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Inside Politics

Biden Awards Medal Of Honor To Vietnam War Hero; Alex Murdaugh Sentenced To Life In Prison; Juror: Murdaugh Showed No Remorse, No Compassion, No Tears; Soon: Biden Meets With German Chancellor At WH; Defense Team Reacts To Murdaugh Conviction & Life Sentence; CPAC Attendees Largely Trump's "Party". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 03, 2023 - 12:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, personally recovering the wounded soldier, he found him severely wounded, but still clinging to life.

Captain Davis directed the helicopter extraction of his wounded colleague, not leaving the battlefield himself until after all friendly forces were recovered or medically evacuated. Captain Davis heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit in the United States Army.

Ladies and gentlemen, please receive this benediction, gracious and everlasting God as we depart this ceremony inspired by the courageous actions of Colonel Davis. Help us to follow his selfless example as we serve our nation's people.

May our participation in today's ceremony coupled with the strengthening and shaping of your spirit to compel us to live lives of integrity and valor, for the good of the nation, for the good of our families, and for the good of humankind around the world. Bless and protect our armed forces as they preserve our precious freedoms.

Keep the lamp of liberty burning bright on the United States of America, and our allies around the world. And grant us all your grace to meet the challenges ahead, the strength to overcome every obstacle, and impart to us the wisdom and the will to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly before you all the days of our lives. It is in your most holy and precious name I pray, Amen.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: I'm John King in Washington. Welcome to Inside Politics. You're watching a simply remarkable moment there at the White House. If we could even stay on those pictures for just a minute. I think it would be worth it as they leave the room, a reason to smile, a reason to be proud, a reason to be proud to be an American a piece of history.

The president United States awarding the Medal of Honor to you see him right there, retired U.S. Army Colonel Paris Davis. One of the first African Americans to rise up in the Special Forces, a captain during the Vietnam war. Captain Davis leading Special Forces soldiers to an enemy base.

He was shot. Despite being shot and wounded, he refused to be evacuated from the battlefield until he could get all of his colleagues evacuated from that battlefield as well as. The president United States paying tribute there to an American hero on this day, well worth our time, amazing moment.

Moving on to other big stories today, Alex Murdaugh, will spend the rest of his life behind bars. The ones prominent now convicted South Carolina attorney sentenced earlier this morning for killing his wife Maggie and fulfilling his youngest son Paul at the family's sprawling hunting estate. Wearing jail cloth and you see him there and handcuffed. Murdaugh insisted in court today, insisted despite the jury's verdict, he's innocent.


ALEX MURDAUGH, CONVICTED MURDERER: I would never under any circumstances hurt my wife, Maggie. And I would never under any circumstances hurt my son Paul Paul.

JUDGE CLIFTON NEWMAN, SOUTH CAROLINA CIRCUIT COURT: It might not have been you. It might have been - the monster you become when you take 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 opioid pills. Maybe you become another person.


KING: Go live and check in with CNN's Dianne Gallagher, who's been closely tracking this trial from the very beginning six weeks ago. Dianne, a stunning trial over six weeks and simply a remarkable scene in court today.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Honestly, John, I was speechless, listening to judge Clifton Newman dressed down, read Alex Murdaugh for everything that he has said in this courtroom over his testimony. What his lawyers have said the idea that he did not have anything to do with the deaths. The murders of his wife Maggie and his son Paul, which of course he maintains he is innocent, even though now he is a convicted murderer.


It was an astonishing morning in court. Alex Murdaugh sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Judge Clifton Newman saying, he will - he is sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in prison. He essentially talked about the fact that this is a man that he knew before.

Alex Murdaugh had argued cases in front of Judge Newman before. He talked about the century worth of Murdaugh family members who were the law here in these parts. It was a solicitor, the regional prosecutor of several counties. And how he had that power and how he had fooled everybody. He talked about people not knowing him, something we heard over and over again from witnesses on the stand.

And he talked about the fact that he had seen himself, Alex Murdaugh in the media, somebody who initially presented himself as a grieving father, whose son had been murdered, and could not believe the man who was standing before him today. Take a listen to this?


JUDGE NEWMAN: It's already ended for many who have heard you and concluded that it'll never end. But within your own soul, you have to deal with that. And I know you have to see Paul and Maggie during the night times when you're attempting to go to sleep. I'm sure they'd come and visit you. I am Sure.


GALLAGHER: Alex Murdaugh replied to the judge every day and every night. He hears and he sees them, and they visit him. Again, much after, soon after that he again denied killing his wife and his son. We did not have any victim impact statements this morning, John, on behalf of Maggie or Paul instead, Prosecutor Creighton Waters, talked about each of them for a little bit, going over what we had heard from witnesses.

He then said that both of them like everyone else was unaware of who Alex Murdaugh really was. He is going to go into essentially an intake facility where he'll spend several weeks up to 45 days sort of being processed into the South Carolina state prison system, where he will then go on to spend the rest of his life in prison.

KING: Dianne Gallagher you're live on the scene for us. Dianne, remarkable work these past six weeks. We appreciate it very much here. Let's continue the conversation with our CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams here with me in studio.

A six-week trial, 75 witnesses, in many ways a complicated case and yet the jury takes two hours and 51 minutes. One of the jurors, his name is Craig Moyer, telling ABC earlier today, look, the jury went into the room. Remember from the day of the murders, Alex Murdaugh said he was not there. He was visiting his ailing mother. And then, they heard a video in the kennel area of this state where it happened. The juror says that was it.


CRAIG MOYER, JUROR IN MURDAUGH DOUBLE MURDER TRIAL: I didn't see any true remorse or anything.

EVA PILGRIM, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: When he said it was him, were you surprised?

MOYER: I was very surprised.


MOYER: That was his only savior writer.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That's a separate, we'll come back to the other bite in a minute. But so, you're on the jury in this case. And this is another thing where they say, he continues to proclaim his innocence. After the prosecution exposes a series of lies.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The lies, John, are the big thing. And that's what - is what some came here. Now look, as you and I have talked about on this program, this was a tough prosecution given that. Number one, they had no murder weapon, no video, no eyewitnesses, no DNA at the scene of the crime.

But they had one thing, a man lying about his whereabouts at the time that the murder happened. The jury just clearly could not get past that. I think all these questions about remorse and, you know, that was sort of secondary to that simple fact, you just didn't know where he was.

KING: And so, the remorse part gets at the point we talked about when Alex Murdaugh made the decision to testify in his own defense. That's the risk. You're trying to get - you're trying to stoke emotion. You're trying to get the jury to think you have a compelling story. But you need to have an alibi.

So, let's go back to that original part. Again, he from day one, said he was not there. He was visiting his mother and that he was not there in the kennel area. And then the prosecution had from his deceased son's phone audio. Listen?


MOYER: I didn't see any true remorse or any compassion or anything.

PILGRIM: Even though he cried a lot on the stand.

MOYER: He never cried.

PILGRIM: He never cried. What do you mean by that?

MOYER: And all he did was blow snot.

PILGRIM: Did you not see tears?

MOYER: No tears.


KING: Literally having a technical issue there. You could hear his voice clearly. Everything else crystal. When he said it was him, were you surprised? I was surprised. The juror says it was his only savior right there.

WILLIAMS: You know, look, there's a lot of things you can lie about when you're charged with murder, I think John. Where are you were at the moment that the murder happened is probably the kind of thing that a jury is not going to take lightly do. And there's a modern jury right now really cares about video evidence. That's like the one thing that resonates in our modern world, hearing his voice on that video was the thing that, you know, that was clearly problematic.


And all this again, back to this question of remorse, it kind of cuts both ways. You know, the jury, people use that to validate what they were already going to do. Either he, oh my God, he was so remorseful, he must have done it, or he wasn't remorseful, he must have done it. It's just, so, you know, it's a tricky thing to hear from a juror.

KING: And again, at the idea that Alex Murdaugh and experienced attorney, someone who clearly has an addiction problem, someone who clearly has addiction, but after you've been found guilty to stand there before the judge and say, I didn't do it, to continue to proclaim your innocence. How does that impact a judge deciding the state did not seek the death penalty? But how does that impact the judge when you don't have a definitive says, OK, I am sorry?

WILLIAMS: A few different ways. Number one, acceptance of responsibility is a factor in certain what someone's sentence ought to be. So, he said, I did it. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. That might have led to a lower state sentence. The problem is that if he admits to it, he can't appeal it. He can't then come back and say down the road, I didn't do this. And then therefore, my conviction should be overturned. So, if he plans on appealing as most defendants do, he probably couldn't have said that he like admitted the responsibility for the killing.

KING: Anything jump out at the trial that you would say there's grounds for appeal?

WILLIAMS: Well, yes, absolutely. I don't remember, I lost my train of thought. Statements, pardon me, the statements with respect to the prior crimes that he'd done, because there's a risk of prejudice, that the jury might be convicting him twice in effect or the financial crimes. He's a bad guy. He's a liar and so on and so on and so on. That fact, because it's legal, it's not even factual. That's when it's going to come up on appeal.

KING: We'll watch as it plays out. Elliot, we appreciate your time today and throughout. Up next for us, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, due at the White House very soon. On the agenda, for weapons for Ukraine and potential sanctions if China decides to help Russia.




KING: The Biden administration is announcing another giant military aid package to Ukraine today. This as the president welcomes a crucial partner in the war effort to the White House. The German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is the president's guest this afternoon.

He was last at the White House a year ago, February 2022, just two months into his tenure as chancellor and just weeks before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. There were questions then about how Germany might respond. But Chancellor Scholz has emerged as one of President Biden's closest partners in pushing to get Ukraine more sophisticated weapons for the fight.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Manu Raju, NPR's Tamara Keith and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times. So, another package of military aid today, security aid, some military aid, some ammunition like timed with the Scholz visit.

We're now in the first month of the year two. A year ago, there were questions, could Biden keep the world together? Would Scholz step up? Those questions are resolved. The question now is I guess, can you keep this together for another year?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Can you keep it together? This has been really the united front and the Biden administration, President Biden's ability to rally allies to support Ukraine, has really been one of the achievements of the administration that they have tried to celebrate throughout these past two years, and often noted as one of the accomplishments of the administration.

But now there's some questions going forward. You've got signs of mixed support among Republicans and the changing shape and outlook of Congress about whether or not they will continue to support providing this funding. Recent polling also suggests that wants very high and stable support among the American public as well, maybe starting to waver.

So now, the challenge is, if you're President Biden, how can you continue to make sure allies who are also dealing with issues when it comes to energy supplies in Europe, continue to support Ukraine, as well as how do you maintain the support of the American people as you head into an election year. Those themes are really just hanging over this meeting today.

KING: The Murdaugh defense attorneys are now speaking to reporters outside the courthouse in South Carolina. Let's listen for a few minutes.

DICK HARPOOTLIAN, ALEX MURDAUGH'S LAWYER: Other people about the case but not specifically, but technically, I think the judge had leeway to excuse her. But she clearly after we interviewed her back in chambers, in my mind had not made up her mind. And I thought that was important. I don't know she didn't express an opinion. To us, she said she was open. She had made up her mind.


I think there were significant issues, but I won't be addressing that in the Senate unless it comes up in a bill. I'm not going to mix this role with my role as a senator. I would not do that.


What was the question again? I'm sorry. JIM GRIFFIN, ALEX MURDAUGH DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Why didn't they seek the death penalty?

HARPOOTLIAN: Well, you know, I'm somebody that's prosecuted and defended a bunch of death penalty cases. And clearly, and you never do it in a circumstantial case, all because you're not - 99 times out of 100. A jury is not going to send somebody to death. I saw him do it. He confessed, or, you know, great forensic evidence at the minimum, they had none of that here.


Secondly, it would in a death penalty case, it gives us the ability to individually what dear jurors, which would have been very helpful here. And the prosecution obviously didn't want that. So, I don't disagree with, I mean if I had been prosecuting this case, I probably wouldn't have brought it, but based on, you know, what we heard was presented to the Carlton County grand jury by Detective Owen, Jim crossed blood spatter that didn't exist, testimony about guns that was wrong.

I mean, we can - and go through the litany with you, going back to his question. I think, sled needs to do some self-examination on the forensic processing. They did not - one of the things we complained about was that Maggie's phone would have had all her GPS data on it if they processed it within five days. And because they didn't, the GPS data got overwritten.

I mean, it was just one which would have been helpful to Alex because fingerprints, footprints, and all kinds of forensics things that weren't done. So, what was the other question about the judges?


HARPOOTLIAN: He's entitled to his opinion.


HARPOOTLIAN: 10 days we'll be filing an appeal. What you've said?

KING: You're listening to defense attorneys for Alex Murdaugh, who this morning was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars for murdering his wife and his son. As soon as Dianne Gallagher is on the scene for us, near the courthouse.

The defense attorneys here raising questions, Dianne, even though they lost this case, about the prosecution evidence about the conduct of the trial, which tells me those are the things they're going to notice. Mr. Harpootlian, just said one of the defense attorneys, they'll be filing an appeal quite soon.

GALLAGHER: Quite soon. He said within 10 days, they will be filing an appeal of the murder conviction. What was interesting to me, John, is that Dick Harpootlian initially mentioned that juror that was dismissed the morning of his closing of his colleague, Jim Griffin closing argument. The defense did his closing arguments, the prosecution replied.

And then the jury got to deliberations, there was a juror dismissed that same morning, he was saying, you know, I could tell in January that she was - she was going to be undecided. She was an undecided juror. They seemingly think that perhaps that changed the way that this was going to go down.

Now look, one of the jurors who did speak out this morning with good morning, America, indicated that might not have been the case, saying that there were some people who came in feeling that he was not guilty, but their minds changed within 45 minutes. Of course, they came to a verdict within three hours. John?

KING: Dianne Gallagher, again on the ground for us. Dianne, appreciate the insights. Again, we'll continue to follow the case obviously, as the appeal is filed. Dianne, thank you. Up next for us. CPAC loses some of its way as many 2024 GOP contenders look elsewhere for support. But CPAC is Donald Trump's happy place, and the former president is the top weekend attractions.




KING: There is clear evidence, CPAC is less of a draw this year, at least in part because other Republicans know it is Donald Trump's room. For years the conservative gathering drew a long list of Republicans looking to build support. This year though the list of 2024 GOP presidential hopefuls relatively short only Trump, Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo and Vivek Ramaswamy are speaking, walk around the event. And it is clear, Donald Trump is the top draw. He will deliver the keynote speech on Saturday.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is there for us, joining us now live from CPAC. And so, some candidates coming, some staying away. I remember CPAC, old 30 plus years ago, it's very different now, very Trumpy, right?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not just very Trumpian. He's not just the top drop, but the entire thing seems to be branded around Donald Trump. All the merchandise, the shirts, the bumper stickers, everything is either Trump or Trump affiliated, and it's a real who's who of the MAGA world. Earlier today, we saw Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, just moments ago was Kimberly Guilfoyle and Don Jr.

And given how Trump centric it isn't, by the way, of course, all of these people are calling for Trump to be president again in 2024. We are interested to see how the crowd reacts, when we do see those three potential 2024 hopefuls later today, particularly when it comes to Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley who served under Trump.

Now, in terms of the crowds, that enthusiasm from the speakers does seem to have trickled down too many here in the crowd. They believe that this is a movement. But I want to play for you one interview because we spoke to a number of people here, ask them about 2024 what their thoughts were about Trump, about DeSantis. Listen to this interview because we've heard this a lot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a Trump supporter because he's a warrior. He's the only one that can pull this through. I think he has to really wait. He's still very young. He's got young children. He's got a wife that's recuperating from breast cancer. He's doing a great job in Florida. I don't think he should go up against Trump.


HOLMES: This is actually something we've heard a lot. A lot of people who support Donald Trump saying that they also loved Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but they just didn't believe that it was his turn. Now, obviously, the Florida Governor is not here. He and several other of these major potential 2024 candidates are in Florida at a private donor trade hosted by Club for Growth one, that notably former President Trump was not invited to. But it was interesting to see how people viewed these two candidates here.