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Inside Politics

6th Memphis Officer "Relieved Of Duty" After Tyre Nichol's Death; Beating Of Tyre Nichols Renews Calls For Police Reform; Congressional Black Caucus Wants Biden Meeting On Police Reforms; NYC Mayor: Police "Units Don't Create Abuse"; Next week: Nichols Family To Attend Biden's State Of The Union; Biden Meets With Speaker McCarthy Wednesday; Stefanik: Biden, McCarthy Meeting "Win" For House GOP. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 30, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Relieved of duty, CNN just learning moments ago, a sixth officers now put on administrative leave from the Memphis police force and the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols. Congress of familiar question and painful memories of Miss Chancellor, that as Congress and communities nationwide look again at what can be done to change the way cops, police.

Plus, this week, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meet, a debt ceiling stalemate that shows zero signs of ending is issue one, and it is also a consequential early test of divided government. And today the American Secretary of State is in Israel. The backdrop for his visit, a string of death and destruction, raids, synagogue shooting, settler attacks and promises of retribution. As tensions between Israelis and Palestinians combust.

Up first for us, though, word of more change in Memphis. The Memphis police major says a sixth police officer has now been relieved of duty that in connection with the stop and subsequent beating that led to the death of Tyre Nichols. It follows of course, an important weekend development, the so-called Scorpion unit.

A Memphis police team meant to corral street crime, no longer exists that after the city's police chief decided she would shutter it. Its officers included the five fired cops who subdued, pepper sprayed, taste, tackle, punched, kicked, kicked again, hit with a baton and throttled Tyre Nichols.

Let's get straight to CNN's Nick Valencia for the latest development. Nick, what are we learning?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just got off the phone with the Memphis police department. They tell me that a sixth officer that was involved in the traffic stop that led to the death of Tyre Nichols has now been quote, relieved of duty put on administrative leave. This officer identified as Preston Hemphill has been with the Memphis police department since 2018. According to the department, what we don't know right now, John, is his level of involvement in the arrest or who he was in the video. We don't know either of whether or not he was involved in this Scorpion unit.

But here's what the Memphis police had to tell me in a text message a short time ago. Saying that, Hemphill was relieved of duty with the other officers going on to say remember, we said this is an investigation is ongoing. They added that more information will be shared as it develops. But this fallout clearly continuing as a result of what happened to Tyre Nichols in Memphis on January 7. John?

JOHN: Nick Valencia, appreciate the live update. Keep in touch, as we learn more throughout the day. And that horrible video of course, capturing the police brutality that eventually ended Tyre Nichols' life, is again putting police reform on the front burner here in Washington. The Nichols' family will attend next week's state of the union address.

The Congressional Black Caucus wants an audience at the White House to talk through how to remake police and how to get President Biden to make it a constant focus. Sunday here on CNN, a plea from Benjamin Crump on behalf of Tyre Nichols' family, for lawmakers to act and to save lives.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TYRE NICHOLS' FAMILY: Shame on us, if we don't use his tragic death, to finally get the George Floyd justice and Policing Act passed. We told President Biden that when he talked to us, because you know, he should marshal the United States Senate with Senator Booker, Senator Schumer, and they should try to get the House to reengage if not, Dana, we're going to continue to see hashtag.


KING: With me in studio to share their insights, the executive director of the Advancement Project, Judith Browne Dianis, former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, CNN's Lauren Fox, and Robert Samuels. He's a journalist and the co-author of the book, 'His Name is George Floyd.' Thank you, everybody for being here. It's a difficult conversation.

Judith, let me just start with what we just heard from Nick Valencia. One of the differences people are talking about will come to Washington and see if there can actually be congressional action, but one of the differences people are talking about is the swift action. The charges against the five officers, now another officer placed on administrative leave.

Does that make when you get to the bigger issues that you believe need to be discussed urgently? Is this as Mr. Crump says a blueprint?

JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: Well, it's important, because we have to have action when these things happen. We have to start the mechanisms of accountability very quickly. And in fact, it's important to know that this community had been working on policing issues.

So, this didn't just happen because of this one death, which was horrible and horrific, but there had been a lot of other problems. And so, communities have been coming together to push for transparency and accountability before this.


KING: And so, Lauren, you've been at this table before after the death of George Floyd, after Mr. Crump goes through the litany of cases in the past, where it looks like, OK, you have the attention of Congress, will you do anything. The last hang up to the George Floyd Policing Act was in the United States Senate.

Among those who was skeptical at the time, Lindsey Graham over the weekend, saying I oppose civil lawsuits against individual officers. However, holding police departments accountable makes sense. And they should face liability for the misconduct of their officers.

If we were rewinding the tape six months or a year ago, maybe you would say, aha, a potential breakthrough in the Senate, but we now have a Republican House. And the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan, over the weekend making crystal clear. Yes, what happened to Tyre Nichols? He says his reprehensible and horrible evil, I think was the word he used. But he says no law can fix it.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I don't know that there's any law that can stop that evil that we saw. So, I don't know that any law, any training, any reform is going to change. It's just a difference and I think, a philosophy. The Democrats always think that it's a new law that's going to fix something that terrible.


KING: Sadly, I had to have a lot of conversations with law enforcement officials in recent days, and they disagree with Chairman Jordan, thank training, you're not going to wipe this out. A law is not going to wipe it out, but training, sensitivity training, more accountability is critical. But it sounds like he's not interested.

LAUREN FOX: Yes. I mean, in the Senate, they've gotten close in the past on this issue of policing reform. I mean, the most significant effort, of course, happening with Tim Scott just about more than a year ago, but they didn't finish the deal. And now the politics has completely shifted.

You have Jim Jordan, leading the key committee that would investigate this issue. And you have him here saying, there's nothing we can do, my hands are tied, essentially shutting the door before a conversation can even begin.

KING: And so, Val Demings, he's former police chief, former member of Congress, who knows this town and knows how, again, we're having an adult conversation at a table, it's a rare event of this town unfortunately, these days. She says if Washington won't act, this is going to come down to her former colleagues, police chiefs around the country.


VAL DEMINGS, (D) FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: There's not much of an appetite we know in Washington, D.C. now to come up with the national standards that I believe are so desperately needed. This falls back now on police executives or chiefs or sheriffs to come up with much needed reforms that start with hiring the brightest and the best. Having psychological evaluations being a part of that to ensure fitness for duty.


KING: I think most would argue, everybody has a role. every level of government has role. Every citizen has a role. But could this be an example, Andy, where you do have experiments out in the states or in cities? That turned out to be the shining examples, you say everybody says let's copy that?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure. You could write and once again, those responsibilities going to fall on the backs of police chiefs who are constantly stressed to do more, to do better with fewer resources and under tougher circumstances. But let's embrace the reality here. There are seven over 17,000 separate independent police agencies in this country.

And to think that you're going to get a consistent response on things like training and hiring and direction and supervision or law enforcement is just not going to happen across a span of control that wide without some significant federal regulation underneath it.

KING: I was reading up well, number one, I've read your book, it is fascinating. And your partner on the book, to lose your frequent guest here on the program. I was reading your reaction on Twitter over the weekend, where you just talked about your personal exhaustion. From spending so much time reporting on these issues.

Here you have another tragedy that one would hope would at least start conversations. I don't pretend to be smart enough to understand the solutions. But I think it would be fair, all the stakeholders would get in the room and start talking they would get some just walk through. Do you have any reason to believe that Tyre Nichols will get us to a place, get a conversation to a place that everybody thought maybe George Floyd would, but it didn't.

ROBERT SAMUELS, CO-AUTHOR, "HIS NAME IS GEORGE FLOYD": Well, with Tyre Nichols, we're seeing something we hoped we would never see again. But yet, we're still not surprised we saw. And when we look at the response, we see some things that seem like bright lights, right? We see the fact that there was a police chief who acted relatively quickly. We see the fact that officers were indicted, we saw the questioning of a police report. But that doesn't get to the fundamentals of the issue, though, right? And when we look at the fundamental issues, what we discovered in the book was if there's no true discussion about the hearts of the problem, in terms of thinking about training for police officers, in terms of thinking about how we think about bias and who deserves to be treated with such heinous uses of force, you cannot fully get to the heart of a solution.

KING: So, how - how do you start the conversation? And it's look, it's incredibly complicated and like anything that involves systemic issues, systemic racism, it's going to take years there's no easy solution. But how would you piece together the, what must start at the local level and what Washington's role should be?


DIANIS: So, here's our problem, is that the foundation of policing was wrong from the beginning. Starting off with slave patrols, moving into the way in which they controlled civil rights protesters in the 60s and 70s. And so, the foundation and the DNA of the system is wrong. And so, we have to be thinking about not reimagining policing, but reimagining safety.

How do we stop the interactions with police, over a thousand Americans are stopped by the police every day in a traffic stop. There are cities that are saying, no more. We're taking police out of that. We should take police that have mental health incidents.

And so, we're able to provide safety in a different way. Because those of us in the black community number one new. Black cops bleed blue, that they will do this to us just like everyone else, that this isn't just about death, but it's about the daily terror that black people actually encounter because we are hyper policed. And so, the deaths are one thing, but every day black folks are actually experiencing this.

And so, what we have to see is a difference in how we create safety. Why are we criminalizing people who are homeless? Why don't we give them a home? Those are the kinds of things that the black community would prefer to see, instead of getting more police. You know, President Biden, a hundred thousand more police, we don't need them. We need to change the way we think about safety.

KING: And so, as you try to do that, you see the debate already playing out. Chief Davis in Memphis pretty quickly disbanded the Scorpion unit, right? Said, it well intentioned, maybe when they drew it up, but not working in this case. This is Mayor Aaron, so in New York City, himself a foreign police officer says, not all of these specialized units are bad.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK: The units don't create abuse, abusive behavior creates abuse, you can be assigned to uniform patrol if you don't have the right mindset for public protection. And I think the nobility of being a law enforcement officer, then you should not be assigned in the police department.


KING: So, you have a Democrat there who has very good relations with the White House. Again, I get back to the point. How do you get people to understand this in a room to work this out? And maybe say, you know, this works here, but it doesn't work here.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: First of all, is the right thing to do to get rid of the Scorpion unit in Memphis, that could not continue. There's no reason anyone in Memphis should feel any level of confidence or trust in anyone associated with that unit. However, you can't throw and shouldn't throw out the entire idea of specialized units because of the abuse and poor performance of even a handful of units. It comes down to the elements of supervisory control, training and culture, quite frankly, you're absolutely right.

There are elements of law enforcement, not just in specialized units, but across the community that reinforce baked in ideas, biases, they take that approach to their policing out on the street, and that's where you begin to see these problems. It's not isolated to specialized units, but it's also not the majority of cops that are patrolling our streets every day. So, it's a matter of addressing that culture.

KING: Did you spend a lot of time in the community? That's where your exhaustion comes from. Is there any hope that having the Nichols' family in the box at the state of the union, essentially, president will touch on it anyway. But trying to convince him spend more time on this, that maybe the president will decide, you know what, I'm going to make this a constant focus. I'm not just going to mention the speech or have one or two events, I'm going to make it a constant focus, any hope?

SAMUELS: Well, the Floyd family did a lot of events, and they did a lot of things with the president, right? But what we saw - when we saw the George Floyd in Policing Act, was that --when it came down to Congress, there was a debate that seems perennial when you have - when you think about progress in the black community, do you do something smaller? Do you take a big swing? That was really the debate between Senator Scott and Senator Booker.

And so, what I think the situation calls for people who have to deal with the daily terror of being in fear of what a police officer might do to them. They say it's time for a big swing. That's the message that the Nichols' family had. That's the message that the Floyd family had. The question is whether or not we can do enough to meet them where they are.

KING: That's a very great way to put the question when we will see in the days ahead. Thank you everybody for coming in. Lauren is going to stay with us. Up next for us. Washington politics deal or dysfunction. President Biden set to meet with the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this week amid a bitter standoff over the debt ceiling.


KING: It's getting to know you and test you week for the president and the new House speaker. Kevin McCarthy will visit the White House on Wednesday. The first thing on the agenda, the looming debt ceiling crisis. Speaker McCarthy knows the divide is huge but says he will enter this meeting hopeful.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The whole government is designed to find compromise. I want to find a reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending. I know his staff tries to say something different, but I think the president is going to be willing to make an agreement together.


KING: Joining our conversation, USA Today is Francesca Chambers, Margaret Talev of Axios, and CNN's Lauren Fox is still with us. If you listen to the speaker there. He's going to come down to the White House on Wednesday and President Biden is going to say sure on negotiate, not going to happen, right?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Well, the White House is still saying that that is not going to happen when the two men meet on Wednesday. But what they do say is that the president is willing to talk about spending cuts, but they want to see a plan from Speaker McCarthy on what you would cut, if not social security, if not Medicare, what are these defense cuts potentially? What are the other cuts? And so, they're basically pressing him at this point to arrive with a plan.


KING: And that's a key point you make in the sense that if you're the White House or the Democrats on Capitol Hill right now, you see McCarthy is still trying to sort of negotiate in his family if you will. How long is his leash? What is he willing to do? Because he has promised more conservative members at least votes on some things.

And even on the weekend be heading into this meeting, to your point about social security, Medicare, there are some Republicans who say, hey, to balance the budget, you at least have to think about it, you at least have to put on the table, Speaker McCarthy says no.


MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Are you willing to consider any reductions to social security and Medicare?

MCCARTHY: No, let's take those off the table.

BRENNAN: Is defense spending on the table? MCCARTHY: Well, look, I want to make sure we're protected in our defense spending. But I want to make sure it's effective and efficient. I want to look at every single dollar we're spending, no matter where it's being spent, I want to eliminate waste wherever it is.


KING: From the White House to the Democratic spectrum. How much of this is especially the first couple of meetings because there'll be more than one. Is specifically about the debt ceiling or more about trying to test, how long is his leash?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: t really is both if - from the Democrats perspective, if McCarthy is facing internal strife, that weakens his ability to mess things up for them. That's the politics, the political reality. The other political reality comes in June, and on the way to June, when we're really in a high-risk situation. But here's the reality.

When you look at the drivers of the national debt, guess what, social security is the top one, Medicare is right up there. And so is defense spending. You know, what another driver of the national debt is? Tax cuts that aren't paid for that are permanent or long term in perpetuity. And so, I think Biden's position that he's not going to negotiate is a negotiating position to some extent.

But also, if you really did, if the nation wanted to tackle this problem and get debt under control, they would have to look. Guess what? Social security and Medicare, both parties would have to look at it seriously and be willing to take major political hits for it. And no one is willing to do that right now, which is why this really lives in the realm of politics.

KING: And the traditional way to do that is some bipartisan commission, but they don't even have the trust to do one of those right now. Nobody knows---

TALEV: It can be even do one partition condition, the parties themselves can agree on the right fix to this.

KING: And so, part of the question - part of the question is, what did the midterm election mean, in the sense that you do have a House majority. So, the House Republicans have every right to say, was Democrats last year, the American people sent us here, they sent us with a new majority, but it's a tiny majority, nowhere near the size they thought they were going to have still one of McCarthy's key deputies say, the president has to listen.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): To the fact that now, Speaker McCarthy is sitting down with presidential Joe Biden on Wednesday. That is a win for House Republicans. You ask the average hardworking American family. They understand that we have to tighten our belts and look for responsible spending. This dismissiveness from Joe Biden is just unacceptable. And it ignores the fact that we won on the economic issues this past election cycle.


KING: How is that process up on the Hill among Democrats and Republicans because they did win the majority. Now the president says, I'll talk to you about spending, but not on the debt ceiling. They're two separate issues. These are bills to your point, 25 percent of that debt was run up during the Trump administration, right? So, let's deal with that, then we'll talk. The Republicans say no.

FOX: Well, Democrats, from their perspective, want to dare Republicans to do a couple of things. One is put out a plan. And two, can you actually agree on it. That narrow margin is key and the views of moderate Republicans and hardliner Republicans like Chip Roy are vastly different people who have to run in a district that Joe Biden won are going to have a very different opinion on cuts or changes to social security and Medicare than other Republicans may in their hard line districts.

So, I think Democrats are sort of taking a seat back, letting the White House lead on this and saying, go ahead and show us your plan and then see if you can even agree upon it because you have the vote on the certain exactly have the vote on the tax had the vote on the spending cuts. We're happy to sit back and vote against those and let you guys see if you can even get the votes for it.

KING: So, let the Republicans fight it out first to see it if they really have unity and strength. All right, we'll watch, just Wednesday will be just the beginning. We're going to be at this for a while. Up next, Donald Trump back on the campaign trail. Lying still about the 2020 election and taking aim and potential 2024 Republican rivals.




KING: We'll bring you some important news just into CNN. Sources now telling us, the former chief of the National Enquirer, David Pecker is expected to meet with New York prosecutors investigating the former president of the United States. Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell for more. Kara, what does this tell us?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. The sources tell us that David Pecker who was the former publisher of the National Enquirer is set to meet with prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney's office as soon as this week. And this office has really stepped up its investigative steps in recent weeks, looking into the hush money payments that were made to Stormy Daniels, the former or the adult film star to stop her from going public with allegations that she had an affair with former President Donald Trump just before the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sources previously told us that Michael Cohen had gone in just two weeks ago to meet with the Manhattan district attorney's office. He had not met with them in more than a year. And they've also - the prosecutors have also reached out to the attorney for Stormy Daniels saying, that they may want to speak with him again.

So, we're starting to see the pace of this investigation really kind of restarting kicking into a new year this year. All After the D 's office when a conviction of the Trump Organization entities last year for tax crimes down

KING: All the money, I guess would be the question there. Kara Scannell.