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Arbery Trial Analysis; End to COVID Pandemic Signs; Michael Wise is Interviewed about Aaron Rodgers; Hackers Breach Defense, Education, Health Care and Energy Groups; Biden Blasts Nicaragua's Elections. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, testimony continues in the trial of the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Here's what we heard in the opening statements from the prosecution and defense. I do want to warn you, the following clip contains strong language.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, PROSECUTOR: Greg McMichael told the police this, stop or I'll blow your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head off. That's what he said to Mr. Arbery. Because he wanted to make sure Mr. Arbery knew Greg McMichael was not playing.

ROBERT G. RUBIN, ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: It's tragic that Ahmaud Arbery lost his life. But at that point, Travis McMichael is acting in self-defense.


BERMAN: Joining me now is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson, and CNN legal analyst and former New York City prosecutor Paul Callan.

Paul, during the opening statements there was video played of Arbery's death. And during that time, his mother was in the courtroom sobbing. Do you think there's potential impact in that?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's a huge impact in that. And I know Joey would agree with me on this because we have both tried murder cases as prosecutors and defense attorneys. Usually, the family member leaves the courtroom before graphic video or photographs are displayed concerning the deceased because there's always a fear that there will be a reaction, as there was in this case.

In this case, the mother had every right to remain in that courtroom, and she did. And when she reacted to her son being shot to death, I think that was a big, big moment in the trial. And it had to have a huge effect on the jury.


JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, there's no question about it, John. I mean, look, you -- you will be instructed -- the jurors will be instructed by the judge to leave the emotion at the door, to judge the case predicated upon the facts and circumstance as they come out before them, right?

Having said that, we're human beings. And there's a -- there's a child that is lost here, right? An adult, but, you know, no matter how old you are, to your mother you're a child, right? And so that has a significant impact.

On the merits of the opening statements, I thought that the prosecution did a very, very significant job at blunting this whole issue of the citizen's arrest law, right, because when you talk about a citizen's arrest law, there has to be a crime that's committed for it to be implicated, for you to otherwise try to exercise an arrest. And what the prosecution did very effectively was saying, number one, you didn't have any knowledge of any crime. He's milling about. And certainly you had no -- you were not present. And in addition to that, it certainly wasn't a felony. You didn't see him engage in any other activities. And so I thought they did a very effective job with respect to laying out the case that you didn't even have a right, if you're one of the three defendants, to be chasing him, much less to arrest or otherwise shoot him. And that's going to be a big problem for the defense, I think, moving forward.

BERMAN: What about Joey's point right there, Paul?

CALLAN: Well, yes, the prosecutor did a very, very good job in her opening. She said it was a murder based on assumptions rather than on real knowledge.

The defense, however, they countered by saying, we were aware, as a result of videotapes, that Arbery had entered a house that was under construction, was seen milling around at the house and then leaving. And from that they drew the conclusion that he was a burglar of some kind and that, therefore, they had the right under this bizarre law that Georgia had from about 1863, right after the Civil War, that citizens in that situation can go out and possibly make an arrest. That's the case they put on the table for the jury.

John, I think they're going to have trouble backing it up, but that was the opening statement.

BERMAN: You know, I was a bad construction worker for a few years in high school and college and, as a result, I like walking around construction sites and houses being built, which I guess is probably trespassing. That's not a --

CALLAN: Trespassing, but it's not burglary, because burglary is, you have to trespass and commit another crime. You have to steal something, commit an assault or that sort of thing. And we can all remember when we were kids, or working on construction sites, you might wander into a construction site just to look around. That's not a felony anyplace. JACKSON: Yes. And just a quick point to be made, John. I think the defense has three significant issues here that are problems for the defense.


Number one is the -- what we've been talking about, whether or not the jury even decides and is inclined to use the citizen's arrest law because before they do that, they have to determine that a crime was committed, or a felony was committed. If there is no predicate felony, then you cannot have the privilege of the law.

Number two, I think, to argue this self-defense, was there an immediacy of a threat posed by Arbery at the time? Was the force used, three shots, proportionate to the threat that was posed and did they act reasonably? And, finally, John, the last thing is, you're the initial aggressor, meaning, if I'm chasing you, if I'm pressuring you, I don't get the benefit as the initial aggressor to use self-defense in the first instance. So those were all the issues the defense has to overcome if they're to be successful in defending their client.

CALLAN: But the one thing they've got to win on is with this jury. And it was a disgrace. You wound up with a jury with 11 whites and one African-American on the jury. And a lot of times the community composition of the jury is the thing that moves the verdict one way or the other.

JACKSON: That's very true.

BERMAN: Paul Callan, Joey Jackson, appreciate you both.

JACKSON: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you.

This morning, Senator Ted Cruz, hell bent on tearing down American icons. Big Bird is in his crosshairs. Is Elvis next?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, Aaron Rodgers wants the world to know that he's a critical thinker when it comes to vaccines. We will break down the dangerous anti-vax behavior from influential celebrities.



BERMAN: A big milestone in the pandemic this morning as the U.S. opens its borders to international travelers who are vaccinated. More American children are getting vaccinated. We have new CNN reporting about the pandemic end game here.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard joins me now.

So, Jacqueline, how will we know when it's over? JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Yes, John, I mean we are making progress. But what's wild, health officials and infectious decease experts are still trying to land on that metric to determine when the pandemic is over. There's still no clear threshold yet on when we can officially say the pandemic has ended.

But what I can tell you, I reached out to the CDC on this. The agency confirmed we are still in a pandemic phase. But to reach our end goal, we have to get vaccination rates up. You see here, currently, about 58 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Health officials say we need to get that percentage even higher.

And the other measure that we have to really address is getting case numbers down even more. We're making progress on that, but we still need our case numbers even lower.

And this is something that came up in a recent Senate committee hearing. Here's what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to say about the pandemic's end game.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we hope to get it as, it's such a low level that even though it isn't completely eliminated, it doesn't have a major impact on public health or on the way we run our lives. We would hope that as we get people more vaccinated, not only in this country but throughout the world, that the level of viral dynamics will be so low. I can't predict for you today when that will be.


HOWARD: So, we can't predict when that will be. But what we can say is the coronavirus will not go completely away. When we end the pandemic, we'll enter an endemic phase where it is still circulating but it's at a low enough level where it's not having a strain on public health. And, again, infectious disease experts and health officials are working on determining what that metric is for when we finish -- or when we cross the finish line.


BERMAN: All right, Jacqueline Howard, thanks very much.

KEILAR: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers breaking his silence, but he isn't saying -- what he is saying is that he's not anti-vax, he says he's just a critical thinker.


AARON RODGERS, GREEN BAY PACKERS QUARTERBACK: I realize I'm in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now. So before my finally nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I'm not, you know, some sort of anti- vax flat earther. I am somebody who's a critical thinker. You guys know me. I march to the beat of my own drum.


KEILAR: So he joins a long list of celebrities promoting an anti- COVID-19 vax message, from Kyrie Irving's very public dispute with the Brooklyn Nets over his vaccination status, to Nicki Minaj tweeting out concerns about her cousin's friend's, you know.

So, joining me now to talk about this is sports journalist and host of "The Mike Wise Show" podcast, Michael Wise.

Mike, thanks for being with us.

I wonder, first, want you think about Aaron Rodgers saying that he's a critical thinker is his defense for not getting the vaccination?

MICHAEL WISE, SPORTS JOURNALIST: Well, it sounds -- anybody who calls themselves a critical thinker, I worry about, first of all. But, also, I was bothered especially by the fact that he thought that this was like getting his tonsils out, an elective surgery or something. He had no thought to the health and well-being of his teammates, people around him that he deals with in society every day. I just thought -- I thought it was very small minded of a guy who, by and large, Brianna, has had a career of being a socially conscious, enlightened athlete.

KEILAR: But, I mean, he -- Mike, he's, obviously, very convinced that he's right. He went as far as quoting Martin Luther King.

WISE: Yes, and this was a -- you talk about a faux pas to end all faux pas. You can't do this when you're using quotes -- Martin Luther King Jr. -- regarding you standing up to society's rules that don't match your ideas and you think are dumb or stupid.


I don't understand in my head how Aaron Rodgers has jumped onto this bandwagon of society telling him to do something and using his personal freedoms as an excuse for not being a good citizen and just getting vaccinated and not infecting everybody else. I -- a -- the duplicity bothers me the most. The fact that he said that he was immunized and he blamed the media for not asking a follow-up question about whether he was vaccinated or not. And immunized apparently to him was using ivermectin and calling Joe Rogan. I don't understand how that's possible. That's not critical thinking, in my estimation.

KEILAR: What do you think of that? He's using Joe Rogan for expert advice. He's calling in to "The Pat McAfee Show."

WISE: I -- this is the thing -- and maybe this is just society. Maybe I'm old. Maybe I need to be canceled. But he didn't have to go on with you, Brianna, on CNN. He didn't have to go on "60 Minutes" with Scott Pelley. But Pat McAfee is like -- he's host of WWE "Smackdown." Joe Rogan is a podcaster. Somewhere Anthony Fauci -- Dr. Anthony Fauci is thinking to himself, ah, maybe he's right, what do I know? I don't even have a podcast.

Where -- where are we in society where this becomes the platform or a future Hall of Fame quarterback. A person -- I'll remind you that just a year ago chastised Drew Brees for speaking out against racial injustice and people kneeling and confusing it conflating it with being unpatriotic and what essentially President Trump did. He conflated that and he used it as a referendum for patriotism for athletes, which was wrong. Drew Brees has done a 180, one of the great 180s I've ever seen in American public life, and I don't think he's going to recover from this.

KEILAR: You're -- Aaron Rodgers has done a 180, you're saying?

WISE: Yes, I think Aaron Rodgers --

KEILAR: Yes, sorry, you said Drew Brees. I just wanted to -- I just wanted to correct that.

WISE: Oh, I -- sorry.

KEILAR: Yes, I mean, look -- look, Mike --

WISE: So, Drew -- Drew -- Drew, if you're out there, you're a good person.

Aaron Rodgers, I can't tell you how many people, not just don't like Aaron Rodgers. If he thought he had it bad from Bears and Vikings fans who were mean spirited and awful, he's got no idea what's coming for him. He's got a community of people that don't want their children infected, that don't want their wives or their husbands infected. And I think it's -- it's -- there's a disrespect level that goes beyond just being a good teammate here.

KEILAR: Yes, Mike, thank you so much for joining us. It's so important. It gets so much attention when someone like Aaron Rodgers is saying this.

WISE: Yes.

KEILAR: So, up next, foreign hackers breach nine organizations in defense and other sensitive sectors in an ongoing espionage campaign. What CNN's new reporting has uncovered here.

BERMAN: And why President Biden is calling Nicaragua's elections a sham.



KEILAR: New this morning, CNN has learned federal investigators are looking into an apparent cyberattack after hackers tried to steal sensitive data from multiple U.S. defense contractors, among other key sectors.

CNN's Sean Lyngaas is live with the latest on this.

OK, what is it? What have you learned here? SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Well, what we've learned is

that in the last several weeks, foreign hackers have launched several attempted intrusions into U.S. Defense contractors, firms in the energy sector and elsewhere in the U.S. and in other countries as well. And it's too early to say who exactly is behind this. But the research that was shared with me at the NSA and that DHS is looking at indicates that it is possible it is a Chinese hacking group, but with haven't confirmed that yet

KEILAR: So what are they looking for? What are the vulnerabilities here?

LYNGAAS: Well, the hackers are using -- they're scanning the Internet for venerable software and then they're picking out targets from a huge batch of potential targets to narrow in on the sensitive data from organizations that they want. This is a classic espionage effort. And from there they're burrowing down further into the computer networks to try to access emails potentially and other information.

KEILAR: What could they do? I mean if you're talking about the energy sector, could they shut things down potentially or --

LYNGAAS: Not in this case. That's not the goal. This is pure espionage and it's just focused on communications between sensitive companies and government clients potentially.


All right, Sean, thank you so much for the very latest on that. Sean Lyngaas.

LYNGAAS: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Biden slamming Nicaraguan sham elections. How the Nicaraguan leader is responding.

BERMAN: The deadly concert in Houston that killed eight and left dozens injured. Witnesses describe the hellish scene.



BERMAN: President Biden is not mincing words as he takes aim at what he calls Nicaragua's sham elections.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny live at the White House.

What's going on here, Jeff?


The White House is keeping a very close eye on Nicaragua over the weekend, with President Biden, as you said, blasting those presidential elections yesterday as simply a sham and undemocratic. Now Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is running for a fourth term. But for month opposition has been building. He's been imprisoning his opponents and squelching any decent.

Well, all of that built into the presidential election on Sunday. Not many people turning out. Opponents urging people there to not vote to legitimize the process.

But strong words from President Biden on Sunday. He called it a pantomime election that was neither free nor fair and certainly not democratic. The president goes on to say, the U.S., in close consultation with other members of the international community, will use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support the people of Nicaragua and hold accountable the Ortega-Murillo government and those that facilitate its abuses.

So, John, the reason the White House is so concerned about this, simply seeing anti-democratic regimes across the country, certainly in Central America.


They're wording it -- they're certainly worried about the spread of this, as well as the exodus of migrants and others in exile from the