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Dominique Dawes is Interviewed about Gymnasts Testifying Before Congress; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is Interviewed about Milley's Call to China; Lawyer Accused of Hiring Own Hitman to Surrender Today. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 16, 2021 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Emotional and harrowing testimony from four acclaimed U.S. gymnasts, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman, speaking out at a Senate hearing into the FBI's handling of sex abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar.


SIMONE BILES, U.S. GYMNAST: To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.

MCKAYLA MARONEY, U.S. GYMNAST: Today, I ask you all to hear my voice. I ask you, please, do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report, and for covering up for a child molester.

MAGGIE NICHOLS, U.S. GYMNAST: This conduct by these FBI agents, including the special agent in charge, who are held in high regard and expected to protect the public, is unacceptable, disgusting, and shameful.

ALY RAISMAN, U.S. GYMNAST: If we don't do all we can to get these facts, the problems we are here to address will persist. And we are deluding ourselves if we think other children can be spared the institutionalized tolerance and normalization of abuse that I and so many others had to endure.


BERMAN: And joining me now is three-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist Dominique Dawes.

Thank you so much for being with us.

This was such powerful, courageous testimony. What was it for you -- what was it like for you to listen to this?

DOMINIQUE DAWES, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL GYMNAST, THREE-TIME OLYMPIAN: It was heart-wrenching, you know. I watched it with my husband and my twins that were home, my other kids were at school. And I did a couple of interviews and afterwards broke down and I was completely on the floor crying because I felt for these young women. Their bravery, as you mentioned, their courage to speak their truth, and to know that using their voice is going to make sure that the culture of the sport of gymnastics is going to change.

It's the toxic culture that allowed Larry Nassar, someone that I knew for nearly ten years of my childhood, that's what allowed him to get away with what he got away with, with hundreds and hundreds of young girls.

BERMAN: You know, what was so interesting to me was that these are people who clearly are used to taking on challenges. But this is something even different. This is taking on a system. This is taking on the FBI, right? So I just --


BERMAN: Go ahead.

DAWES: No, it's very sad to know -- we knew about the level of, let's say corruption with USA Gymnastics. We know about the toxicity of the culture of gymnastics. (INAUDIBLE) coach there. I mean these young girls were being abused and you would think that they spend more time with their private coaches than they do with their own -- than their own parents. Why didn't they feel comfortable enough to speak up to their coaches? Just ask yourself that. They're right there.

And now to know that the FBI dropped the ball, it was a great deal of greed. It's -- a lot of the sport of gymnastics is about medal and money and that greed trickled over also with regard to the FBI.

BERMAN: Yes, and what does it say to you that the FBI wasn't is there? I mean worse than wasn't there. In some cases, to hear McKayla Maroney say it, you know, this is just pure malfeasance.

DAWES: Well, she even said in one of her statements, he -- the FBI agent said, is that it? You know, it -- that's why so many victims of all levels of abuse are afraid to come forward because they are -- there is this belief that they won't be believed, or it is -- was it really that bad?

And even someone had brought that to my attention when I had spoken about the different abuses that go on in the sport of gymnastics. All you have to do is go to #gymnastalliance, #gymnastalliance. Many gymnasts around the globe have been speaking out about the toxicity of the sport.


It's not just the sexual abuse. It's the physical, emotional, mental, psychological abuse and verbal abuse that leaves long-term ill effects on people for the rest of their lives. And I think that's where many victims don't want to come forward because they don't think they're going to be heard.

BERMAN: Well, Dominique Dawes, I know you're trying to change this system in your daily work and at your gym, and I do appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you.

DAWES: Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

BERMAN: A top U.S. general facing backlash over reports of secret phone calls to China. Reaction from a key Republican in Congress, next.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And the major development expected today for a lawyer who police say planned his own shooting.


KEILAR: The Biden administration is defending the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, after it was reported in a new book that Milley made phone calls to reassure China's top general, without then President Trump's knowledge, and that he tried to limit the possibility of Trump launching a military strike.


Here's White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaking about this yesterday.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But what I can assure you all of is that the president knows General Milley. He has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs for almost eight months of his presidency. They've worked side by side through a range of international events. And the president has complete confidence in his leadership, his patriotism, and his fidelity to our Constitution.


KEILAR: Joining me now, Republican Congressman from Illinois, Adam Kinzinger. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Sir, thanks for being with us this morning.


KEILAR: Look, I just want to ask you first, how do you view Milley's calls to General Li of China?

KINZINGER: Look, I really want to hear from General Milley on this. You know, what we have now is leaked excerpts. But I can talk in theory here. If -- if there was a real concern about, you know, some kind of flash point between China and the United States, a back channel communication is not a bad thing. However, I've got to be honest with you, the idea that China was

scared that Donald Trump was going to launch a nuclear weapon, or that, you know, there was all this fear, General Milley could easily have set up, as supposedly he did, hey, we're not going to launch nukes in an m-world (ph) kind of war.

But I've got to tell you, truthfully what the Chinese and I think the Russians, frankly, thought of Donald Trump was not that he was a loose cannon that was going to launch nukes everywhere, but the guy was actually scared to take action anywhere. And that's what you saw in China's expansion, Russia's expansion, et cetera.

But I do think it is important now, since General Milley is still in the position he is, for us to get a full accounting of what happened because I think it's appropriate for the general to have unilaterally called China unless there was a real fear, in which case we deserve to know what that was as well.

KEILAR: In the case -- there isn't really a lot of chatter, at least so far that we know of, about Russia in this book. But when it comes to China, you know, it was -- it was President Xi that was sitting at Mar-a-Lago with President Trump when he was launching a missile strike against Syria, which certainly would have left an impact on a world leader to see the president of the United States do that over a piece of chocolate cake. You know, it sounds like maybe there was some concern for them to be jittery, no?

KINZINGER: Well, let's keep in mind, that was one of the weaker strikes against Syria. It didn't really have an effect at all except more kind of psychological for us, not even against Syria.

Look, I mean, this is why I think we need more answers to this. Like I said, if this was an appropriate thing for the general to do, and maybe it was, that means there was some real deep concern. But otherwise you don't reach out and call our enemies like this.

And so, you know, look, I -- the bottom line is January 6th was an awful day. January 6th put us in a very weak position, which is why I called for the 25th Amendment to be executed immediately because I thought for a couple weeks we basically felt like we didn't have a commander in chief. But we have to be really, really concerned with maintaining the civility and control over the military. And that's why we need more answers, I think.

KEILAR: Well, let's talk about that because Milley thought that Trump post-election, and certainly post January 6th, was in a state of mental decline. What is your reaction to learning that?

KINZINGER: I don't disagree. I mean, again, this is why I said I think the 25th Amendment needs put into effect here, not as some kind of pay back for January 6th, but because during that two-week period between inauguration and from January 6th, it really felt like we didn't have a leader at the head.

And all you have to do is look at, you know, Donald Trump praising General Lee today and saying he would have won Afghanistan. You know, Donald Trump excited (ph), in essence, that we failed in Afghanistan because he can now point and say he didn't do that, even though we all know he really led to the set-up of what happened in Afghanistan.

Look, the American -- I've got to just say, you know, the American people deserve way better than what they've had. You know, Joe Biden's a decent man. I fully think he failed and botched the Afghanistan withdrawal. Donald Trump set that up. And we're stuck in this like matrix of belief that we only have -- if we don't like Joe Biden, we've got to go with Donald Trump. Like, no. Like, the American people deserve so much better. We're an amazing country.

KEILAR: Some pretty eye-popping poll numbers that we've learned of 78 percent of Republicans -- so these are, you know, Republican -- potential Republican voters, they believe that Biden didn't have enough votes to win the election. How do you reverse that kind of mentality? Has the big lie won in the Republican Party?

KINZINGER: You know, I hope not. I guess if I had the answer on how to reverse it, I probably would have implemented it.

I think here's part of the problem. You know, after January 6th, after this whole big lie stuff, people were looking for leadership out of D.C.


And when all of the people -- if you're a base Republican voter and all the people you trust are quiet and go along with the big lie, or, you know, at least acquiesce to it, you have no reason to believe otherwise.

And so when it basically ends up with like me, Liz Cheney and a few others out there saying the election wasn't stolen, I mean, I guess we can be happy that a quarter -- or a third of Republicans don't, but I don't know the answer besides come out and keep saying, ladies and gentlemen, you know, Donald Trump lost, not because the election was stolen, but because he ran an election focused on firing up only the most extreme element of the Republican Party, and he turned off the swing voters that typically used to vote Republican, including those in the suburbs near where I live that had been Republicans their entire life that would never consider themselves Republicans today. Not because they've changed, but because you've changed.

KEILAR: The Capitol complex looks different this morning. We are seeing fences that have gone up ahead of this rally this weekend, the Justice for January 6th, Justice for J-6 rally, as it's being called by its right-wing organizers. And most GOP lawmakers, I think sitting lawmakers, are ignoring invitations to come. They're not condemning the rally, though. And there are actually two Republican congressional candidates who are going to be in attendance.

What do you think it would be like to be sitting in the House chamber next to a member of Congress who supported at a rally people who had broken into or tried to break into the House chamber?

KINZINGER: You know, I don't know. Let's keep in mind, Oath Keepers may try to sound like they're some constitutional, America flag-waving thing. No, they are all about the overthrow of the federal government.

You know, when we talk about things like vaccines, door to door vaccines, and you have this ominous, they're going to come jamb a vaccine in your arm and murder your family, the federal government, no, all the federal government's talking about is like, hey, if we can make it convenient for you to be healthy, let's do that.

And now all of a sudden these groups are like, overthrow the government. I mean this overthrow the government fetish that exists. I don't understand it except there's a lot of bored people out there that probably never served a day in their life in the military and get to go play dress-up.

So if one of those folks gets elected to Congress and sits next to me, I don't think -- you cannot be against the Constitution and also somehow swear to the Constitution that you're going to protect it. It's bull crap, and, frankly, if we have to have, you know, this fence put up every time somebody that hates the federal government goes and rallies, it is time for the Republican Party to denounce militiaism and to just say, we are a country that takes our disagreements and we discuss them in Congress. We don't do this violently and with all this angst that everybody has nowadays.

Let's do this as grownups and do it in the government that we inherited from some people that made some pretty bold moves a few hundred years ago.

KEILAR: Congressman, thank you for coming on this morning. We do appreciate it.

Adam Kinzinger.


KEILAR: The South Carolina attorney accused of trying to stage his own killing is about to turn himself in. We have a live report next.

BERMAN: And the Biden administration's dramatic, new move to keep China in check with nuclear powered submarines.



BERMAN: Just hours from now, the South Carolina lawyer, accused of arranging his own murder so his son could collect life insurance, will turn himself in. This is just the latest turn in the saga of Alex Murdaugh whose wife and son were found murdered at the family's home in June. And we're now learning of other bloody tragedies involving the family.

Martin Savidge is live outside the jail where Murdaugh is expected to surrender today.

Martin, again, I have to say, it was 24 hours ago we spoke and there have been a half dozen new, stunning developments since then. MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have. I mean this case has no

shortage of surprises, which is why when even through the attorneys say that Alex Murdaugh is going to turn himself in sometime today, we'll wait and see on that.

We understand, according to the attorneys, that they believe there's an arrest warrant that's been issued for Alex Murdaugh for conspiring to commit insurance fraud. This goes to this kind of murder for hire scheme in which he allegedly hired a hit man to kill himself so that his family would collect on a multi-million dollar insurance plan.

It all went awry, of course, when he was shot in the head, but he didn't die.

Now there's another death that's being investigated. This one by SLED, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and it has to do with Gloria Satterfield.

Gloria Satterfield was a, as far as I'm told, a beloved housekeeper at the Murdaugh property who tragically, in 2018, died in a trip and fall. There are now questions being asked by the coroner about her death, number one, that it was listed as a death by natural causes and there was never any kind of autopsy, which that kind of accident should have triggered.

There's also the question that the family, the Satterfield family, reached a financial settlement in a lawsuit for about a half million dollars and yet the family maintains they didn't get a dime. So this raises the question of, where did the money go? So consistent themes here or perhaps the family was able to use its influence in some way to alter things. It has no proof as yet, but a lot of people feel that way, John.

BERMAN: Martin savage, keep us posted. We know we'll be hearing from you again later today.

SAVIDGE: You're welcome.

BERMAN: And just ahead, the new security in place for Saturday's Capitol Hill rally in support of the January 6th rioters.



KEILAR: Nearly 70,000 Americans died from opioid related overdoses last year, setting a new record. In today's "The Human Factor," one doctor lost both her sons to opioid overdoses is hoping to change that.


DR. BONNIE MILAS, ANESTHESIOLOGIST, PENN MEDICINE: I am a cardiac anesthesiologist. I have tragically lost both of my adult sons to accidental opioid overdoses.

I got involved in my local drug and alcohol commission.

Are you OK?

We developed a training program about how to recognize an overdose, and how to reverse it. Also CPR skills. Narcan can be given to someone who has overdosed on opioids, and it will reverse the effects of the opioid and allows the individual to become conscious again.

Tip their chin back. Put the dose in their nostril.

I have had the experience on multiple occasions where I had to revive one of my sons. So whether you're a concerned citizen or anyone who has an opioid prescription in their home, you, too, live in a high- risk home. You need the training.

There are many online training sessions. The medication itself, you can have it mailed to your home for free.

The average time that it takes for EMS to arrive at your home is seven minutes. If you're rural, it can be 14 minutes. Time is critically important.

I know what this looks like in my home. I know what this can look like in your home.



KEILAR: Such an important message and thing that she's doing there.

BERMAN: Trying to make sure people don't suffer the pain that she did.