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Jury Deliberates in Charlottesville; Violence in Europe Amidst Covid Surges; U.S. Warns of Russian Invasion; New Bizarre Turn in Missing Tennis Star's Whereabouts; LeBron James Ejected from Game. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 22, 2021 - 06:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Ryan Young, live for us in Brunswick, Georgia. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to go now to CNN's Jason Carroll, live in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the jury is deliberating in the civil trial there of the men connected to the Unite the Right Rally in 2017.

Jason, what do we expect?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the jury, as you know, deliberated for seven hours on Friday. And just after they broke, they asked the judge if there was any way they could take the jury instructions home. The judge said it was not something that he wanted them to do but it was something that he would allow them to do.

We've got it here, John. There are 67 pages here of jury instructions. And what it really does is it really lays out the difference between a civil trial and a criminal trial and what jurors have to do here in terms of looking for evidence. In a criminal trial, as you know, they're looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But not the case here in a civil trial. The jury instructions make it very clear that what they're looking for is a preponderance of evidence, whether or not there is a 51 percent chance or greater they heard enough evidence in court basically to find these 24 defendants liable of conspiracy to commit acts of violence and that they were driven by racial animus.

And he jury instructions, John, also detail what a conspiracy is and that it is not. For example, it says a conspiracy does not have to be a formal agreement under the law. No written contract is needed. No oral agreement is needed. An informal agreement is sufficient under the law.

Again, this is a civil trial. So, what they are seeking here, plaintiffs are seeking, monetary damages, 7 to 10 million for each plaintiff, that was directly damaged by James Alex Fields' car, 3 to 5 million for the other plaintiffs who were injured in other ways. And, again, in addition to that, they're also seeking punitive damages

here as well. So, a lot for jurors to consider. The second day of deliberations get underway at 9:00 a.m.


BERMAN: You know, what's interesting, it's the second prominent trial where the jury has asked to take the jury instructions back with them home after deliberating. The Kyle Rittenhouse case was the first. I guess the theory, lawyers tell me, why judges don't like it, is because it increases the chances that the jurors will talk about the case when they're not in the jury room.

CARROLL: Exactly.

BERMAN: On the other hand, a well-informed juror isn't necessarily a bad thing, right?

CARROLL: Yes. Could be. Could be. And, again, when you look at the detail that's listed here in these jury instructions, again, 67 pages, going over point by point by point, a lot to absorb. But, again, as you know, legal experts will tell you there's always the risk that someone's going to be sitting there at home reading through these jury instructions and then be tempted to discuss it with someone else.

BERMAN: Or Google, right?

Jason Carroll, thank you very much for your reporting. Please, keep us posted. A big day there.

So, the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine puts U.S. officials in the position where they have to ready for a possible invasion.

KEILAR: And bad blood on the basketball court. Lebron James versus Detroit Pistons player Isaiah Stewart. What happened that set off this bloody brawl.



KEILAR: With coronavirus once again surging in parts of Europe, violence has erupted during anti-lockdown protests.

Our CNN reporters are positioned around the globe to cover these developments.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: I'm Salma Abdelaziz in Vienna, Austria.

Over the weekend, across multiple European cities, frustrations with new coronavirus restrictions boiled over, at times turning violent. On Sunday in Belgium, 35,000 people were gathered in an anti-lockdown demonstration. Social media video showed heavily armed police using water cannons. And here in Vienna on Saturday, 40,000 anti-government protesters gathered against a vaccine mandate. Still, European leaders say restrictions are needed to curb infections.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ben Wedeman in Bucharest, Romania, a country with some of Europe's the lowest vaccination rates and which recently saw some of the highest Covid mortality rates on earth. The numbers are starting to go down, yet the government, perhaps sensitive to sometimes violent opposition elsewhere in Europe to new lockdowns, is actually considering easing restrictions, which leaves medical staff bracing for a fifth wave of Covid before the fourth has actually ended.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm David McKenzie in Johannesburg. The Sudanese prime minister has been released from house arrest and he has done a deal with the generals who put him there in a coup just under a month ago. The prime minister saying that he wanted to end the bloodshed in the country after weeks of protests. The fragile coalition now will be negotiated. Many of the civilian groups in the country have condemned this move, saying that it legitimizes the coup of late October.


KEILAR: Now, this morning, there are growing concerns about Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine. Secretary of State Tony Blinken says the U.S. has been in very close consultation with European allies about the situation.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't know what President Putin's intentions are. But we do know what's happened in the past. We do know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and then using that as an excuse to do what Russia is planning to do all along.


KEILAR: All right, let's talk about what is happening here with CNN military analyst and former member of the joint staff at the Pentagon, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton.


OK, Colonel, first off, just tell us about the military activity, what we're seeing there on the border.


Well, this is really the map that is important in this particular case because you've got Ukraine, you've got Russia, and you've got Crimea. Crimea is, of course, the area that if we go to the next slide it actually shows us where the Russians took over back in 2014. They also took over this area through proxy forces. This is called the Donbas (ph) region. This is Luhansk, Donetsk, the two major cities in that area. These cities are critically important to the eastern part of Ukraine, for the economy of Ukraine, and, frankly, to Ukraine's military and the ability to keep that country an independent country. KEILAR: So where are we seeing troops and weapons systems


LEIGHTON: So, if we take a look at the next slide, we look at this area right here. I mean this is Moscow and Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Now, when you look at it, there are two highways here, the M- 1 highway and A-130. These are not interstates in the way that we look at interstates. But you see this small town of Yelnya. It's about a 10,000 or so person town. Yelnya has a huge concentration of tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, missiles of various types, surface-to-air missiles, as well as other rockets that they have. And this concentration of weapons is really close to Belarus and to Ukraine. And the Russian forces, if they choose to do so, can very easily use this as a staging area to get into northern Ukraine and potentially even use Belarus as an invasion route of Ukraine if they wanted to do that.

KEILAR: And what are satellite images showing here?

LEIGHTON: So the satellite images show us some very interesting things. When you look at this place right here where you can see a whole bunch of different weapons that are parked here, these, you know, are primary armored personnel carriers, trucks of various types. There might be a few tanks in some of the areas here. And what you're looking at is over 1,200 different kinds of weapons that are actually being staged in an area like this. This is basically a cantonment area and it's used by the 41st combined arms army, which is about a 30,000 strong military unit. And these units right here, you hear -- see some of the tanks right here. These are T-80 tanks. Those tanks are very important for any invasion forces that are going to potentially be used in an effort to go after Ukraine.

So what you're seeing here is a staging area that can be used for an invasion if President Putin decides to do that.

KEILAR: So, how are you reading all of these developments? What's Russia -- what are they really trying to achieve here?

LEIGHTON: So, Russia is trying to intimidate Ukraine, first and foremost. What they're trying to also do is divide us from our NATO allies. They're trying to tell us that these are the kinds of things that we can do. We have forces in the area. We look at Ukraine as being a place that is actually something that we control. It is part of what the Russians call the near abroad. And that near abroad is an area that the Russians believe rightfully belongs to them. We, of course, have a different view.

Ukraine wants to be part of NATO. It has not become a part of NATO as of yet and it probably won't. But the key thing is this, if we don't protect Ukraine, then the possibility exists that not only will an invasion take place, but it may very well affect other parts of eastern Europe. And that's why the stakes are so high in this moment

KEILAR: All right, that's why we're keeping such an eye on this.

Colonel Leighton, thank you. LEIGHTON: You bet, Brianna, thanks so much.

KEILAR: Coming up, ought of sight for almost three weeks, the Chinese tennis star who went missing, finally seen in public. But her sudden appearance is raising even more questions.

BERMAN: And for the first time, video of Tiger Woods in recovery, taking some swings, nine months after his car crash. What do we know about a possible return to competition?



KEILAR: More bizarre twists this morning in the disappearance and then the sudden reappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Peng placed a video call assuring the International Olympic Committee that she is safe over the weekend, but that is by no means easing concerns about her safety and wellbeing.

CNN's Will Ripley is live for us in Taipei with the very latest.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, what's so puzzling about this video call is the stance that the IOC seems to be taking here. You had one official on the call just say she was so relieved to see Peng Shuai relaxed and doing so well, saying that was the IOC's main concern. But some critics are saying that, in fact, the IOC's main concern is not Peng but profits.


RIPLEY (voice over): Olympic organizers trying to calm the controversy over Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Less than three months before the Beijing winter games, the International Olympic Committee releasing a statement appearing to support the Chinese government narrative, that the three-time Olympian is doing just fine, despite growing concern for her freedom. The IOC handing out these images Sunday, a 30-minute video call of Peng, IOC President Thomas Bach, and two other officials. CNN not allowed to see the video.

An IOC statement summarizing the call with Peng saying she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. No mention of Peng's explosive allegations three weeks ago that one of China's most senior communist leaders sexual assaulting her, claims quickly scrubbed from Chinese social media.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: The IOC seems to be so meek, taking an incredibly meek and frankly pathetic path to dealing with China, when, of course, the IOC holds this great gift, it's the Olympic games.


And they have power. There is leverage in the IOC.

RIPLEY: That leverage apparently being used to bolster the communist party line. China under growing pressure from the White House, the United Nations, international tennis stars.

Beijing seeking to quickly turn the page. State media releasing these videos of Peng over the weekend out and about in Beijing at a youth tennis tournament, at a famous Sichuan (ph) restaurant where the conversation just happens to mention the date, November 21st, repeatedly.

CNN has no way to verify the videos. We can't confirm when they were taken. These videos shared on Twitter, a platform blocked inside China. Chinese state media eagerly tweeting updates and images of Peng, totally ignoring the story in their own country.

Unlike the IOC, the Women's Tennis Association taking a much harder stance, demanding direct communication with Peng, unmonitored, uncensored. This WTA statement to CNN says, this video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship.

The WTA prepared to pull its billion dollar business out of China.

BRENNAN: When the history books look back at this time, they will say, the WTA, what an incredible master class in humanitarian leadership. The right way to do it, to call China on its abuses and the International Olympic Committee sitting there, as they always do, basically doing nothing.

RIPLEY: Which makes some say the IOC is complicit in the apparent silencing of a tennis icon who dared to speak out against a Chinese leader.


RIPLEY: The WTA says they simply don't have evidence right now that Peng Shuai is not being silenced, that she is not able to speak freely. They say none of the proof that has been provided by Chinese state media, John, gives them any comfort that she is actually in a position where her interests are being best represented.

BERMAN: So, Will, I want to explain to our viewers what's happening on our screen right now because underneath your face they can see a box which is the actual live feed of this broadcast in China. But it's all color bars. And it went to color bars the minute you started talking. So what's going on here?

RIPLEY: Chinese censors, John. I have lost count over the last eight years here in Asia covering China of how many times that CNN's coverage o controversial issues has been censored. It used to go to straight black. Now they've upgraded and they go to color bars. But, nonetheless, it is a live, real-time example of the censorship that's happening in the mainland. They scrubbed Peng Shuai from the Internet. They're certainly not talking about this on television. And even international networks, they have an army of censors waiting to push that button the minute that we start talking about this story.

But it is not making this story go away. The pressure is still mounting on Beijing from the outside because of the efforts of journalists around the world and also diplomats wanting Peng Shuai to be able to speak her truth.


Will Ripley, thank you so much for that reporting. Really appreciate it.

And up next, a basketball fight between LeBron James and a Pistons player. What set them off and left one with blood dripping from his face?

BERMAN: And we have new developments out of Waukesha, Wisconsin, after an SUV plowed into a Christmas parade. We're going to speak to a witness who describes the scene as a horror show.



BERMAN: So, LeBron James tossed from a game for just the second time in his career.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's "Bleacher Report."

What went on here?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, I mean there's some pretty serious contact that went on here.

Good morning, John.

But it is an unusual situation when you consider what's happened to LeBron James. Only been ejected twice in 19 seasons in the NBA.

The first one came back in 2017. Just made some comments to a referee. This one much more physical.

So the fight happened about three minutes into the third quarter after LeBron blooded the face of Piston's big man Isaiah Stewart while jostling for a rebounding position. Stewart had to be held back multiple times as he tried to confront LeBron after this. Both players ended up being ejected from the game. Neither spoke to the media afterwards.

BERMAN: Oh (ph).

MANNO: Yes, it was pretty rough stuff. He got him in just the right spot.

Hey, by the way, look who's back on the golf course, John, Tiger Woods posting this video on Sunday. He's seen hitting the ball for the first time since his car crash back in February. This clip captioned "making progress." First official update in the 15-time major champion's social profile since he -- really since back in April. In the video you can see a compression sock on his right leg. He sustained multiple injuries to that leg and foot in the crash. And a lot of people remember that magical 2019 Masters win after coming back from spinal fusion surgery. So he's just built a little bit differently than the rest. Good to see him out there. He looks really good.

BERMAN: Good to see him out there.


BERMAN: We'll see. I mean, you give him time. And the important thing is he's standing up.

Let's go back to the LeBron James, the Lakers-Pistons game there. If we can show that play again. You can see the elbow go into his eye and then his hand follows up. Ah.

MANNO: Yes. It's a -- I think this is a difficult call to make, right? I mean there's -- there's some excessive contact. There's no question about it. I think he not him in the right spot.

You know, he's the type of player, too, that is a high-energy player. So, I mean --

BERMAN: Isaiah Stewart.

MANNO: Yes, Isaiah Stewart. So he's an energy guy. Like he was getting at LeBron for the majority of the game and it escalated to this point, which is unfortunate. I mean a lot of people were talking about malice at the palace, which was almost to the day 17 years ago, that infamous moment in the NBA. This isn't exactly as wild as that, but it is unusual to see LeBron, you know, get into it in this way.

His teammates, though, really quick to come to his defense. Anthony Davis saying, hey, he's not the kind of guy that does that on purpose.


He would never do this on purpose. And it was pretty funny also that Russel Westbrook didn't realize that he also got a technical foul. In his press conference afterwards, he was like, I got teed up too? So it was -- yes, it was kind of a strange