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New Day

Today, Steve Bannon to Surrender in Contempt Indictment; Closing Argument Today in Rittenhouse Trial, What to Expect; Nine- Year-Old Boy Becomes Tenth Victim Killed in Astroworld Stampede. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 15, 2021 - 07:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: I thought it was really funny in the interview that he thinks Taylor Swift is a big deal and he kind of only is starting to realize his mom is a pretty big deal too.


So --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Adele took him to a Taylor Swift concert. Pretty sweet to have connections like that.

NORA PRINCIOTTI, CO-HOST, THE RINGER'S EVERY SINGLE ALBUM PODCAST: Look, we all think Taylor Swift is a pretty big deal.

KEILAR: But Adele is too, a little bit, I will say. Nora, it is awesome see you. Thank you for joining us.

PRINCIOTTI: Thank you, guys.

KEILAR: New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Monday, November 15th.

And you are looking at live pictures of Steve Bannon's Washington home. President Trump's former chief strategist is expected to turn himself in to authorities at any time this morning. He is also scheduled to make his first court appearance this afternoon to face a two-count federal indictment for contempt of Congress after defying a sub from the January 6th select committee.

BERMAN: And stunning new revelations this morning detailing how desperate the former president was to overturn his election loss. Listen to Trump's own words about his vice president in this new interview with Jonathan Karl from ABC News.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a report. And excuse my language.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not mine. It was in the report that you talked to him that morning. You said you can be a patriot or you can be (BLEEP). Did you really say that or is that incorrect --

TRUMP: I wouldn't dispute it.


TRUMP I wouldn't dispute it.


BERMAN: Karl also reports on a memo that former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows emailed to Pence's top aide containing a detailed plan for undoing Biden's victory.

We should note, this is in Jonathan Karl's upcoming book, Betrayal.

Whitney Wild live outside the D.C. courthouse where Steve Bannon is expected to appear today. Whitney?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, John. This is a big moment and it's for a list of reasons.

The first is that this is more proof that the power that the House select has to compel people to both produce documents and supply critical testimony is the real deal. So, we have a list of people, as you mentioned earlier in the broadcast, who are basically playing chicken with this committee. And now the committee can say with certainty that if people continue to defy these subpoenas, if they continue to blow off the committee completely, the Department of Justice will be compelled to bring them for a criminal contempt.

This is not insignificant, John, because if convicted, this comes with a minimum amount of time of 30 minutes -- excuse me, 30 days in jail, $1,000 fine, it could be up to a year in jail. So, consequences here are the real deal.

Let's bring you back up to speed. The House select committee wants to discuss with Steve Bannon of a list of things, not the least of which his communications with President Trump surrounding this rally. You know that January 5th, a critical day, he was in this Willard war room, okay? So this is at the very center of this effort to overturn the election, the House select committee believes, it was the day that preceded the riot. They believe he was really at the center of this effort to undo the election.

And they want to discuss with him not only his communications with President Trump but his communications with other people who were in that circle. That is important because what Bannon has been arguing here is that his communications are privileged under this executive privilege umbrella here. However, we know that he was not an employee of the White House at the time. We also know that he was having conversations with other people who were outside of the White House. So, in theory, those communications, at a minimum, should not be protected by executive privilege because the president wasn't involved in those.

This is a two-count indictment. It surrounds his failure to produce the documents, failure to appear for a testimony. As you mentioned, he's expected to appear here today. This is the first of what will very likely be a long list of court appearances, a lengthy court battle here.

But, again, John and Brianna, the point here is that this is the real deal. People who blow off the House select committee will very likely have to appear in federal court and be facing criminal contempt charges. Back to you.

KEILAR: Yes, this message being heard loud and clear by many people. Whitney, thank you for the report.

Donald Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has also defied the January 6th committee failing to appear for a deposition on Friday. And here is what Congressman Adam Schiff, who serves on the committee, said.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We have been moving very quickly to make these decisions, and I'm confident we will move very quickly live with respect to Mr. Meadows.

When ultimately witnesses decide, as Meadows has, that they're not even going to bother showing up, that they have that much contempt for the law, then it pretty much forces our hand and we'll move quickly.


KEILAR: We'll move quickly. We heard that many times. What does that going to mean for Meadows? Let's talk about with Michael Smerconish, Host of CNN Smerconish. He's also our Political Commentator, of course.


What does that mean, Michael, especially as the committee is raising this prospect of did Meadows perhaps destroy some communications on a private cell phone?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Brianna, quick story, if I may. On Friday night, I was interviewing Robert Costa from The Washington Post who you know co-authored Peril with Bob Woodward. And the news have just broken of Steve Bannon being indicted. And when one or the other of us made reference to that during this live event, there was applause in the room. And my comment was to say if Steve Bannon were here, he would be applauding too, because I think he loves to.

For most of us, the idea of being indicted and having an appearance in federal court would be harrowing. I expect today he is going to put on that green army jacket and walk in there in a Gadsden flag and try and use as an opportunity to reassert all of their mistaken claims of the election having been stolen.

You just made reference to the Jonathan Karl interview with the president, and -- the former president, and Trump doesn't back off from saying that Mike Pence can either be the P word or a patriot. And instead, what does Trump say? He says, well, it would have been a mistake to accept a fraudulent election.

So, in answer to your question about Mark Meadows, to a lesser extent, but mostly Steve Bannon, I think they're going to try and use this process to, again, litigate their misrepresentation of what transpired in the most recent election.

BERMAN: Michael, I get that we're not there yet, as in Bannon is not testifying, and certainly Mark Meadows isn't testifying yet, but you're an attorney at law who cares deeply about the events surrounding January 6th. If you did get Mark Meadows before you in a deposition knowing that Jonathan Karl is now reporting that Meadows forwarded emails outlining how it would overturn election, knowing that Meadows allegedly perhaps has destroyed text, what would you ask Mark Meadows?

SMERCONISH: It would be a long deposition, John Berman. And we would focus very heavily on the events of the night of January 5th, and as Whitney was just recounting, what transpired at the Willard Hotel. The Willard Hotel is about to supplant Watergate as the Washington hotel with the greatest political background and intrigue, because all eyes need to be on what was said at the Willard Hotel the night before and what instruction was given to those who were going to be the foot soldiers on the morning of January 6th. So, that's one line of inquiry for Meadows. What does he know about President Trump calling into that room, that night?

And, secondly, we're going to walk through all 187 minutes that went off the clock when everything started to hit the fan on the 6th up until the point where former President Trump starts to do something about it to bring that crowd under control.

The big picture is this. You know, what initially looked like something very haphazard and illogical, the president spit-balling in those remarks on The Ellipse and then people storming the Capitol, was much more sophisticated. What we've learned now is the Jenna Ellis, the John Eastman memo, the effort by Trump to lean on the Justice Department to try and get them do, embrace the effort that was afoot in Georgia, all with an eye toward saying to Mike Pence, there's a legal justification for you not accepting the Electoral College, using the crowd to then turn up the heat on Pence in the hope that it would be the House by a 26-24 vote that would determine Donald Trump actually won the election.

So, to those who tuned out initially, you got to come back and start paying close attention because there is a whole part of the story that we still don't know.

KEILAR: And you mentioned this bit that Jonathan Karl had in his interview with Trump where he questions him, did you say to Pence do you want to be a patriot or do you want to be the P word. Well, knowing now, of course, that Pence chose not to comply with what Donald Trump wanted him to do, he follow the Eastman memo, implicit in that him saying that Pence is a P word, right? SMERCONISH: No doubt. And interestingly, then the interview continues and he has asked for his assessment of Pence, and Trump says, well, good guy, and I like the family and so on and so forth, and won't ruling him out as being a running mate in 2024.

But, yes, given that in the end Mike Pence -- and let's also point out that apparently consulted Dan Quayle. I mean, he must have this seriously for a while. The Senate Parliamentarian, according to Peril, says you don't have a choice in this matter. You are a bean counter. Get in there and simply tally up the Electoral College votes. But he must have given it some level of consideration and contemplation before doing the right thing.

BERMAN: Michael, we had Carl Bernstein on, on Friday. And Carl was saying that he thinks it's possible that people from the Pence orbit shake loose and they may have different interests than people directly in the Trump orbit there.


What do you think the likelihood is of that?

SMERCONISH: Increasing. Because to the point we just made that Brianna just raised about the quote with Jon Karl, imagine that you're someone loyal to Mike Pence, not necessarily loyal to Donald Trump, but you served in the Pence orbit and you believe him to be a solid citizen. And now you are hearing the former president called your boss, Mike Pence, and said you're either this P or that P. How are you going to feel about that, especially if you're someone as most of -- I think the people surrounding Pence are true conservative believers in the Constitution? I think they will be rather upset that their boss was given a choice and said you're one or the other. So, perhaps those in his orbit are going to be the ones to unlock most of what we still need to know.

What I want to know, the big question that I keep asking is, for all the efforts that were afoot, and for the seeming sophistication of this plan, I must want to know that final piece. So what was said to the Proud Boys? What was said to those individuals -- and not a lot of people who got swept up in it, but those who were there who came equipped and armed to do bad things? I want the email, the phone call, the phone record of what they were told from the war room as to what they were supposed to do the following day.

I don't believe it was just left to chance. There was too much effort that had gone into it to just say, okay, now we will sit back and see what these people are going to do on January 6th at the Capitol. It doesn't make any logical sense.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, we should know that. But when we get to that point, we're going to wait and see. And here in the coming weeks, it's going to be very, very influential on answering that question. Michael, great to see you this morning, thanks.

SMERCONISH: See you, guys.

KEILAR: Closing arguments set for today in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. We will look at the legal arguments that are in play here next.

Plus, the youngest victim yet becomes the tenth person to die after the concert tragedy in Houston. Ahead, we will talk to another family who was mourning their own loss.

BERMAN: And breaking this morning, a crisis on a key European border. Thousands of migrants caught in the middle. We have seen some remarkable images this morning, children inches away from water cannons, razor wire. We're live on the ground, coming up.



BERMAN: Closing arguments start just hours from now in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The jury could begin deliberations by the end of today.

Rittenhouse shot and killed two men and wounded another during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. 500 National Guard troops are on standby ahead of the verdict.

Joining me now, Alexis Haog, Assistant Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, and Liz Wiehl, former Federal Prosecutor, she is also the author of the upcoming book, A Spy in Plain Sight, the Inside Story of the FBI, and Robert Hanson, America's Most Damaging Russian Spy.

Liz, let me start with you. We have all been watching this case. It appears to have been an uphill battle for the prosecution so far. It seems they have a lot of work to do today in the closing arguments. So, how do you think they will and should present their case today?

LIZ WIEHL, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They really have faced a lot of battles, including some of the key evidence not coming in by the judge. But what they're going to have to do today is rally and create a narrative that says that Rittenhouse was hunting for trouble. He inserted himself in a dangerous situation, which he knew. And what did he bring to the fight? An illegally possessed semiautomatic rifle.

And then they're going to focus on the timeline, saying, look, this altercation took over two minutes. That doesn't sound a long time. But if they take a pregnant pause for two minutes in a courtroom, believe you me, that's a long time. So if they focus on that and they focus on the fact that he got himself there, he was really out there looking for trouble that night.

BERMAN: Professor Hoag, let's talk about the defense. What does the defense need to do today?

ALEXIS HOAG, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF LAW, BROOKLYN LAW SCHOO: The defense has an uphill battle. I almost wish Liz was doing the closing argument. But what happens with the defense is that they have to prove vis-a-vis each of the men that Rittenhouse shot that he was reasonably was in fear for his life and that his force was proportional to the threat that he received. I know the prosecution is going to say that he provoked the attack. And, again, in Wisconsin, there's actually a unique law that provoking an attack doesn't negate self-defense. Rather, the defense will say, even if he did provoke the attack, even if he was the first indicator, he reasonably had no other option but use lethal force.

BERMAN: And the defense the Rittenhouse testimony. They can refer to him on the stand, breaking down. They also have testimony of Grosskreutz who said, I was pointing my gun at him.

HOAG: Exactly. And they also have John Black, their expert. And John Black talked about -- he's a use of force expert -- the amount of time that it took in between each of those interactions. And so while Liz said that the prosecution is really going to elongate that time, the defense is going to want to make it sound that it was chaotic, it was rushed, and, again, he was reasonably in fear for his life.

BERMAN: So, these lesser included charges, we don't know exactly which ones the judge will specify today but we do know the judge is going to specify some. How important is that?

WIEHL: Oh, crucial for the prosecution. Look, if I'm prosecuting a case and I feel strong that, you know, my evidence has come in, my witnesses have performed the way I wanted to, I'm rock solid, I don't want lesser includeds in because the jury often wants to -- if they sympathize at all with the defendant, they want to sort of split the baby and go with the lesser includeds. I don't want that if I think I have had a strong case.


If I think I have an uphill battle and my evidence is not as strong as I would like it to be, I love the lesser included because I want potentially the jury the split the baby. Because I'm still looking at heavy felony charges here that could carry up to 60 years. So, I still like that. What I don't want is just to be stuck with the misdemeanor of carrying the illegally possessed firearm.

BERMAN: Professor, how much should the prosecutor lean into these lesser charges in the closing?

HOAG: Well, it is what they have to work with. And I'm not actually surprised that they asked for lesser included offenses and that the judge agreed to it. Because what happens with a lesser included offense, it means that the jury can actually reach a unanimous verdict. And when you have a non-unanimous verdict, that is a hung jury and then they're back for a second trial. And the prosecution doesn't want to be in that position.

And so it doesn't surprise me at all that the prosecution has given essentially the jury more options to decide this case and to convict.

BERMAN: It's a hedge, a little bit of a hedge, though. And people should know that. It gives a little bit of window. Even what the prosecution thinks of its case so far, which is maybe it needs some help. Professor, Liz, thank you so much for being with us.

HOAG: Thank you.

WIEHL: You got it.

BERMAN: All right. We do have breaking news this morning. CNN is live on the scene of this dramatic standoff involving thousands of desperate migrants. Look at these children just feet away from water cannons aimed right at them.

KEILAR: Plus, gas prices in one state hitting a new record high for the second day in a row. The energy secretary will join us live.

And the world's richest man is delivering a low blow to a sitting U.S. senator as the rivalry between Elon Musk and Bernie Sanders takes a nasty turn.



BERMAN: A nine-year-old boy who was trampled at the Astroworld Music Festival and placed in a medically induced coma has died. Ezra Blount is the tenth and youngest person to die from injuries sustained at the concert. Ezra fell from his father's shoulder and into the crowd during the stampede. The Blount family has filed a lawsuit accusing the show's organizers of negligence.

KEILAR: And now we remember the ninth victim to die days after the Astroworld Festival. 22-year-old Bharti Shahani had been on a ventilator in critical condition days after she suffered injuries at the concert. And her family says that this was her first music festival. She died on Wednesday night.

And joining us now are Bharti's sister, Namrata Shahani, and cousin, Mohit Bellani. Both of them were there at the concert with Bharti.

Namrata and Mohit, listening to what both of you went through as well is just harrowing. And I thank you so much for joining us, as I know that you're very much in mourning at this point in time. But can you just take us, Namrata, starting with you, to that night and what you were going through. Your throat was stepped on. And, Mohit, I know your nose was stepped on and you suffered a shoulder ligament being torn. What was it like, Namrata?


NAMRATA, SHAHANI, SISTER OF ASTROWORLD CONCERT VICTIM BHARTI SHAHANI: It was just very, very horrifying and tragic. Like I couldn't move, I couldn't breathe. It just felt like I was slowly being suffocated. And at a point, I felt I wouldn't be able to make it out of there alive. But, thankfully, someone pulled me up and like helped me out of there.

KEILAR: And you couldn't breathe at one point. Obviously, you were going through at scores of people at that concert were going through.

Mohit, when I read about what you two have been through, it is a wonder that you survived.

BELLANI: Yes, definitely a wonder. I count myself as very fortunate. I'm not sure how I made it out. It feels like a blur almost. I would say like we were in the middle-back kind of area, so not even too close to the stage. But like the thing that we didn't realize was that we were essentially fenced in on three sides with barricades. But you couldn't see the barricades since the crowd was so dense.

And then the only entrance and exit was that like one -- a place that like wasn't barricaded and that kind of became like a chokepoint as you had people inside that were panicking and freaking out. Then like realizing that they were like suffocating, like being squeezed, they couldn't breathe, packed in like sardines in a can almost. So, like we were all trying to get out and escape. And then you had other people that were trying to get closer and see the headliner. And it just became like a mass panic, I would say.

I think a lot of people are maybe placing some blame on the concertgoers. But, honestly, a fight or flight response kicks in, you really panic and you do like everything you can to just like save yourself.

KEILAR: Namrata, your sister sounds like she was an amazing person. I know it's probably hard for your to even think of what it was an amazing person. She sounds like a beautiful soul. Can you tell us about her?

SHAHANI: She really was. She was very caring, very compassionate, always trying to help people out, always helping me and my younger sister out and then helping my parents with the business. She just had a lot going on. And she always was the one who was the responsible one. And then the first time where she is trying to do something for herself, this happens. And the opportunity -- it's not even an opportunity. It's her life that was snatched from her.

And it was just -- it's pretty surreal to think about even now. Because, you know, it's hard to think of death as such a permanent thing.