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Judge Rejects Mistrial, Demand Over Pastors in the Courtroom; Biden, China's Xi Speak for Hours in High Stakes Summit; Interview with Mayor Steven Reed (D) on the Infrastructure Bill. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 07:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Here in just a few hours, prosecutors will resume their case in the murder trial of three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The judge Monday rejecting the defense request for a mistrial and blasting one attorney for comments objecting to black pastors being in the courtroom.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live for us in Brunswick, Georgia. Martin, tell us the latest here.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brianna. Yes, for a time, it looked like this case was going to come to an abrupt and ugly ending. Not because of what was said on the witness stand but because of what was heard and seen in the courtroom.


KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: In the context of this trial, we object to his presence in the public gallery inside the courtroom.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): An explosive morning in the trial of the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, with a still smoldering racially charged debate spurred on by defense attorneys over black pastors in the courtroom.

JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: If somebody is in the gallery here as a member of the public, that's their right to be here. And I'm not going to track individual members of the public who come in and out of this courtroom.

SAVIDGE: Defense attorney Kevin Gough objecting to Reverend Jesse Jackson's presence in the gallery.

GOUGH: How many pastors does the Arbery family have? We had the Reverend Al Sharpton here earlier last week. Last week. Which pastor is next? Is Raphael Warnock going to be the next person appearing this afternoon? We don't know.

Your honor, I would submit, with all respect to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, that this is no different than bringing in police officers or uniformed prison guards in a small town, where a young black man has been accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer or corrections officer.

SAVIDGE: This, a recurring issue for William "Roddie" Bryan's defense attorney in a trial where race has been front and center. Jackson arrived at court Monday morning after Gough said this on Thursday.

GOUGH: We don't want any more black pastors coming in here or other Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim's family, trying to influence the jury in this case. If a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back, I mean, that would be --

SAVIDGE: He was actually referencing the Reverend Al Sharpton, who was in the courtroom on Wednesday to support Arbery's family. Gough apologized to the court on Friday but brought up the issue again Monday. Judge Timothy Walmsley rebuked the defense attorney.

WALMSLEY: Now with individual members or individuals coming into the courtroom, I will say that is directly in response, Mr. Gough, to statements you made, which I find reprehensible. The Colonel Sanders statement you made last week, I would suggest, may be something that has influenced what is going on here.

You need to understand, everybody, that your words in this courtroom have an impact on a lot of what's going on.

SAVIDGE: Ahmaud Arbery's neighbor, Carol Flowers, was called as a witness. During her testimony, Arbery's mother began to cry when a photo of her son alive was shown. The emotion leading to a break. After that break, Gough asked the judge to again take account of every person in the gallery, saying he was fearful certain individuals could sway the jury by being present. Adding --

GOUGH: Your honor, the case law out there in mob cases, in other cases, demonstrates all the ways that presence in a gallery can influence jurors in a case. I certainly don't mean to suggest that Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or any other pastor belong to a mob. But at the same time, we are talking about organized behavior by whoever outside the courthouse leading up to this case, where we have all these community leaders fearful that the city is going to burn down.

SAVIDGE: That's when all three defense attorneys moved for a mistrial, claiming their clients were not receiving a fair trial. Also citing Arbery's mother's emotions.

WALMSLEY: Based on that outburst, the court is not granting a mistrial.

SAVIDGE: Jackson said this later outside the courtroom.


REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: As for them challenging my right to be there, the judge said it was my constitutional right to be there. I have a moral obligation to be there. I am by people who are in need, backs are against the wall. It's what we do. So we're going to keep sitting with this family. It is a priority focus of ours now.

SAVIDGE: The trial resumed in the afternoon with a series of forensic experts testifying about fingerprints, fibers, and enhancements made to a cell phone video. That video shows Arbery's death on February 23rd, 2020 after he was chased by Gregory and Travis McMichael, an armed father and son, and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan. The three pursued the 25-year-old in their pickup trucks before cornering him, and Travis McMichael shooting him. The prosecution presented the weapon used in the shooting and even showed images of holes in Arbery's shirt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you show the jury how close that gun would be to that T-shirt?

SAVIDGE: A firearms expert for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations testified that Arbery was shot at close range.

BRIAN LEPPARD, FIREARMS EXAMINER, GEORGIA BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS: The end of the shotgun was very close to that fabric when it was fired. To have something that large, it had to be made by the, in my opinion, made by the gas from the tearing of the large amount of gas that exits the end of the barrel of the weapon. Also observed is the rolling of the fabric where the edges of it are seared and rolled up.

SAVIDGE: Arbery's mother reportedly kept her eyes closed during the replays of the cell phone video of her son's last moments. She later said she was satisfied with the prosecution's case.

WANDA COOPER JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: The state is doing a very fantastic job in presenting the evidence in the case. I'm very confident that we will get justice for Ahmaud.


SAVIDGE: As he was getting into his car last evening after trial, I caught up with attorney Kevin Gough and I asked him what's next? He implied he was going to be busy last night working on a new motion. What that motion is about, we're not quite clear, but it's pretty obvious we haven't heard the last on the issue of black pastors and the threat he believes they pose to this case -- Brianna and John.

KEILAR: Wow. Martin, thank you so much.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me now is Charles Coleman, civil rights attorney and former prosecutor and trial attorney.

Counselor, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We don't want any more black pastors here. How many black pastors does the Arbery family have? What's the strategy behind what defense attorney Kevin Gough is going doing?

CHARLES F. COLEMAN, JR, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, the strategy, John, is simply to try and appeal to the lowest common denominator, the lowest common factor that he can in terms of throwing out a Hail Mary, in hopes that somebody is going to leak something to the jury and potentially get someone on the same wavelength that he is, in terms of picking up what he's putting down. He has decided he is going to go all out in terms of putting down the dog whistle and picking up the bull horn about what it is to shout and spout racist rhetoric as a means of trying to connect to the 11 white jurors, on that jury, as well as the one black.

I have long said that race is the 13th juror in this case. It is being held in Brunswick, Georgia. And from the outset, what we saw with respect to jury selection and how this trial has proceeded, and with Bryan's repeated -- I'm sorry, with Gough's repeated attempts to keep certain people out of this courtroom, it is undeniable that he has tried to play the race card when it comes to securing something for his client.

BERMAN: I don't think he even denied it. I really don't in a way. William Barber by the way last week said, told Brianna, and I thought it was very notable. He said, I'm not a black pastor. I'm a pastor.


BERMAN: I'm a pastor. So these are pastors who are in the courtroom there. And what the defense is doing is just blatant. There's no subtlety to it.

I want to focus in on something you said there, though, because all these speeches had been made with the jury out of the courtroom.


BERMAN: Out of the courtroom. So he's got to be thinking then, or hoping that somehow they catch wind of this.

COLEMAN: Not just that. I think that's a big part of it. I think he is hoping that, at some point, something leaks. If he is able to connect with one of the jurors with what it is that he said. Not necessarily directly, but through what's going on in the news. We're talking about it. It's being talked about everywhere. He is hoping that someone gets wind of it and begins to think about it as they look across the room into the gallery of that courtroom and they see these prominent figures there.

But there is another angle to it as well. He is trying to do whatever he can to make an issue for appeal out of for his client in case he is convicted. I don't think that this is a viable issue for appeal. I don't think that it's an issue that he can ultimately win on appeal if his client is convicted, but it is something that he's trying to create a record around in case that happens.

BERMAN: We hear the judge called it reprehensible.


BERMAN: What more could the judge or should the judge be doing in your mind, if anything?

COLEMAN: Well, I think the judge did the right thing in this case in terms of calling it reprehensible, denying the mistrial, and being very direct.


You know, John, this reminds me a lot of the famous 1857 decision of "Dred Scott versus Sandford." And in that case, the Supreme Court of the United States said that the black man in America had no rights which the white man was bound to respect. And I think about the whispers of Dred Scott along with what is going on with this case. Ahmaud Arbery in the eyes of the McMichael family and Mr. Bryan did not have the right to go into a house, and look at what was going on, and go jogging.

And now according to Bryan's attorney, Mr. Gough, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other black pastors do not have the right to sit in a trial and comfort Ahmaud Arbery's family. That family deserves to be comforted by anyone who they well choose and anyone who is sitting there not trying to influence that trial but interested in justice for Ahmaud Arbery should be allowed to be there.

BERMAN: Would he have a similar objection if it was a white pastor?

COLEMAN: A great question.

BERMAN: Charles Coleman, thank you very much for being with us.

Why China's President Xi is now warning President Biden, don't play with fire.

KEILAR: And later, Russia blows up a satellite in orbit, sparking an uproar on earth.



KEILAR: President Biden met virtually with Chinese President Xi for 3 1/2 hours in some kind of long Zoom, wouldn't you say? A senior White House official saying that these two leaders had a healthy debate, but that there were no breakthroughs. China's president did have a warning, though, for President Biden. Here's what the Chinese government said about that overnight.

"President Xi ascribed the tensions to the repeated attempts by the Taiwan authorities to look for U.S. support for their independence agenda, as well as the intention of some Americans to use Taiwan to contain China. Such moves are extremely dangerous, just like playing with fire. Whoever plays with fire will get burned."

Joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser.

What is your reaction to that reaction from the Chinese government, Susan?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, it's a lot of tough talk. Remember, just a few weeks ago, you saw an enormous number of military (INAUDIBLE) by the Chinese, you know, a much more overt signal of threatening Taiwan than you've seen recently. It has remained official, you know, Chinese doctrine for many years, the idea of, you know, retaking control of Taiwan.

In recent years, that doctrine has become hardened up. And there is a question, a serious question, of course. The United States has maintained what it calls strategic ambiguity. Would the United States go to Taiwan's defense? Is there anything that they could do in fact to stop a Chinese military takeover of Taiwan?

So this rhetoric has gotten very serious in recent months against a general backdrop really of a very cold start to dealings between the new Biden administration and Xi. So this summit coming 10 months in is really the first major step of the two to look each other in the Zoom eye and to, you know, ratchet it back just a little bit.

KEILAR: Can you imagine a 3 1/2 hour Zoom, though? Just as an aside, Susan. My goodness. So I want to listen to something that President Xi said.


PRES. XI JINPING, CHINA (through translator): China and the United States should respect each other, co-exist in peace and pursue win-win cooperation. I stand ready to work with you, Mr. President, to build consensus.


KEILAR: I mean, those are just sort of the platitudes, right? What's behind that?

GLASSER: Well, look, Joe Biden has come into office pledging essentially a much tougher mind than, say, the Obama administration when he previously served in government. You know, that reflects a changed reality. Obviously. Trump used very masculine rhetoric. What you've seen from Biden is the opposite of the normal feel-good platitude when it comes to China. His secretary of State said the deal with China is the greatest geopolitical and existential threat for the United States of the 21st century.

Biden has talked about his foreign policy as a conflict between Democratic nations and the autocratic nations of the world, like China and Russia. And so there's been this very kind of hostile surround sound to the dealings. The Chinese, until recently, you know, were giving the cold shoulder to U.S. diplomats, like former Secretary of State John Kerry. But just in the last week, you've seen Xi kind of dial it back. Not only those words --

KEILAR: All right. Unfortunately, I think we've lost Susan's signal there.

Susan Glasser, thank you much so for that.

Just ahead, how Democrats could capitalize on President Biden's big bipartisan win on infrastructure.

BERMAN: Let's hope the technology between Biden and Xi was better than that.

Steve Bannon surrenders, vowing to go on the offensive in the face of contempt charges. We'll speak to his lawyer just minutes from now.



BERMAN: President Biden signed a landmark $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law. In March, he signed a bill that injected $1.9 trillion in COVID relief money into the U.S. economy and yet Biden's approval numbers are slipping and Democrats face a bleak picture ahead of next year's midterms. Why? Well, one Democratic politician thinks it's because the party has a messaging problem, saying, quote, "I don't think Democrats brag enough. I don't think that we celebrate enough. I don't think that we tell people why we are bragging and why we are celebrating."

Joining us now, Steven Reed, he is the mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, and the source of that quote in the "Washington Post."

Mayor, thank you for being with us. What do you mean?

MAYOR STEVEN REED (D), MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: Well, thank you for having me. The first thing, I mean, is we have to make sure as Democrats that we're telling people that we're working for them. Unfortunately in a culture that is a zero-sum game here in Washington, that's not often communicated clear enough. And I think what we have to do as Democrats is really celebrate this win, enjoy this win, and tell people what it means for them and their everyday lives.

And I think if we can do that on a sixth grade level, people will understand the work that the Biden administration has put in for this and they will appreciate what the Democratic Congress has done in leading this effort.

BERMAN: If it were making a difference in their everyday lives, why wouldn't they be feeling it?

REED: Well, I think, you know, there is a labor turn on some of that. Everyone wants to see the benefits of change. Very few people want to go through the process of change. So whether that is keeping a new year's resolution or whatever you say you're going to do over Thanksgiving holiday, everyone wants to see that goal, but it takes work in order to get there.


And this is the work that's been done by the Biden administration, and I think what the Biden administration should do now is exactly not only go to New Hampshire and go to other states like that, but also make sure that they're utilizing people like myself, mayors, governors, congressmen, union leaders and others to help connect the dots for the everyday American in terms of what this means.

BERMAN: Help connect the dots. In a way this sounds like a bad high school breakup, where, you know, I would tell someone, how come you can't see how great I am?

REED: Well, listen, I think that people don't understand often what goes into the political process. And as a mayor, we don't have a luxury of playing some of the games that they play here in D.C. We have to get things done. And I think that's what a lot of my colleagues who were there yesterday to witness this signing would tell you. This is what a lot of governors would tell you as well.

What happens here is a stalemate that only works in the outcome of you lose, I win. That's not American. And so what I want us to really focus on is when the Biden administration is putting an unprecedented amount of money into public transit, into disparities laced in the digital divide, into workforce programs, rebuilding our airports, roads and bridges, that's something that we should all see as a win for America. Not for any particular party. And I think that should be the takeaway.

BERMAN: How much of this is on President Biden?

REED: Well, listen, the win comes to those who let it. He's the quarterback of this team. So we have to go out there and really do our part as part of this administration and one of the beneficiaries to share locally at the state level, neighborhood by neighborhood.

BERMAN: But is he doing enough? Does he need to sell it more, better, differently?

REED: Well, listen, I think certainly we can all sell it better. I think we can all do more. And certainly that includes the president. But that includes everyone that benefits from it, whether they voted for this bill or not.

BERMAN: Is he not explaining it well enough?

REED: I think it is hard to get through the muddle of the media in today's day and age and that may be a little tough for someone like President Biden who is used to straight talk. But there is a lot of noise out there. We have to cut through the noise and tell the American people what this is going to do for their pocketbooks, what it is going to do for their job opportunities and what it is going to do for their ability to live a better life.

And I think when people hear this, over the course of time, we'll see those numbers change. And ultimately I think when you're in leadership, you don't do things based on the polls. You can't lead with an ear to the ground and a finger to the wind. You do it because of what's right, and that is what President Biden and Vice President Harris and the entire administration have done.

Now it's up to us to carry that message out to the communities across this country and I believe you'll see a different response.

BERMAN: What's the possibility that the priorities of some Americans, maybe many Americans, have changed since President Biden began working on this, whether it was the $1.9 trillion relief bill, whether it was the infrastructure bill, the work began last spring? Look, in the summer we had Delta, now we have inflation. What is the possibility Americans just care more about different things that they don't necessarily see as much work being done on?

REED: Well, first of all, I think if you ask the average American what inflation is, they couldn't tell you. I think you have to let --

BERMAN: Wait, inflation? You don't think they could tell you what inflation is?

REED: I don't think the average American could tell you what inflation is.

BERMAN: I think they can tell you. I think that may be the one thing that most people can tell you is I'm paying more for gas. That's inflation.

REED: I would agree with that. They can tell you what they're paying for milk, they can tell you what they're paying for bread and eggs at the grocery store, and gas. But when you talk about what's in this bill and you talk about the level that's being put in for public transit, for road improvements and how that improves their quality of life, how it increases mobility, how it increases the good-paying jobs that will be out there for workers who are in various trades and skills of which there is a shortage, that changes things.

These are good-paying jobs and these are the type of opportunities that Americans have been looking for to get access to the full prosperity of this nation. And I think that is the message, not the message of how much it costs, not the message of what inflation or deflation may be, the message is it is better for you, it's better for the average American because of what we're investing back into this nation, back into our states, back into our cities, and that is the takeaway I believe for President Biden and all of us who supported this bill.

BERMAN: Mayor Reed, always a pleasure to have you on. Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

REED: Thank you.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Tuesday, November 16th.

So Kyle Rittenhouse, the jury begins deliberating today. In just a few hours they head behind closed doors in this highly watched homicide trial. A panel of 18 --