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New Day

Criminal Investigation Underway into Deadly Crowd Surge; 13 House Republicans Vote with Democrats to Pass Infrastructure; Officer Explains Why Police so Lenient on Kyle Rittenhouse. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 07:00   ET



JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: They're certainly worried about the spread of this, as well as the exodus of migrants and others in exile from this Central American country, so, very strong words from President Biden, certainly keeping an eye there on Nicaragua. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Jeff Zeleny, please keep us posted. Thank you very much.

New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman. It is Monday, November 8th.

Police in Houston are launching a criminal investigation after eight people were killed in a stampede at a packed music festival. Dozens more suffered injuries. And this morning, a source tells the New York Times that Houston's police chief was worried about crowd control at the Astrowold festival on Friday, that he actually visited the rapper, Travis Scott, before the show to discuss his concerns.

50,000 people, including scores of young fans, were there in attendance. And the concert quickly turned into a fight for survival.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never been in such chaos, like so unorganized, and just so many people like slamming into me, like it was really hell. It was really hell.


BERMAN: Travis Scott was the headliner and organizer of the event. It's not clear what he was able to see from the stage or whether he was even aware of the tragedy unfolding before him.

The first lawsuit has now been filed by a concertgoer against Scott, Live Nation, the concert promoter, and others. They claim they, quote, failed to properly plan and conduct the concert in a safe manner. KEILAR: And joining me now is a student who as at the concern, Joya Melvin. Joya, thank you so much for being with us to tell us what happened that night. Can you just tell us what you experienced at the concert?

JOY MELVIN, ATTENDED TRAVIS SCOTT ASTROWORLD EVENT: I was trying to go into the middle of the concert and kind of just got swarmed into the middle. And I just remember right in front of me this dude with a North Face backpack. And you know how North Face backpacks have like whistles. He kept on whistling and he was like said, dead body, move, dead body, move, dead body move.

And I was like -- everybody around me were like, no, it's not a dead body. But then we finished the concert, everything was just literally chaotic to the point where you were on top and packed like sardines.

We finished the concert and I went to the memorial and I found out that the person that I saw that they were saying, dead body, move, was, in fact, somebody who died that night.

KEILAR: So, you thought that it wasn't really happening, like when you heard this guy say, dead body, that actually didn't register as true to you?

MELVIN: No. I literally allude to the person next to me, and we were, no, that's not really right now. But it was ambulances everywhere. It was just literally an overstimulation. There was too much going on. And then just the fact -- and now that I'm recollecting, just the fact that I was breathing the same air that some people took their last breaths is just not even real.

KEILAR: So, the New York Times is reporting that the Houston police chief went ahead of the concert and told Travis Scott that the energy of the crowd was such that he had concerns. He had safety concerns. And he was obviously telling Travis Scott that he was dealing with a crowd that was very amped up. What did you think about the energy of the crowd and Travis Scott and how he was amping them up? Did that register for you?

MELVIN: Yes. I mean, personally being pushed into a mosh pit, you just can't -- you couldn't control where you were going. I was pushed into a mosh pit by accident where you just literally are being thrown into a ball of violence. He was -- he did stop the set three times but he was still pointing out -- like there was a person hang in the tree, and he was like, oh, look at that rager (ph) out in a tree. He was really still seeing people who was come pick this person up, but it was just like the show kept going on. And you saw people that were dying, I feel you should have stopped the entire show completely.

KEILAR: So, there's a video of him seeing an ambulance coming into the crowd. And he says what the F is that. Did he continue on playing after that?

MELVIN: Yes. Yes. Yes, he did.

KEILAR: And in retrospect, what do you think about that? MELVIN: As a Travis Scott fan -- as an avid Travis Scott fan, I can't even listen to his music. Out of all of our friends, we couldn't listen to any his music after the festival. I don't even see myself being a fan or even going to any type of concert soon.

KEILAR: Do you think he handled this incorrectly?

MELVIN: Personally, I do because of the Instagram video he posted. It just didn't seem as sincere as it could have been. It just felt very scripted and very much like I need to protect me.


So, I just feel like he needs to pay for the funerals or repay us for our tickets. It's a lot of things.

KEILAR: Joya, you went to this concert as a reward to yourself. You and your friends did for hard work, well-deserved. And, obviously, this is not at all what you hoped it would be.

How does this compare to other music festivals that you have been to or your friends have been to?

MELVIN: I just -- I mean, this one -- it was already energy before we even went to the concert, before we actually participated in just Travis Scott's performance. We stood in the line for merchandise for six hours of the day missing most of the acts. So, we were already messed up about that. And then to literally go to Travis Scott's main performance and see like packed up -- you couldn't enjoy the concert because it was so close and suffocating. So, it was literally hell, honestly.

KEILAR: Joya, look, I'm happy to talk with you this morning. I'm glad you're safe. And I thank you for telling us what it was like. Thank you.

MELVIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, a huge legislative milestone after years and years and years, it really is infrastructure week. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passed with bipartisan support in a bitterly divided Congress. So, where is the money going and who gets a say in how that money is spent?

CNN Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans joins me now. Romans?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Finally, show me the money. Finally, right? Here's what you'll notice, John. Electric vehicle charging stations, new air traffic control towers, electric city buses, electric school buses, maybe better Amtrak service along the northeast corridor. In the years ahead, John, expect plenty of ribbon cuttings for new bridges, bike paths and clean water projects in underserved communities.

The president has likened this new spending to the creation of the interstate highway system or even the transcontinental railroad. Much needed investments in your commute, in how you travel, how you use the internet, how water gets to your house.

Here's the breakdown, roads, airports, bridges and railroads and billions for broadband and rural areas. About half of the new money is new investments, modernizing the electric grid, better connecting America's ports, providing internet access with an eye to environmental sustainability. There's money for water projects out west where drought and fire have ravaged communities, billions for protecting America's infrastructure from both cyber attacks and from extreme weather.

And this, a first of its kind investment, to reconnect communities reversing damage from highways built right through black neighborhoods.

There's no shortage of work to do. America's infrastructure earned a C-minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers earlier this year. Congress has approved the money now. The administration will decide largely who gets it.

Unlike traditional roads and bridges spending, there are dozens of new competitive grant programs here for huge long-term projects. The Transportation Department will have much say over which state and local entities will get those grants. The transportation secretary over the weekend, John, said there are already a pile of requests on his desk for this money, John? . BERMAN: All right. We're looking forward to seeing some of those roads get paved pretty soon. Christine Romans, thank you very much.

So, this was a bipartisan action. 19 Senate Republicans voted for the infrastructure bill and 13 House Republicans broke ranks with party leadership.

And joining us now is one of those Republicans, Nicole Malliotakis of New York. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us. You just heard Christine Romans talk about some of the things in that bill. What was it inside that you liked so much for the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn that you voted yes?

REP. NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS (R-NY): Well, you know, for years, maybe decades, Republicans and Democrats, local and national leaders, have really not kept up with pace with infrastructure. And that is one of the key things that taxpayers actually paid for. When they pay their taxes, they want basic things, and roads and bridges and tunnels and ports, ensuring that they have clean water, ensuring that they have an adequate sewer system, these are the things that people expect when they pay taxes.

And so I'm happy to have joined with my colleagues to support this. One of the few bipartisan things that I have been to say has been accomplished in this Congress, for my district in particular. I mean, the money in there can be used for all sorts of projects. And I look forward to working with my local legislators to identify what priorities we're going to unite on and push across the finish line. But everything from flooding on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, to upgrading the subway signals for my constituents here in the city that are dealing with pre-World War II equipment and has led to numerous delays on the subway system.

On Staten Island, there is funding here that we can complete the HOV lane on the Staten Island Expressway, to ensure sewer infrastructure, which is so critical, as somebody who represents a district that was slammed during Ida, we need to increase the capacity of our sewers across the city of New York.


And, of course, to finish the east shore seawall, we allocated funding for that. But each day that passes, the cost of that project is increasing. And we need to make sure that it is fully funded so there are no further delays. That is something so critical to those that I represent that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

So, I look forward to working with my colleagues here locally, and the mayor and the governor to be sure the money is spent wisely and that is spent appropriately and for the projects that we so desperately need.

BERMAN: As you noted, this is one of the few bipartisan measures that seems to have gotten anywhere, not just since you've been Congress, you're fairly new, but for a long, long time. So, what was the secret sauce here? Why was President Biden able to get infrastructure week finally where former President Trump couldn't do it?

MALLIOTAKIS: Well, I think at the end of the day, look, President Trump laid the groundwork for this infrastructure to pass. He also wanted $1 trillion in spending into America's infrastructure. And it's important for economic growth, right? And we lose trillions when -- over the next decade if we did not put in this investment to upgrade and modernize our infrastructure.

So, I'm happy and I'm appreciative to President Trump for being one of the first to really talk about the need for infrastructure.

Now, I think the reason why it got over the finish line now is two- fold. Number one, moderate Republicans and Democrats really came together to say, we wanted a standalone vote on this bill. This bill had been kicking around since March. It was passed in the Senate. And, unfortunately, those who were the more progressive and socialist wing of the party were trying to hijack it to camouflage some of the Build Back Better spending bill and they didn't want to allow this to come to a vote.

But we really pushed back and said, we want this to be independently debated and voted on, and the American people deserve that type of transparency. So, I think at the end of the day, this coalition of Democrats and Republicans that demanded that it be brought for an independent vote were the ones that brought it over the finish line. And I think it was just a good victory not just for the people in my district but all across America. And, look, Republicans will get credit. Democrats will get some credit. The president will get some credit. And President Trump does deserve some credit for initially saying that we need to invest $1 trillion into our infrastructure. At the end of the day, it's the people of this country and the people in my district that are big winners.

BERMAN: You have received some backlash for your vote here. In some cases, it was pre-backlash. I don't know what you call that, pre- backlash, pre-lash, to your vote here. This was from Madison Cawthorn who tweeted, vote for this infrastructure bill and I will primary the hell out of you. Marjorie Taylor Greene said that you and others who supported this bill will feel the anger of the GOP voter. How scared are you of Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene?

MALLIOTAKIS: Look, I don't work for anybody except for my constituents, the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn. I'm going to do what is in their best interest. There are some who wanted to deny the president for being able to take any credit. That's the way they legislate. That's their business. But I'm going to do what's in the best interest of my country and my community, and that's that.

But I will say also that, unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation out there about this bill. And people should be clear that there is another spending bill, and that's the bill that contains the 87,000 IRS agents. That's the bill that contains the amnesty provisions and handouts to those in the country illegally. And that is the one people are mostly upset and angry about. And I think that people have to differentiate that these are two different bills.

And I think actually by passing this bipartisan infrastructure bill that we've actually undermined Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the socialist wing of the Democratic Party from being able to hold infrastructure hostage. And now they have lost their leverage. And I think that's an important thing to say.

So, at the end of the day, I think it was those of us who were willing to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass this that actually did what was in the best interest of America.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Malliotakis, thank you for being with us. I appreciate seeing you this morning. Please come back on New Day.


BERMAN: So, how could the infrastructure bill help relieve supply chain shortages? The White House joins us live in just a few minutes.

KEILAR: Also ahead, why Ted Cruz and other Republicans are trolling Big Bird.

And, first, the juror kicked off the Kyle Rittenhouse case for telling a joke about Jacob Blake, who was shot many times by police. We'll have reaction from Blake's uncle, next.


BERMAN: In just a few hours, testimony resumes in the trial of Kenosha gunman Kyle Rittenhouse. Jurors have already heard a police officer explained why he did not arrest Rittenhouse when the teen approached with his hands up moments after killing two men and wounding another.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz live in Kenosha this morning with a preview of what we expect to see. Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, that officer testifying on Friday, you know, we've all seen the video of Kyle Rittenhouse walking with his hands up as the police are coming into the area following the shooting, this officer testifying on Friday that he saw many people with rifles. Seemingly, it didn't seem unusual, he didn't believe that Kyle Rittenhouse was responsible for those shots fired. Here's more on what that officer said.


PEP MORETTI, KENOSHA POLICE OFFICER: There was constant gunfire.


That was of the things that when we first encountered Mr. Rittenhouse, that didn't set off any alarms for us. As far as him being a potential shooter in this incident was that there was still gunfire erupting around us while we were still out on Sheridan. So, we thought there was still an active threat.


PROKUPECZ: And, you know, one of the things that has been so striking during this trial is listening to some of the people who brought those guns, some of those people who were part of this paramilitary kind of group that came in to Kenosha, just seemingly thinking like it was just perfectly normal for them to come here armed with these AR-15- style rifles because they say to protect the community.

There was a person who testified on Friday that's connected to some of the establishments here so that they didn't even ask for this kind of help but these people came anyway.

Significant testimony expected today from one of the surviving victims, Gaige Grosskreutz. It's expected to be a pretty emotional day for the prosecutors as they start to wrap up, start to wrap up their case. They are expected to wrap up their case as early as tomorrow.

BERMAN: Things seem to be moving pretty quickly. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you very much.


KEILAR: A juror was kicked off of the Kyle Rittenhouse case after he admitted telling a joke to a deputy about the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot seven times, and that left him paralyzed. And it sparked the protests that took place the night of the Rittenhouse shootings.

Here's what the judge told that juror as he dismissed him.


JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER, KENOSHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: It is clear that the appearance of bias is present. And it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case.

The public needs to be confident that this is a fair trial. And I think even at the very most, it was bad judgment to tell a joke of that nature.


KEILAR: Now, joining us, Jacob Blake's uncle, Justin Blake. Justin, thank you so much for being with us this morning from Wisconsin. What is your reaction to hearing that this juror told this joke about your nephew?

JUSTIN BLAKE, UNCLE OF JACOB BLAKE: Well, you know, the Blake family, we have thick skin. So we have heard worse than this. But the fact of the matter is this guy was sitting on a very important jury. They picked the jury in one day. You know, this isn't a bump and run. This isn't a shoplifting case. This is a double murder case. And in our opinion, it should have taken longer than a week -- at least a couple of days to pick a jury and I think we would be able to weed guys out like this guy.

KEILAR: So, what does that tell you? What concerns does this raise for you about other jurors having, as the judge said, bias?

BLAKE: Well, the judge, in our opinion, has had his hand on the scale of justice since the beginning. He wouldn't allow the pictures go in of the young man throwing up whatever sign it was with the organization he was involved with, which has similar ideology of the Ku Klux Klan and the skinheads, which is now fast fowarded to the new names that they use. He wouldn't allow the victims to be referred to as victims in the courthouse. We have had testimony -- somebody sent us a video of the judge using the word, nigger, in his courtroom.

So, it is not a company feeling to know that they are not playing on a level field for justice. And that's why we're trying to keep everybody's eyes of this city, county and state in the nation on this court to make sure they get it right.

KEILAR: And, look, you have been very critical of the judge in this case, as we hear now, as we have heard before. You do think this was the right call, though?

BLAKE: Oh, well, that's the first right thing that he's done thus far. And we hope now that they have seated the 12, that anybody with any type of morals and any type of common knowledge will look at the evidence and figure out that this guy came into the state with an illegal weapon at 17 years old that he shouldn't have had and murdered two people.

If you look at the video, his eyes look like a deer in the headlights. He wasn't trained to be around that many people with that weapon that he had. And it showed. Because out of all the people who were here with guns, the youngest guy who wasn't supposed to have the weapon ended up murdering two people.

KEILAR: I wonder is the prosecution, Justin, is expected wrapping up this up potentially as early as tomorrow. What are you expecting?

BLAKE: Well, we hope they end with a landslide. I wish they would have taken more of the people that were in the crowd that actually saw what happened. However, they've got the clear evidence from the FBI helicopter that this kid was aggressive and that he went towards these people and murdered the two people.

We know the defense is coming next. And they're trying to make the two young men like the boogeyman. So, they were saying how they have had homeless background, how they have been in jail before, things of that nature.


As an African-American, we have heard all that stuff. Stop it. They were trying to secure and stop a young man with a weapon that was dangerously wailing it around in a crowd of hundreds. And at the end of the, two people were murdered because of the mishandling of a weapon of a young man who was 17-year-old who shouldn't have had it in the first place

KEILAR: Justin, look, we know you are watching this carefully. We are watching it carefully as well. Justin Blake, thank you for being with us this morning.

BLAKE: Thank you very much. Big ups to the red, the black and the green, unity now, one Africa.

KEILAR: So, just in, brand-new CNN reporting on a rare conversation between the CIA director and Russia's Vladimir Putin.

BERMAN: And if you hate Big Bird and Elvis, do you hate America? Why Ted Cruz has a problem with sunny days.