Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

CNN: More Lawmakers Complain Of Toxic Work Environment; 6 Now Dead, 60+ Injured As Parade Suspect Faces Charges; CNN In Ukraine As U.S. Warns Of Potential Russian Invasion. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 07:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: New CNN reporting that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that Capitol Hill is a toxic work environment, wrought with bitter exchanges, animosity, and threats, with the end result that what needs to get done simply doesn't.

CNN's Lauren Fox is with us now. And I know, Lauren, you spoke with more than a dozen House members, Democrats and Republicans, on this. I think that from the outside we all look at Congress and it looks like a mess. It's not always the case that they feel that way on the inside, but now they do.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly, and they feel like this is very personal. A big turning point -- obviously, January sixth, when not just an insurrection happened in their workplace but a lot of Democrats say they came back in that evening to certify a fair and free election and there were more than 130 House Republicans who voted against that certification.

After that moment, many Democrats said they started to feel less safe in their work environment and they started to feel like it was so hard to move beyond what they really viewed as a personal attack on the country and on the institution they all serve in.

Cheri Bustos, who is going to retire, told me it's a big reason why she decided not to run for reelection. And she was standing on the steps of the House of Representatives. She pointed down at a group of interns and she said I always give them five pieces of advice at the end of a term, one of them being don't take things too personally. She said this is personal and it is really hard for me to move on, which is part of the reason why I am not seeking reelection.

You also have just the level of decorum has changed on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Last week, you had Lauren Boebert go down to the floor and call some of her progressive colleagues the Jihad Squad. And that's a problem not just because it is incredibly racist, but also because it potentially could put people's lives at risk.

Here's what Jamaal Bowman told me about Lauren Boebert's comments. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Congresswoman Boebert -- excuse me if I'm saying her name wrong -- like, referred to us as the Jihad Squad on the House floor. And what that does is it empowers and inspires people throughout the country who want to do us harm to actually go and do that harm. I mean, not just myself but I've been with other members of the House who their security detail -- you would think they were the president.

And she's on the House floor spewing Jihad Squad. Then for her to say that is just dangerous. So, yes, I feel safe but it's incredibly concerning that she's speaking this way and we have to respond to that in some way.


FOX: And in the course of my reporting, Brianna, I got on the phone yesterday with Rep. John Garamendi of California. And in the background when I was asking him about whether or not he felt safe, whether or not the threats are as bad as they've ever been, you could hear his wife Patricia in the background saying yes, John, they are as bad. And finally, I just said I'd love to talk to your spouse about what she feels like when you go to work every day.


I mean, what she was telling me is she communicates with a lot of other spouses. She's very involved in organizing events with the spouses. She said she has never seen members' families so afraid for not just their members but their families at large when they're back in their districts.

I mean, what happens here -- the kinds of words that they use -- they really impact how members can live their lives. This is a hard job and it's not to say that members should feel like they are in a position where it's not just the legislating that's hard. It's about the safety and just feeling like going to work is getting harder and harder.

KEILAR: I just think about the brain drain that happens when you have good people who want to serve --

FOX: Exactly.

KEILAR: -- both sides of the spectrum -- and say you know what, I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to put my family through it. It's really -- it's terrible.

Lauren, thank you so much for your excellent and comprehensive reporting.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, the death toll rising to six in the Christmas parade tragedy in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Eight-year-old Jackson Sparks died from injuries he suffered when the vehicle plowed through the crowd of the parade route.

The suspect appearing in court for the first time as a chilling new video captured his arrest.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has the latest from Waukesha.


SUSAN OPPER, WAUKESHA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There are no words to describe the risk that this defendant presents to our community.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After being accused of killing six and injuring over 60 others, 39-year-old Darrell Brooks makes his initial court appearance.

KEVIN COSTELLO, COURT COMMISSIONER: I have not seen anything like this in my very long career.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): He was charged with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide, but prosecutors say a sixth is coming.

OPPER: I wish to notify the court, sadly, that today, we learned of another death of a child.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): And there is new video of the moments --

POLICE OFFICER: Put your hands where I can see them. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Put your hands up!

JIMENEZ: -- police found and arrested the 39-year-old Brooks Sunday night on the front porch of 24-year-old Daniel Rider, who had no idea what had just happened at the Waukesha Christmas parade about a mile away.

DANIEL RIDER, ENCOUNTERED DARRELL BROOKS ON PORCH BEFORE HIS ARREST: He even, at one point, asked me what was going on downtown. I was like well, there's a parade today. And he was like, oh, that must've been what that was.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The man he now knows was Brooks then asked to use his phone and call an Uber.

DARRELL BROOKS, SUSPECT: Hey, can I call some -- I called an Uber and I'm supposed to be waiting for it over here but I don't know when it's coming. Can you call it for me, please?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Not long after, Rider says he saw police going up and down the street and felt it had to do with Brooks, so he told him to leave. Moments later --


RIDER: So, I'm looking for his I.D. and moments later, the police see him and get him in cuffs. I had no idea in my house. The Uber showed up maybe a minute after he was in cuffs is all. So, I just think about sometimes if he had gotten in that car what could have happened.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Before allegedly driving his car through the parade, police say Brooks was involved in a domestic disturbance earlier Sunday. He has a criminal history going back to the 90s. But in July 2020, he was accused of firing a handgun during an argument. In February of this year, he was released on bail.

Less than nine months later, he allegedly ran over a woman, who claims she's the mother of his child, with his car. Nine days later, he was released on just $1,000 bail, less than two weeks before the Christmas parade. The Milwaukee County district attorney called that bail amount inappropriately low.

Authorities say Brooks also had an outstanding arrest warrant in an unrelated case in Nevada where he's a registered sex offender.

Meanwhile, a community is trying to heal, mourning the six that were killed and processing loved ones that nearly added to the toll.

JIMENEZ (on camera): And there are still others recovering in the hospital this morning as some even improve. A firefighter's son who was marching with his high school band during the Waukesha Christmas parade is now out of the ICU but with a long road to recovery after having undergone at least a surgery to repair a broken femur.

Meanwhile, the suspect, Darrell Brooks, during his initial court appearance, rarely looked up and was oftentimes seen swaying back and forth in his seat. He currently faces five counts of first-degree intentional homicide as prosecutors promise a sixth, which would mean if found guilty he would face six consecutive life sentences.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Waukesha, Wisconsin.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Omar for that report.

And as he mentioned, Darrell Brooks was released from police custody just days before the parade by posting $1,000 cash bail, which the D.A. now says was inappropriately low. And that's raised questions about an issue that has had some bipartisan support -- bail reform.



SCOTT WALKER (R), FORMER WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: And this is somebody who belongs in prison. And after all this talk, the latest of which you just mentioned, with radicals from New York and elsewhere calling for the end of prison and the end of cash bail, this is outrageous. People like this need to be protected from the public and it's an absolute breakdown that this happened.


BERMAN: All right. First of all, the end of prison and the end of bail are two completely different issues. Let's just separate them right now.

But joining us now is Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor who was heavily involved in the overhaul of the bail system in New Jersey.

First, Elie, people look at this and say this guy paid a thousand bucks to get out for what absolutely appeared to be violent offenses. How could that be?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL AND STATE PROSECUTOR: Yes, John, this is the result of a broken cash bail system in Wisconsin and many other states, combined with prosecutorial malpractice. So, let me break that down.

In Wisconsin, every defendant is entitled to cash bail, even now. Darrell Brooks -- now that he's killed six people -- still has cash bail. It's $5 million. He'll never reach it. But if he was wealthy, he could pay that and get out of jail.

They base bail there on wealth -- on can you post the money. A better system is to base it on risk. So, an obviously high-risk offender, like Darrell Brooks, can get locked up without bail.

On top of that, the prosecutors here -- to see their comment now that the bail was inappropriately low -- that is the understatement of the century. I mean, let's walk it through.

As Omar said, Darrell Brooks has a criminal record going back to the 90s. He's a registered sex offender. In 2020, he gets arrested for a firearms offense and released on $500 bail? Then, two weeks ago he gets arrested for trying to run someone over with a car, and this time they up the bail from $500 to $1,000? That is outrageous. That is inexplicable.

BERMAN: First of all, there hasn't been meaningful bail reform, as far as I know, in Wisconsin.

HONIG: Exactly.

BERMAN: It's not one of the states that has had it.

The reasons behind bail reform, Elie, are what?

HONIG: So, there's two legitimate purposes for bail. One is to ensure that the person comes back to court and doesn't flee. The second is to protect the community, and that's not a feature of the Wisconsin system.

In the federal system where I grew up as a prosecutor and in New Jersey after we changed it, you can take that into account.

You can go in front of a judge as a prosecutor and say this person, Darrell Brooks, is too dangerous. Based on his criminal record, based on the fact that he has warrants out for him now, based on the fact that he tried to run someone over nine days ago, and he needs to be locked up. No cash bail. It doesn't matter if he's wealthy. He needs to be locked up -- no cash bail, period.

BERMAN: Most, or at least many bail reform advocates that I have heard from -- what they argue for is if you have -- if you're -- if you're charged with violent offenses, it's no bail. You don't get released no matter what. That's how bail reform works. It's arguing for the elimination of bail for non-violent offenders, usually low- level drug offenses, right?

HONIG: Yes, and it should go both ways.

What we did in New Jersey is we went from a cash bail system like the one in Wisconsin to one where the most violent offenders -- and I think Darrell Brooks certainly would have qualified -- they get locked up and can't pay their way out. On the other side of the coin, though, there are mind-boggling numbers of low-risk, non-violent offenders who are stuck in prison because they can't post minimal bail.

We did a study in New Jersey and found that 12 percent of our entire incarcerated population -- thousands of people -- were locked up, not yet convicted, waiting for trial because they could not post $2,500 cash bail.

If you're low-risk, you should not be rotting behind bars waiting for prison, waiting for your trial. But if you're high-risk, you shouldn't be able to pay your way out.

BERMAN: It only works if the violent offenders can't get out --

HONIG: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- at all.


BERMAN: Elie Honig, thank you --

HONIG: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: -- very much for being with us.

So, in a CNN exclusive, the Ukrainian military working around the clock to prepare for the threat of a possible Russian invasion. We are live on the ground in Kiev.

KEILAR: Arm wrestling, sprinting. What four House Republicans are trying to do to win Kyle Rittenhouse as their intern.



KEILAR: Rising concerns from the United States about Russia's activities on the border with Ukraine, and this prompted the White House to consider sending advisers -- military advisers and weapons there. Now, Kiev is pressing forward with upgrades to its navy.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen got an exclusive look at this effort and he joins us now from Kiev. Fred, tell us what you saw.


And we just got back from the southeast of the Ukraine, down there by the Sea of Azov which, of course, is really a very contested waterway and certainly one where you also see a lot of the presence that the Russians have down.

And I can tell you, the Ukrainians really are very concerned about the situation but they also say that they are, in any case, going to stand their ground. And what they're doing is on the one hand, they're modernizing their navy and, in general, their military. But they are also building a lot of infrastructure as well.

Here's what we saw.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): On patrol in some of the most contested waters in the world, Ukraine's navy took us on an artillery boat in the Sea of Azov just as tensions with Russia have reached a boiling point.

"Our main goal is to defend and keep the sovereignty of Ukraine from the direction of the sea," the captain tells me.

Russia has been amassing troops through Ukraine's borders, the U.S. says, warning its allies a large-scale invasion could happen soon.

PLEITGEN (on camera): The Ukrainians believe that if Russia does decide to launch an attack, that the Sea of Azov could be one of the main battlegrounds. That's why the Ukrainians are both modernizing their fleet, but also their infrastructure on land as well.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Azov coastline holds a strategic value to Russia. It would allow President Vladimir Putin to establish a much- sought land corridor to connect Russia to annexed Crimea.


Ukraine's Defense Ministry gave us rare access to the massive construction going on at the Berdyansk naval base. Kiev has now ordered this building program to urgently be accelerated with the Russian threat looming large.

PLEITGEN (on camera): In order to complete this project as quick as possible, the Ukrainian military tells us they are now working seven days a week. And they say once it's finished it will offer a formidable deterrent against any Russian aggression.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Upgrades seem badly needed here with much of Berdyansk's port in utter disrepair. Ukraine says new facilities will allow them to base more and bigger ships here.

"We are ready," this officer says. "That is why we are here so that at any time that there is any aggression in the Azov Sea, we can resist it."

Ukraine's president says Russia has positioned close to 100,000 troops near its borders, which the Kremlin denies. These satellite images appearing to show dozens of military vehicles near Yelnya in southwestern Russia.

The Biden administration has warned Moscow not to attack and is mulling more weapons deliveries to Kiev. CNN has learned one U.S. Defense official says Russia's aim may be to create confusion or to get concessions.

The Kremlin dismissed talk of a possible invasion as hysteria, but Vladimir Putin also issued a clear warning.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): We need to consider that western partners worsen the situation by delivering to Kiev modern lethal weapons and provocative exercises in the Black Sea. And not only there but also other regions close to our borders.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukraine's armed forces say they are on constant alert, preparing for an armed confrontation they hope can be avoided.


PLEITGEN: And those preparations certainly do continue, Brianna. Some of the other things the Ukrainians have been doing is they conducted some air exercises. And they also announced yesterday that they're going to draft a law to be able to draw up to 200,000 reservists if the situation continues to escalate. But, of course, we have to keep saying the folks here on the ground tell us that is the last thing they would want to happen, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, definitely something to watch here, as we know you will be. Fred, thank you.

An alarming study that cancer screenings dropped dramatically -- I mean, by a big percentage here during the pandemic. So, what is this going to mean for the future?

BERMAN: And how much more should you expect to spend on your Thanksgiving meal? The White House -- they crunched the numbers.



BERMAN: The White House says inflation is likely to boost the cost of your Thanksgiving meal.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't know if you've cooked a turkey before but a 20-pound turkey is a pretty big turkey, I think we can all agree. They're about one dollar more. So, not to minimize that, any increase in prices is something the president is concerned about.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Press Sec. Jen Psaki was citing a number put out by Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack who compiled the average cost of Thanksgiving basics and noted that overall, this represents a five percent increase over last year.

And Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack joins me now. Mr. Secretary, happy almost Thanksgiving. Thank you for being with us.

I'm trying to figure out the message there from the White House -- on the one hand, saying we understand that costs are going up and this does affect people. On the other hand, saying it's not that much. That a 20-pound turkey is just one dollar there.

So, which is it?

TOM VILSACK, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY (via Webex by Cisco): Well, the reality is that we've got an economy that's growing and obviously, as a result of that, we're going to see some increase in prices. But we're also providing some help and assistance to families who -- with children. For example, the child tax credit is going to help offset that dollar that folks are having to pay for that turkey.

But John, I think one of the big messages here is that we're able to celebrate Thanksgiving together -- a big difference from a year ago. We have 195 million Americans who have now been vaccinated and the result is that we're now in a position to actually have family gatherings again.

We're going to do everything we can to continue to try to help folks with these costs. That's why the president did what he did earlier this week with reference to gas prices. We're going to see an impact on that to help family budgets.

But at the end of the day, we've got a long-term strategy and a short- term strategy to deal with inflation. The long-term strategy is getting the Build Back Better bill passed, which we know will help to control inflation and help rebuild our economy and help families with a lot of the difficult costs that they're incurring.

BERMAN: Look, it is wonderful that people can be together, especially if they could not be together last year.

Secretary, you say the cost of the meal is five percent. The American Farm Bureau, which actually surveyed a wider array of products for dinner, say it's 14 percent. Either way, it's not -- I'm not doing apples to oranges here. I'm just trying to suggest you do acknowledge that people are feeling a rise in prices right now and that it is -- it is setting some people back.

VILSACK: Well, there's no question that there's an increase in costs. But the Farm Bureau basically surveyed about 218 people. We actually took a look at prices at 29,000 retail outlets across the country. So, I'm very confident that our numbers reflect what folks are actually seeing in the grocery store.

And, of course, the other good news is that people are actually going to be able to put a Thanksgiving dinner on the table. It's not a situation where we're dealing with shortages of turkeys. Everybody's going to get a turkey that wants a turkey. And so, that's also good news.

But again, I think the key here is that we're also trying to help people deal with the consequences of rising prices, whether it's increasing the SNAP benefit or whether it's making sure that the child tax credit is available to folks, or whether it's rebuilding the infrastructure of this economy so over a period of time we reduce the bottlenecks. We reduce the supply chain issues that are causing some of these price increases.

At the end of the day, this administration is taking a number of steps to try to help families cope with increased costs.

BERMAN: I was speaking with Energy Sec. Granholm last night and one of the things she was wondering is if people who are selling gas are taking profits? It's basically this profit-taking from some of the oil and gas companies right now. That's what's --