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Soon: Prosecution Rebuttal to Defense's Closing Arguments in Arbery Murder Trial; Parade Crash Suspect was Free on 'Inappropriately Low' Bail; January 6th Panel Subpoenas Trump Allies Roger Stone, Alex Jones; Biden to Release Oil from Reserves to Fight Rising Gas Prices; U.S. Considers Sending Extra Weapons to Ukraine. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, November 23. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


In just a couple of hours, the last word in the trial of the three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. The prosecutor will deliver a rebuttal to the closing arguments, and we will bring it to you live.

It is the final chance to address what was a dramatic and controversial presentation from defense lawyers that some say evoked racist images of the Antebellum South. This is what happened in closings.

First, the lead prosecutor argued the defendants initiated the encounter with Ahmaud Arbery and were not, as they claim, acting in self-defense.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: All three of these defendants made assumptions, the assumptions about what was going on that day. And they made their decision to attack Ahmaud Arbery in their driveways, because he was a black man running down the street.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Now, lawyers for Travis McMichael, his father Greg, and William "Roddie" Bryan painted them as concerned neighbors, worried about reports of burglaries in the area, and they blamed Arbery for his own death.


JASON SHEFFIELD, DEFENSE LAWYER FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: He told you about the thefts and the burglaries, the totality of the facts, why he believed what he did. That he wanted to follow him, that he wanted to talk to him, that he wanted to stop him, for the police to detain him. Don't be fooled by this word "arrest." You don't have to announce, "You're under arrest." KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE LAWYER FOR WILLIAM "RODDIE" BRYAN: Why isn't Mr.

Arbery asking for help? Why isn't he calling out, "Hey, somebody call 911? There's crazy people after me." Maybe that's because Mr. Arbery doesn't want help.

LAURA HOGUE, DEFENSE LAWYER FOR GREG MCMICHAEL: Turning Ahmaud Arbery into a victim after the choices that he made does not reflect the reality of what brought Ahmaud Arbery to Satilla Shores, in his khaki shorts, with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.


BERMAN: Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson and CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. Friends, we're going to get to the long, dirty toenails issue in just a moment.

First, though, Elie, I want to address what we're going to see this morning, which is a rebuttal from the prosecution. What exactly is that, and why is it important that it's happening this morning?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So a rebuttal is the final word. It's the prosecutor's chance to address and, hopefully, if you're the prosecutor, correct all the things that the defense lawyers, in this case, three of them, just argued.

Now, I think there's an interesting tactical advantage to the prosecutor to getting to go this morning. Now, when I was giving rebuttals as a prosecutor, I used to like to try to stand up immediately, before the defense lawyer even hit the seat, and basically say, Everything that guy just said is bogus.

However, there's a practical issue with the 4:30 p.m. rebuttal. You've got a jury that's been sitting there all day. They're exhausted. They've heard more information than any human being could process. And the whole time you're going, they're just going to be thinking, Oh, my God, I've got to get to the supermarket. I've got to feed my kids. It's 5:15. What's going on?

Now, they go home, they sleep. You get to open today as the prosecutor. You get the final word. Judge instructs them. They deliberate. The most recent thing they've heard is your rebuttal. So I think there's a nice advantage there for the prosecutors.

BERMAN: Joey, I want to address what we just heard from the defense there, the "long, dirty toenails" for Ahmaud Arbery. That was from one of the defense attorneys there.

I had a chance to speak to Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, overnight. This is what she said about the moment. It actually caused her to get up and walk out of the courtroom when that was said. Listen.


WANDA COOPER JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: It was very, very disturbing. I thought it was very, very rude. To talk about his long, dirty toenails, and to totally neglect that my son had a huge hole in his chest where he was shot with that shotgun.

I sat there for the last two weeks and let them dehumanize my son, who wasn't doing anything wrong the day that he chose to go for that afternoon jog.


JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A deplorable and most unfortunate tactic. Listen, I get and understand the defense has a job to do, right? That's the job I do. That's the job we do as defense lawyers.

The reality is, is though, you have to thread that needle and thread that line. This was just outwardly and blatantly, in my view, racist.

You want to talk about dehumanization? That's what it was about. You have to look at what she said in the context of her larger argument.

Her larger argument, John, was about our neighborhood. An interloper coming in here. We have issues with our neighborhood. We had curfews. We were on edge in our neighborhood.

And so, if you ask me, she's speaking to that 11-1 split. Right? Let's address the elephant in the room. We know from the outset that there's 11 white jurors and one African-American juror, notwithstanding the demographics of the area, which are 75 percent white, 25 percent black.

And so I believe that she was really amping that up and trying to wrap her client up in, he is one of you. Do not convict.

That's not -- certainly -- certainly, you want to have the notion of not convicting my client, but to do it in that manner, I just think transcends the bounds of decency and is not what we should be doing.

BERMAN: How does the prosecution deal with that in rebuttal, if at all?


JACKSON: I think the prosecution will deal with that in -- in outstanding fashion. I think the prosecution all along has made the argument that this shouldn't have happened, didn't need to happen. There was no basis in it happening.

But not just saying that, grounding it in law. Why? You talk about citizen's arrest law. Citizen's arrest applies when you're actually seeing a crime or you have immediate knowledge of a crime.

The defense has been arguing about things that happened the week before, two weeks before, the month before. No, it's about what happened now.

What, John, did the prosecutor say in her -- not rebuttal yet, that's this morning -- in her initial argument? He was killed because he was a black man walking down the street. She'll get up and say, "I told you so." Right?

And the fact of the matter is, is that I think when she talks about, the prosecutor, the issues of self-defense is not warranted, why? They were -- he wasn't engaging -- that is, Ahmaud Arbery -- in any felony. He didn't provoke. They provoked. They were the initial aggressor.

This is part and parcel, the prosecution will argue, of an issue that didn't need to happen. It happened predicated upon race. And you know what? The defense lawyer told you so. She'll slam them.

BERMAN: Do you think the prosecution needs to address that really controversial, some would say, deplorable comment? And what else, Elie, do you think the prosecution needs to do this morning?

HONIG: So I agree with Joey. I think if the prosecution does its job well today, they can turn that right back around on the defense. Right?

They can argue, you know, you heard a lot of things from both defense lawyers that was either, I think, explicitly almost racist, with the long toenails, but also a lot of coded stuff with the neighborhood. And there was a lot of talk from the defense lawyers about the panic, the worry, the concern of this -- the people in this neighborhood, that their way of life was being threatened.

And I think you turn that around and you say, that's why they overreacted, folks. That's why this was not a legitimate citizen's arrest. Because they were not acting rationally, these defendants. They were acting rashly and, you know, unfairly. And that's why they jumped to conclusions, getting back to the prosecutor's defense [SIC], what the prosecutor called driveway decisions.

I do think it's worth noting just the grace of Ms. Cooper-Jones. I mean, to -- to sit through this trial, to have her son, deceased son, attacked like that, and to just put on the demonstration of grace that she showed in that interview was remarkable.

BERMAN: Can I just point out one thing that I noticed in the defense yesterday that we hadn't seen directly before, is three separate defendants here who have three different sets of interests.

And the attorney for Roddie Bryan at the end there, in his closing, seemed to be suggesting, you know what? My client is a different matter here. You know, there may have been a crime, but my client was just filming it. In fact, you wouldn't even know there was a crime if my client wasn't there.

And if I'm in the jury, I might be thinking, is this one of the defense lawyers saying that the other guys are guilty?

JACKSON: Well, it is. But the problem, John, is that that should have been capitalized on the -- at the outset.

What you do as a defense lawyer or a prosecutor is you have a theme and a theory. And I thought that the theory he had at the end actually resonated. You know, my client had no intent. He was there. He's in the neighborhood. No one knows him. He saw something happening. He didn't have a gun with him at all. He didn't have a rifle with him at all. He just happened upon a scene. He filmed it. He cooperated. What's he doing here? It was those guys who did it.

He didn't even make an opening statement. Had he made the opening statement and put his theory out there, right, and repeatedly, every witness, So it's fair to say that my client -- you knew that he came after the fact. Is that right, officer? And you knew he filmed it. Is that right? And he cooperated with you. Is that true also?

So if you have that out there as a longstanding matter, I think it would have been more effective than at the end, to come and then to say, Oh, by the way, he was just there.

And so you know, we'll see how it resonates at the end of the day. I just think it was a lost opportunity not to do that from the outset.

BERMAN: Joey Jackson, Elie Honig, thank you both very much.

KEILAR: We do have some new details that are coming to light about the suspected driver behind that deadly car ramming in a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Authorities say the suspect was recently freed on bail following a domestic abuse incident. Only now, they say maybe the amount was inappropriately low on that bail bond release.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus live for us from Waukesha. Adrienne, tell us what we've learned about the suspect.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Brianna.

We've learned this was not his first interaction with members of law enforcement. According to a criminal complaint CNN obtained, the 39- year-old suspect, Darrell Brooks, was involved in some other incidents earlier this month.

That criminal complaint shows a list of charges, including disorderly conduct and battery. The complaint also alleges Brooks, quote, "intentionally and without consent, ran another person over with his vehicle while they were walking through the parking lot."

And as investigators try to determine what happened, how that 39-year- old was able to drive along this stretch of Main Street, injuring nearly 50 people and killing five others, this community is trying to come to grips with what they saw and heard.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One police officer asked me if I had something he could use for a gurney, because they didn't have the ambulances here yet. And I got a piece of plywood out of my garage. And -- and then over here, they were trying to revive a woman. And

they needed plastic gloves. And I said, OK, I got them. You know, latex gloves that I use for painting. So I got them some gloves.

And I was ready to jump in. I'm CPR trained on that. I was ready to jump in on that, but I didn't have to. Four out of the five people passed away. You know, one two feet away, one 50 feet away, one 20 feet away, and one up the block.


BROADDUS: Many businesses along this stretch of Main Street, including the business owner you just heard from, will remain closed until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Later this afternoon, the 39-year-old suspect has his first initial court appearance. The chief of police here in Waukesha is recommending to prosecutors initial charges should include five counts of first- degree intentional homicide.

And as far as his release, Brianna, stemming from those other charges earlier this month, that bond, the district attorney is saying was, quote, "inappropriately low." It was set at $1,000 -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Adrienne. Thank you so much for the very latest there.

More Trump allies subpoenaed by the House January 6th Committee. What we're now learning about Roger Stone and Alex Jones' alleged roles.

Plus, stunning new video of insurrectionists attacking police as they defended the Capitol on January 6th.

BERMAN: And what did you think of the film "The Last Duel"? You didn't see it? Me neither. Where director Ridley Scott is now pointing the finger at the box office failure. And here's a hint: it's kind of your fault.



BERMAN: The House committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol has issued five new subpoenas. They include Trump allies Roger Stone, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

And this morning, we're seeing this new, stunning video of January 6th rioters invading the Capitol. You can see it right there. Attacking police officers as they pour through a security door.

CNN's Paula Reid here in New York with me now. Nice to see you in person.

Let's talk about these subpoenas. Who are the characters being called?

PAULA REID, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So here, lawmakers are targeting Trump allies who were involved in the planning and financing of the Stop the Steal rally.

What we're reminded about with this list is the fact that investigators, they're not just focused on the violence on January 6th. They're also focused on the days leading up to that, the messaging that was being pushed out, the money that was being raised, and how it was being spent.

They're also looking at any potential coordination with congressional officials or folks in the White House.

Now as you noted in terms of who's on this list, it includes self- described "dirty trickster" Roger Stone and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Now these two men, in addition to Steve Bannon, these were three of the biggest voices pumping out these lies and these conspiracy theories after the 2020 election.

Now, in addition, lawmakers have targeted three other people, including rally promoters Dustin Stockton, Jennifer Lawrence -- not that Jennifer Lawrence -- and Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich.

So the question now, to what end? They've sent out these subpoenas. What are they going to get out of this? It's not expected that any of these five people are just going to roll up and share everything they know. It's expected to be a process. You can negotiate a way to maybe cooperate on some things.

Or, of course, you can always show up, and if you have any reasonable belief that you could potentially face criminal repercussions, you can plead the Fifth.

Or, you can take the Steve Bannon route and completely stonewall. But as we saw, there were criminal implications for him taking that route.

But when you look at people like Alex Jones, Roger Stone, they would likely wear that as a badge of honor. Of course, Mr. Stone has a history, convictions of obstruction and lying to Congress.

So it will be interesting to see how it plays out with this specific list. The committee is asking them to provide documents by December 6th and schedule them for depositions across the month.

BERMAN: And Stockton and Lawrence, not that Jennifer Lawrence, they're in a different category than -- than Jones and Stone are. And they've indicated some willingness, maybe, to talk. We'll have to see there.

The House committee also filing documents with the court, saying they need to see Trump's papers now. What's the argument?

REID: So this is such an interesting case. Because the question is whether you have a right, as a former president, to claim a privilege when the current president, in this case President Biden, says, No, I'm not going to invoke privilege to protect your White House records.

And here, of course, we're talking about Trump White House records related to January 6th. The former president wants to try to block some of them, keep them from the committee. The current president says, no. The current White House says, Look, January 6th was an extraordinary circumstance. This is not what executive privilege was meant to protect.

And here, we see House lawyers arguing to the court that they should not have to wait until all of this litigation over these questions is complete to be able to see these records.

Now, the former president, his attorneys would like to keep these records under seal until this is resolved. That's in keeping with his common litigation strategy. Right? Keep filing suits. Keep dragging it out. Run out the clock.

Now all these questions go before the court of appeals next week. It's a huge, it's a historic case. Really fascinating questions. But so far, at least one federal judge has sided with the House.

BERMAN: It will be a hugely interesting hearing, just one week away, which is pretty quick as far as these things go.

REID: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Paula Reid, nice to see you in person.

KEILAR: Today, President Biden is planning to release oil from the strategic reserve to combat rising gas prices, but he needs help from other countries to really make a difference.

Christine Romans, our CNN chief business correspondent and "EARLY START" co-anchor, is with us now on this.

So what is he going to do?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, they're hoping for a deal here with some other oil -- oil-consuming nations.

Tackling rising gas prices is issue No. 1 for this White House. Right? Every trip to the gas station costs you about 15 bucks more than it did last year. Higher costs for just about everything mean the typical family is paying 200 bucks a month more for the basics.


The White House is under intense pressure to do something about it.


BRIAN DEESE, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: The American consumer never likes to pay more at the pump, but we are focused on doing everything that we can to be sure that American consumers are not bearing the short end of the stick during these periods.

Also make sure that, when the price of oil comes down, that Americans consumers see that benefit at the price at the pump. That's not what's been happening over the past several weeks, and that's a concern that we have here.


ROMANS: The White House hoping -- hoping -- to coordinate with key allies to release some oil from their emergency supplies. An announcement could come soon on a coordinated release.

The hope is that that could keep a lid on fuel prices heading into the holiday travel season.

Key here: the president would need help from other nations to really make a difference. They've been -- asked for help from China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

The president under pressure from those inside his own party, too, to lower gas prices. Nearly a dozen congressional Democrats are urging President Biden to combat high gas prices, not only by releasing barrels from the U.S. emergency reserve, but also by banning U.S. oil exports.

Gas prices today, by the way, leveling off, $3.40 a gallon. That after a relentless spike as the economy bounces back from the COVID lockdowns of a year ago. Leveling off because of expectation at global oil markets that the U.S., China and others will release emergency oil.

But will it last? Right? That depends on whether the other big producers keep pumping extra supply. So look for Russia, Saudi Arabia, the OPEC-plus countries to really keep up their extra pledges to keep a lid on gas prices -- Brianna.

KEILAR: You know, banning exports? That sounds good, but it -- it could also backfire, right?

ROMANS: It could. A lot of this can backfire, too. Sometimes, you know, tapping a petroleum reserve can cause, you know, concern that maybe -- concern that drive prices higher again.

So everything here, it's a big global, global, world oil market, and the fact is, economies are recovering around the world. When economies recover, industries and economies, countries use more oil and gas. And that drives gas prices higher.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a tough problem to solve. Permanently, for sure.


KEILAR: Christine Romans, thank you so much.

Coming up, the U.S. is considering sending extra weaponry to Ukraine as fears mount over a potential Russian invasion.

BERMAN: so in Portugal, if your boss texts you after work hours, they can be fined. In other words, Portugal is awesome. Much more on that ahead.



KEILAR: Developing this morning, the U.S. is preparing to possibly send military advisers and additional weapons to Ukraine to help fortify the country from a potential Russian invasion. This as Moscow is ramping up its presence at the border.

We have CNN anchor and chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto with us on this story. So I mean, these would be, to be clear, American assets on the ground.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. From the beginning, as Russia has built up this force here, I've been told the U.S. has a two-prong strategy.

One, internationalize the crisis: get allies on board, speak with one voice, warn Russia with one voice. But the other thing, to raise the potential cost for Russia, not give them the expectation that this would be a swift and easy invasion.

And you have two elements here. One, send more weapons, lethal assistance to the Ukrainians. But also, the possibility of U.S. trainers and advisers.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): With concerns growing about a Russian military build-up on the Ukrainian border, the Biden administration is now considering sending military trainers to the region.

And military equipment that could include Javelin anti-tank missiles and mortars, as well as Stinger air defense missiles, multiple officials tell CNN.

But the Biden administration is still weighing the consequences of such moves, with some administration officials concerned they could be seen by the Kremlin as a major escalation.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Javelin anti-tank missiles are quite effective against the T-80 tanks, which the Russians are actually employing in these -- these efforts against Ukraine right now.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. has been warning allies of a possible Russian invasion, with just a short window to prevent Russia from taking action. Top U.S. officials increasingly sound the alarm publicly.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have real concerns about Russia's unusual military activity on the border with Ukraine.

LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to.

SCIUTTO: A top Ukrainian intelligence official claims in an interview with "The Military Times" that Russia has more than 92,000 troops amassed near Ukraine's border that are preparing to attack in January or February.

These satellite images from earlier this month show those Russian T-80 tanks, as well as armored personnel carriers and other equipment, masked in the small town of Yelnya, a possible staging area for invading Ukraine from the north, potentially through Russia's ally, Belarus.

BLINKEN: 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 another country, and then using that as an excuse to do whatever Russia is planning to do all along.

SCIUTTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin's response is to call existing U.S. support for Ukraine a provocation.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need to consider the western partners worsen the situation by delivering to Kyiv modern lethal weapons and having provocative exercises in the Black Sea.


SCIUTTO: This morning, the Kremlin is saying that any decision to send more lethal assistance, as well as the possibility of advisers, would inflame the situation.