bring that to you the minute we get it.
Of course, this is a tense time here in Memphis, but really all across the country as law enforcement braces for the release of this video. How they're going about, this is in the way of announcing the charges today. And then releasing the video tomorrow is certainly very interesting. Why they're not doing everything together is really unclear.
At this point, we don't have a lot of details on that day and what exactly happened and the encounter with the officers. So, we're hoping that the D.A. will talk more about that this afternoon. But we have obtained some audio of the police response, of the officers as they were chasing him through the streets. There was a moment where they lost him, where they couldn't find them but then they were chasing him again. And then you hear the moments though of the officers describing that chase. Take a listen, John.
And so, key words there from the dispatcher he is fighting at this time, and you hear the officers chasing. You also hear referenced, John, and this is important to a unit called the scorpion unit on this audiotape. This is a organized crime kind of anti-crime unit here in Memphis. We have haven't had a lot of details on what this unit was doing. Why they pulled him over? Those are very important questions that hopefully we can get some answers to.
But significant here today certainly, that we are finally getting word that charges have been filed and that we're going to hear from the district attorney, and then that video tomorrow, which as you've described is brutal and it's going to be certainly very difficult for people to watch. KING: Shimon, stay with us as we continue the conversation. I want to bring in for their insights and expertise, the former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, and the former Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson. Captain Johnson, let me start with you.
You have your Ferguson experience. We have all lived through, how the country and Minneapolis reacted after George Floyd. You just heard Shimon layout charges announced this afternoon, video released tomorrow. Do you see that as an effort by the prosecutor and by law enforcement to try to build some credibility in the community about the investigation and the charges before the community in the country and the world gets to see what we are told is a very, very painful, sickening video.
RON JOHNSON, FORMER MISSOURI STATE HIGHWAY PATROL CAPTAIN: I think you're absolutely right. I think they're trying to get ahead of it. I think the Chief Davis has been really transparent and honest and compassionate and her comments. And I think, you know, releasing a tape tomorrow, but also talking about how it made you feel that that's not that Representative department.
So, I think they are getting ahead of it. I think they're doing a great job. I think if we look at some past incidents in our country, there's been some mistakes made. I think that they are - they've learned from them, and it shows in their response.
KING: And Captain Johnson, let me stay with you for a second because yes, Shimon is in a city that's on edge. You are in Ferguson, and you have an understanding of the emotions here. A, what law enforcement preparations are underway? And what can whether it's the police chief, whether it's the D.A. this afternoon, whether it's the mayor, whether it's community leaders, what must be said at this moment to tell people yes, you're about to be furious. We know that, please be peaceful.
JOHNSON: Well, I think that this is still our community, we want our community to be home. So, I think it's important that the police department Chief David talk to the stakeholders and community, gets on and does some community engagement. And hopefully, they've done that in the past and have a good foundation for that. And I think just say, let's be calm.
I think we do understand that people will take - probably take to the streets and they have a right to voice their opinion and demand better. And police department, hey, let's be professional. These five officers are reflective of who we are and what we stand for.
KING: Elliot Williams, from your experience as a prosecutor, just help me through this, one in the sense that, you know, it seems to be they're doing this in sequence on purpose to try to dial back the emotions. That competes somewhat with the desire for transparency. I think I get it. But is that how you would handle it?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. Well, there's a third feature, which is that prosecutors really don't want that video out there. Because it's evidence. Number one, you don't want to be tainting the jury pool and getting them the people in Memphis who might serve on this jury. You don't want to be imperiling their ability to give a fair trial, right?
If you're going to get a conviction, you want it to be an honest one, right? And you also don't want the defense attorneys to actually be or potential witnesses to be picking apart the evidence that you have. So, it's a lot of things. But look, the public really wants to see that video. And I think like you said, John, to the transparency and media point, it's kind of important to get it out.
KING: And Shimon, it's been a couple of weeks now, you have the five officers who were very quickly fired. Have we heard from them? Are we hearing from them today as the expectation is later today? Several if not all of them are going to face charges from the district attorney.
PROKUPECZ: Right, John. We do expect to hear from at least two of the defense attorneys representing two of the officers after the D.A.'s press conference. They will of course respond to what the district attorney has to say. I just want to make a couple of points on what your panel was talking about.
You know, we're almost 20 days into this. Tomorrow will be the 20th day and the police really have not been that transparent. And yes, they've been hiding behind the fact that there's this investigation, but they've not released a lot of information, a lot of key pieces of information. The defense attorneys all, I know because I've talked to some of them, all I've had access to this video. So, they have this video.
The family has seen the video. But there are other things that the police department could be doing and could have done to this point to answer some specific questions. Hopefully that will come with the district attorney today because they are obviously concerned about poisoning the jury and they're worried about witnesses, but there still needs to be more transparency and more information that needs to come out.
That's just the basic information of why they stopped. Tyre Nichols and also the basic information of what happened afterwards. That kind of stuff has not still come out and hopefully today we will get to hear some of that because I do think, John, that information is still really important to know.
KING: And its critical information, is very important context. So, Captain Johnson, again based on your experience, what should the police be telling us? Obviously, as Elliot notes, you have to protect a prosecution. You cannot put everything out there in the public. And there's tension often between transparency and trying to build your case.
But we've had this conversation several times about your view, especially after what the country has been through the last several years. Have these officers received the right de-escalation training? You know, what other training and sensitivity classes have they been to? In this case, this is a special crime unit.
So perhaps, the suspect was real, the now the deceased was recklessly driving, perhaps he was known to them, that does not justify what those who have seen the video say, we are going to see in the next few hours in any case. What's missing here?
JOHNSON: Well, I think no matter what the actors were, people still need to be treated as humans. And that's the job of law enforcement to make sure that we do that, we do deescalate, want someone's in custody, and we treat them with respect, and so we do have to look at the training.
You know, a lot of times I will go back, and we have incidents like this. Law enforcement is working with the prosecutor. And the prosecutor is saying, hey, let's just team up in part on how we release information. Some of the information I want to have and be able to dissect, and I will release it maybe during the press conference and at the appropriate time. And I think that's what we'll see today.
So, I will agree, there's some things that need to be said. But it's probably more appropriate for those things to be said by the prosecutor. So, it does not impact the case. And hopefully, we'll hear those today. But training is going to really be important to the training they've had, the history they've had. And we have to continue in our country to put more training here. If we're going to break this culture and some of these activities that are continued to happen.
KING: And Elliot, as we wait to see the announcement later today in Memphis, and we watch how Memphis reacts than the video tomorrow over the next several days. What's happening at the federal level? Number one, there's obviously a civil rights investigation here into what happening in this police encounter. What is happening with the Justice Department or alerts to other police agencies around the country saying, hey, be on edge, be on alert.
WILLIAMS: Sorry, John. There are two big things happening, the Justice Department. One, investigating the specifics of this matter, and to what extent might the officers have violated this individual civil rights? Now, if you notice, in the very first statements that came out, one of the things that was said was failure to render aid, they did not render aid to him when he was on the ground. That right there is basis for a federal civil rights charge. So, you got that.
And then two, the more systemic question of, does the Memphis police department have a more systemic problem that ought to be investigated? The Justice Department will go in and investigate and negotiate some kind of settlement ideally with the police department in the community to make things better in the city.
KING: We've seen some departments welcome that, please come in and help us. Please do we see other departments who resist it. How does that play out?
WILLIAMS: And usually they do. Usually, it's a collaborative process. Now it will get to negotiation. And in any negotiation, not everybody gets what they want. Most of the time, they welcome the support of the Justice Department. But look, the Justice Department can sue and bring a police department to court and compel them or force them to make improvements to improve the quality of the work they do.
KING: Captain Johnson, please help me if this is an insensitive question. In this case, we've watched these other cases, and often you have, you know, black Americans pulled over and the majority of the officers involved are, all the officers involved are white officers.
You have a community now that's dealing with these pictures, five black men in police uniforms, who pulled over 29-year-old black man who is now dead after being injured. Does that at all impact? Number one, investigation. I assume the answer is absolutely, not. Community reaction, how you try to - how you try to be sensitive and communicate with the community?
JOHNSON: No, it shouldn't impact what's happened here. I think that we talked about racial bias. And people can happen no matter what color they are. And so, I think these officers have to be held accountable based on what they did and not based on the color of their skin.
KING: Captain, as you're speaking, I just receiving some new information. Shimon come in on this point and attorney for one of the five, Memphis police officers who was fired, says his client has been indicted and has now surrendered to law enforcement. The attorney William Massey represents the former officer Emmitt Martin III.
Massey, the attorney telling CNN's Don Lemon. He does not know the exact nature of the charges. They're working to find that out. So, you have one here, their status Shimon as best as we know of the other four still unclear, but that's certainly a strong signal.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. And I've been in touch with Mr. Massey, so they're all behind us as far as we know the officers. That's why we're here, John, the officers who have been arrested and are waiting to find out what they're charged with. They're behind this, there's a jail. This is the courthouse here and just behind the courthouse attached to it is the jail and that's where we believe the officers are.
And like I said, we're waiting for this to be documented and once it is documented, we will then be able to learn exactly what the charges are. What the process, our understanding here is that these officers would have to go before a commission court to form a bond. And they are expected to be bond to get bond and then they will be released. And then there's a question about arraignment, obviously, and what the next steps are.
But certainly, these attorneys that are involved in this case, they've all been notified of which one of their clients have been charged. And so, we're told that they're behind us here in this building that's attached, the jail that's attached to the courthouse there, and the next step, that's what we're waiting for. And we're waiting for the case to be docketed. So, at the very least, we can tell people what the charges are. You know, John, the family, Ben Crump, the attorney for the family. He had said that they were expecting some of the officers to face murder charges. So, it can be certainly very significant. He also felt that some of the other officers may get different charges. When you have five officers involved here, exactly what everyone did.
Again, we just don't know and who didn't render aid and why they didn't render aid and what the circumstances of that, again, we just have not received enough information from officials. But today for this community, certainly, the right steps, I can tell you, this is something that a lot of people here in the community.
And I think this is important, John, are very worried about, very worried about the reaction and are very worried for their businesses, for their homes. So, there's a lot of concern here and I think we'll try to see the police here in the next day or so try as best as they could alleviate, to alleviate some of those concerns.
KING: For folks watching at home, Captain Johnson, help us understand. So, you have police investigating police here. And then police cooperating with the district attorney saying, here's the evidence that we have. The district attorney obviously has seen the video has the full, we played an excerpt, a snippet of the dispatch back and forth.
The radio communication between the officers on the scene and the 9/11 center and all that. The prosecutor has all of that. Walk through the process of how this plays out? And how you might end up with some officers charged, you know, with more serious offenses and others perhaps lesser.
JOHNSON: Well, I think they're going to - look, we have to look at the video and see what happened. If there was officers that were there that didn't go through with their duty to render aid, artists stopped officers from what they were indulging in. And so, there could be different charges here. I do think that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is involved, the federal investigators are involved.
And so, there are some outside entities. It really isn't just a Memphis police department investigating themselves. And so, I think that is something that the community needs to look at. And both of those agencies are, all the agencies are really professional, really good at the job.
KING: And Elliot on that, I mean, the family has said they want murder charges. But if you're a prosecutor, you need to make sure you have the evidence to back it up because it would be even more disappointing if you "overcharge and can't convict." How do you go through that?
WILLIAMS: Sure. But the way Tennessee structures that statute is, you have first degree murder, second degree murder, criminally negligent homicide or intentional manslaughter, any one of those, sort of can feed into the other and for first degree murder, which is a capital offense. In Tennessee, it's just, you know, it's premeditated and intentional killing. You could make an argument that a three-minute-long beating could be that. So, you know, I don't know if overcharging any of these homicides is actually that much of a stretch right here.
KING: We'll wait, and we'll see the charges today in the video come out Elliot Williams, Captain Johnson, Shimon Prokupecz on the scene. Appreciate it very much. Of course, we'll bring you any new developments we get throughout the hour ahead. Up next for us. Some new numbers show a strong and still growing economy. President Biden will highlight them today. And he will say Republicans are promoting ideas that would wreck things.
KING: Some good news today for the economy and for you working Americans. For now, fears of a recession are on hold. The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the fourth quarter, that beat expectations and it came despite stubborn inflation and high interest rates. And unemployment claims also falling for a second week in a row to 186,000.
Let's bring in CNN's Matt Egan, joining us live now to break down these numbers. Matt, the whole idea is, can we have a soft landing, avoid a recession? These numbers say, what maybe yes?
MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: You know, John, these numbers say it is very much possible. I mean, this economy has been best described by our words. For a while that word was recession, now though it's resilient. These GDP numbers look surprisingly strong.
And when you dig in, there are some good elements here really across the board, consumer spending, business spending slowed, stayed positive, government spending helped too, the only blemish was housing, but that's no surprise, that's because mortgage rates have spiked.
We also got this good news on the jobs front, despite layoffs that we keep hearing about initial jobless claims are at the lowest level since April. They're actually lower than they were a year ago. Now this does not mean the economy is out of the woods. Some economists do still worry about a recession.
But I talked to the chief economist over Goldman Sachs, Jan Hatzius. And he told me that he thinks a soft landing is not just possible, it is likely at this point. In fact, Hatzius has said that he thinks that this economic expansion could last through the 2024 election. John, the one catch though, would be if Washington messes things up because if there's a real debt ceiling crisis, all bets are off.
KING: Washington messing things up, what a novel thought. Matt Egan, it is a possibility sadly, because of the dysfunction in this town, appreciate the important update there. Matt, thank you. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Laura Barron-Lopez at the PBS NewsHour, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
To Matt's point, Phil, the president is going to be on the road today in suburban Virginia. It's not too far of a trip, Springfield, Virginia. Then he goes to Baltimore. Then he goes to New York City, and that's the message he has going to be spreading. The economy is doing pretty well. Looks like we can avoid a recession. The president is going to say unless Republicans mess it up, am I right?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a very contrast driven message. I think White House officials have viewed the proposals Republicans have put on the table, not just kind of what a mess and circus it looked like on the floor just to get their leadership in place. But the actual tangible policy proposals that have been put on the table to some degree has been like Christmas gifts for them.
On a day-to-day basis, in terms of whether it's a national sales tax proposal or whether some Republicans want to go after entitlement programs. Every single day, they feel like they've got something to talk about elevate in the polls very poorly for Republicans, very well for them, and that the president will certainly be highlighting that as well.
But I also think it underscores why White House officials before all of the classified documents, information came out and that became a huge part of their every day. We're so confident at how they were standing at this very kind of first quarter of this year. I hadn't talked to officials that it felt better about where they'd been in their first two years. And it was in large part because the economy's resilience and also what's coming down the line in terms of the bills that they passed in the first two years.
KING: So, let me be contrarian for just a moment. I get the White House position. You know, don't let Republicans take us off the debt ceiling cliff, right? You know, Republicans, it's separate. We'll talk about spending later. This is about paying bills. A lot of the debt was racked up in the Trump years. Sorry, this is your responsibility.
But as Matt just noted, if economists are starting to believe maybe the growth continues through 2024, and you're Joe Biden, you want to be running for reelection. Isn't there at least a little voice in your head saying, try to give the Republicans - see if the Republicans will take a little, give it to them to avoid the possibility of a crisis? Because, yes, people might blame the Republicans now, but if the economy tanks, you're running for reelection in that economy.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Potentially, I mean, a lot of the economists that I've talked to, whether they are, you know, with the U.S. Chamber, or they're more democratic economists say, that Republicans should not be trying to get concessions and trying to negotiate around the debt limit and should simply pass it, and then the negotiation should happen later.
I think that's the vast majority of economists right now. Because, again, to your note, John, a lot of them have seen where in the past, it wasn't always this partisan brinksmanship that was occurring and Republicans did vote, a good amount of Republicans voted at least three times under former President Trump to increase the debt limit, without any types of concessions.
So, the White House so right now, you know, the president is meeting with congressional leaders, is holding meetings and conversations with Kevin McCarthy. So, whether or not that leads somewhere, especially with pressure from Democrats, it could.
KING: But there's no question. Phil makes the point about the White House Democrats in Congress to think, they see an advantage here at this moment. They think the Republicans have a narrow majority, Kevin McCarthy has a very loose hold, if at all, over his conference. So, let's see how this plays out. This is Pete Aguilar, a member of the leadership saying no, Republicans want to do things that we simply will not take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): We're not going to negotiate the full faith and credit of and compromise the full faith and credit of the United States. If they want to enact broad and deep cuts to Medicare and social security, and that's their starting point, then that's not anything we're going to entertain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's an interesting moment because speaker McCarthy says, he's not for any of that. But there are members of his group. And that's why the question is, how long is his leash? Who do prep proposals like that? Who do think things have to happen, including you covered one of the, most so the headline of your piece in The Atlanta Journal- Constitution, Buddy Carter, a congressman from Georgia has this national sales tax bill, that the White House says, and the Democrats say would punish working class Americans, the very Americans, the Republicans say they represent.
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes. This is that old fair tax/flat tax that Republicans have been trying to bring the conversation up for over two decades, but it hasn't gone anywhere, because it is considered pretty regressive. It would, you know, even out taxes in ways that would make it harder for low-income Americans to pay their taxes and easier for higher income Americans. It's not very popular, even among Republicans.
So, a lot of people are saying, Representative Carter, why bring this up, let it go. But it's part of that speaker's bill. McCarthy gave those conservatives, the agreement that he would allow it to at least have a committee vote, and so, it's going to get some traction this year. KING: And if it comes to the floor, it's also going to get a lot of democratic ads next year. We'll get traction this year, and we'll get more traction next year. It's a fascinating debate to keep an eye on. Up next for us, another big fascinating debate. Brand new CNN reporting, the national archives with the new apps connected to the discovery of those classified documents at two presidents' houses and a vice president's home.