Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Inflation Causing Increase in Price of Thanksgiving Dinner for Americans; Millions in U.S. Prepare to Travel for Holidays; Jury to Continue Deliberations in Trial of Men Who Killed Ahmaud Arbery; Comments by Defense Attorneys in Ahmaud Arbery Trial Draw Controversy. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 08:00   ET



TOM VILSACK, AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: I am. And the reason I am is that a spokesperson for one of the major seed companies indicated that they weren't having a problem with increased costs because all they did was to increase the price of their product above and beyond what their increased costs were. So, yes, I think that is a concern, that we need to be making sure people aren't taking advantage of the circumstance and situation. As we come out of the pandemic, as we rebuild this economy, they're going to be fits and starts and a bit of disruption. But at the end of the day, what we hope to be able to do is to build back better, to have a stronger economy, more competitive economy, and one that helps families cope with the costs, everything from childcare expense to healthcare costs.

BERMAN: As former governor of Iowa, I want to ask you what your favorite Thanksgiving side is? Does it have to be corn by definition?

VILSACK: No, actually, it's my wife's stuffing and dressing. It requires a great deal of chopping of lots of vegetables and nuts, and it's absolutely delicious. We're looking forward to it.

While I got everybody listening to this, just four simple rules. Make sure that you clean your hands after you deal with that raw poultry, separate when you're cutting on different boards so that you don't have your -- you reduce the risk of some problems. Cook that turkey to 165 degrees, check it in three places, the breast, the thigh, and the wing. And make sure that after you have eaten that wonderful meal, you don't take that nap until you put everything back in the fridge.

BERMAN: I will say number five, though, is nap plentifully. Once the stuff is back in the fridge, nap excessively, that would be my advice. Secretary Tom Vilsack, I appreciate you being with us. Happy Thanksgiving.

VILSACK: You, too.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, November 24th, and I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman. It is Thanksgiving Eve, AKA, getaway day for millions of Americans, traditionally one of the busiest travel days of the year. Millions of people are loading up their cars, they're piling on to planes, they are heading to holiday destinations after a year of celebrating in place. The TSA is expecting to screen more than 20 million passengers nationwide here over the next 10 days or so. And AAA says more than 53 million people will be on the move after the long holiday weekend, the majority of them on the road. And that is just five percent shy of pre-pandemic levels.

BERMAN: Gas prices are at a seven-year high. The average, the current average is now $3.40 a gallon, which has actually stabilized. It's not rising anymore, but it is up from $2.11 a year ago. AAA breaking down the best and worst times for travel today. The most significant delay is expected between noon and 8:00. The best time to be on the road if you can stay awake is after 9:00 tonight.

So what will the weather conditions be like for people who are hitting the roads and the air? Let's start with meteorologist Jennifer Gray. Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, METEOROLOGIST: John, yes, we are going to see a little bit of a disruption across portions of the Midwest as that rain pushes in. Eastern seaboard, though, looking good. We are cold this morning, though, and it has reached the deep south. Freeze alerts in effect for portions of Alabama, the Carolinas, as well. Temperatures feeling like the 20s across places like Atlanta this morning, 27 in Raleigh is what it feels like, feeling like 18 in Boston. So a chilly start, but temperatures will rebound. We will warm across the east just in time for Thanksgiving Day, with high temperatures in the 50s across a large section of the northeast.

If you're looking forward to the parade, I think the balloons will fly high, winds will only be gusting at around 10 miles per hour, well within the balloon wind limits. And temperatures during the parade will be in the 40s or so.

I think we'll have a bigger headache when we're trying to go home for Thanksgiving. We do have our next storm system making way across the east, even some models hinting at a little bit of snow across the northeast, so that could slow you down, so make sure you stay weather aware as far as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday go. But that warmer air will give way, cold air moving in, and then another shot of it in time for the beginning of next week, John.

BERMAN: Jennifer Gray, thanks for keeping us posted.

So we have some live pictures we want to show you of the courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. Minutes from now, the jury in the trial of the three white men accused of murdering unarmed black man Ahmaud Arbery will reconvene. Yesterday, the 11 white and one black juror deliberated for more than six hours. CNN's Sara Sidner live in Brunswick. The jury went home last night, Sara, about to arrive back to begin deliberations again this morning.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And we heard from the judge. The judge basically called the jury in last night around 6:00 and asked them if they were close to a verdict.


And here's where there is a bit of a clue, because we heard for first time from the foreperson who said that we are in the process of working to reach a verdict, and at first, they didn't want to go home. So it gives you some sense of where they are, and that it is possible that we will see a verdict today or this week.

But we have been watching this trial for now 14 days. And now deliberations into the second day, they're starting bright and early. In about 25 minutes, the jury will start their deliberations again. And we heard a lot of different arguments. We heard from the prosecution, though, which gets the last word in every case, they get a rebuttal argument to the closing arguments by themselves and the defense. And what we heard from the prosecution was a story of what happened to Ahmaud Arbery. We heard the prosecution talking about empathy and talking about why a gun was brought to this fight and the men who were chasing Arbery, the men who later on said they were chasing him because they believed he committed burglary, but they did not know anything about any crime that Ahmaud Arbery committed because they didn't see it before they started chasing him.

Let's listen to a little bit of the arguments from the prosecution and from the defense in this case.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: Where's the empathy? How about don't bring a shotgun with you? This is really easy. Call the police. Don't point a shotgun at people, unless you're going to kill them.

JASON SHEFFIELD, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They 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. He told you why he raised the gun, because he was afraid that he would be on him within seconds.


SIDNER: Now, we should also mention that the racial overtones and undertones both in this case have been very obvious. There was a moment in court that a lot of people are not going to forget, and that is what made people in the courtroom gasp and sent Ahmaud Arbery's mother running out of court as fast as she could, horrified after one of the prosecutors talked about his appearance and mentioned his dirty long toenails. That really got people talking about dehumanization.

For the prosecution, the prosecution actually mentioned that in her last words to the jury, saying that this is a defense tactic 101, and that it is offensive. John?

BERMAN: Sara, please keep us posted. Could be a very, very important day there.

KEILAR: Kevin Gough, the attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan, was pressed last night about his multiple requests to bar black faith leaders from the courtroom. Let's listen.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think about pastors in terms of black and white?

KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM "RODDIE" BRYAN: I don't think of pastors in terms of black and white. And let's be clear. If you were in that courtroom sitting in my chair, representing Roddie Bryan, you would be doing exactly the same thing.

CUOMO: No, I wouldn't.

GOUGH: We have no problem with black people being in the gallery. Never did. Never will. Chris, you can call me -- Chris, you can call me ignorant. You can call me anything you want. But I'm here representing Roddie Bryan, and I'm going to defend my client to the best of my ability, and I don't really care whether the people in the cheap seats like it or not.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss is Benjamin Crump. He is the civil rights attorney who is representing the father of Ahmaud Arbery. Ben, just to be clear, that attorney equated black pastors with the Klan. What do you say to that, Gough claiming that his opposition to black pastors being in the courtroom wasn't about race?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD FAMILY: Well, I think it is ludicrous when everybody heard him specifically say black pastors. And this whole tragedy, and this entire trial harkens back to the Jim Crow era. When you really think about this young black man jogging and this white lynch mob who suspects he's done something criminal, they don't call the police, they don't give him due process. They chase him and kill him.

And then you hear this defense lawyer talking about black pastors shouldn't be allowed in church -- into the courtroom, almost as if they're saying that you have a right to dictate what Ahmaud's parents can do even in their day in court, their one day in court, where their child has been lynched. It is almost like the killers who are saying you need to comply with our mentality out there when they killed Ahmaud.

And then unbelievably you hear the defense lawyer in her closing say that Ahmaud Arbery had long legs with dirty toenails, as if he was a runaway slave and they were allowed to chase him and make him comply or kill him. And the only question that remains unanswered is if this jury is going to give us a Jim Crow verdict, or they're going to say to America we must be better than this in 2021.


KEILAR: What was Laura Hogue doing, do you think, with that long dirty toenail remark to the jury? CRUMP: I believe she was using dog whistle rhetoric. She was saying

he's a scary black man, and so if you say he's a scary black person, and make the jury believe that, then you want them to divorce themselves of what they see on that video of a human being chased down and being lynched in broad daylight. We don't want you to have consideration for him because he's the scary black person. It is Trayvon Martin 2.0. Remember they assassinated the character of Trayvon Martin after he had been assassinated, and now they're doing the exact same thing almost 10 years later with Ahmaud Arbery. The similarities are eerily similar.

KEILAR: Back to Kevin Gough, he said this hypothetical, he proposed a hypothetical about an officer being on trial, and I want us to listen to that.


KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM "RODDIE" BRYAN: If every time a police officer is killed, we're going to allow the police department to stack the courtroom with uniformed police officers, I think you would agree that would be inappropriate.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I also would --

GOUGH: Would you not?

CUOMO: I don't know that it would be appropriate. But I know it is not an analogy. Having black pastors there to support the family I don't think is going to have a chilling effect on a jury, nor should it.


KEILAR: What do you think about his analogy there?

CRUMP: Well, I think it is misplaced. And most trials when police officers have been killed, you do have a lot of police officers paying their respect, as well they should. And I think it is very appropriate for the victims in a court proceeding to be able to have the people there who they wish to comfort them.

In the black community, the faith and church is the foundation. And so to not allow Ahmaud's mother and father to have their faith and spiritual leaders pray with them to keep their sanity -- think about what you saw on that courtroom, pictures of their child, their baby who they brought into this world with a hole in his body. They saw videos over and over again, so they're praying for them to keep their sanity in this insane situation. And to say that we refuse to allow black pastors in, it was just so arrogant. It was the essence of white supremacy mentality, almost like thinking because a black man is jogging, that ordinary white citizens can stop him and make him comply. And if he dares not follow their orders, then they have the right to kill him, and to say that that's OK.

That is what we're saying. We can't allow America, that is the essence of a white supremacy mentality, and we must be better than that. We must make the Declaration of Independence real for all American citizens.

KEILAR: Ben, I appreciate you being with us this morning. Another critical day here in this trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Ben Crump, thank you.

CRUMP: Thank you.

KEILAR: And coming up, fresh off a sweeping acquittal by a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Kyle Rittenhouse made a trip down to Mar-a-Lago. What he and former President Trump discussed.

And it was one of the longest wrongful imprisonments in U.S. history. The man who spent 43 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit will join us live.

BERMAN: Plus --




BERMAN: Ben Affleck walked so that today's astronauts could run. NASA's "Armageddon"-like mission --


BERMAN: -- to throw an asteroid off of its path.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will take time, but before long you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank. And in the longer term, we will reduce our reliance on oil as we shift to clean energy. But right now, I will do what needs to be done to reduce the price you pay at the pump.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: In an effort to lower gas prices ahead of this busy holiday travel season, President Biden announcing the release of emergency oil reserves, 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But this will be weeks before these barrels hit the market.

Joining us now is CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.

You know, politically, Kaitlan, what is this going to mean or hopefully as the White House sees it for the president?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is no denying that this is politically driven because the White House wants to look like they are taking efforts to really combat this issue given people are hitting the road today, they're hitting the road tomorrow, there's a lot of travel coming up for the other holidays as well because people are doing something they haven't been able to do last year and the year before.

And the White House wants to look like they understand the financial pain that these people are feeling at the pump, but I think the question about what the president decided yesterday to release these 50 million barrels of oil from the strategic reserves is a question of when does this actually go into effect and when will people see this actually affect the prices that they are paying at the pump. I think two things, one it is only going to be a modest change, based on what we heard from these energy experts. And the White House themselves are saying that it could be a few weeks before you actually see this translate into lower prices.

So I think that's going to be part of this, whether or not it actually helps the president and I think also the White House knows that they're only expecting a modest change with this effort that he's taking. They know this isn't going to be something that completely rectifies the prices or brings them back to the levels people were seeing last year.

But they want to look like they are doing something behind this and not like they're ignoring the fact that people are paying more when they're filling up their tanks.


And so, what the president is saying there gets to another aspect of this, he has a big climate message and oil is at the heart of it. And so the president is saying, you know, we are having to do what we're doing now to lower prices doesn't change my larger message on climate. I think that is going to be kind of this conundrum facing the White House as they are dealing with this in the months ahead.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Kaitlan, we learned last night that Kyle Rittenhouse, after being found not guilty by the jury in Wisconsin for the homicide charges that he was facing, he visited former President Trump in Mar-a-Lago.

The former president talked about this with Sean Hannity. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: He's a really good young guy. He's 18 years old. Just left Mar-a-Lago, a little while ago and he should never have been put through that. That was prosecutorial misconduct.


BERMAN: So clearly the former president there trying to, I guess, gloom onto something on a way he sees political benefit. COLLINS: Yeah, I don't think this is surprising at all from the

former president. We know he was paying close attention based on what we heard to this case as it was playing out. We have seen how Kyle Rittenhouse has been exalted by people on the right in the aftermath of this verdict.

And I think there has been some criticism and some questions about that because there is a way to have a nuanced discussion, to talk about the coverage of what happened in Wisconsin with Kyle Rittenhouse at the beginning when this was playing out and as this trial played out. But now you've seen it turn into this celebration, where they really have taken up his cause and people who are saying they would like to elevate him further.

Clearly, the former president is doing that by inviting him down it Mar-a-Lago, meeting with him, taking photos with him and talking about that and trying to use this as a cause. I don't think it is entirely surprising because we have seen the former president do this at other times. Of course, he did find his way to Mar-a-Lago following that verdict.

KEILAR: We have seen this exaltation happen with other folks. Eddie Gallagher comes to mind for me. I don't know I've seen someone where you have people like Lauren Boebert and others in Congress who are competing to get him as a congressional intern.

COLLINS: Yeah, I think it does raise the question kind of after -- in the aftermath of this what does Kyle Rittenhouse's future look like. Does he have a political future? That's something people talked about. It is this way of where the right has really taken him up in this cause and talking about him, and ways they could elevate his profile even further.

When you look at the facts at the heart of this, there were two people who were killed. He did shoot a third. It was a case that played out and had national implication, had the eyes of the nation watching this. And now in the wake of this verdict, you've seen how they have taken this up, they tried to elevate his profile even further. I don't think this is the end of it, clearly, of course, based on the former President Trump -- former President Trump hosting him down at Mar-a- Lago like he did.

KEILAR: Yeah, I mean, that guy is getting utilized, I think you could say, by the right wing here.

Kaitlan, thank you so much for being with us.

Here's what else to watch today.


KEILAR: Kevin Strickland spent more than four decades behind bars for a triple murder he did not commit. And now a few hours ago is a free man. He's going to join us live next.

BERMAN: And an emotional return to the job he loves. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK VITALE, BASKETBALL HALL OF FAMER: I can't believe I'm sitting here.


BERMAN: What a moment.

Dick Vitale back behind the microphone, court side. Like I said, just what a moment.



KEILAR: Can't even imagine it, spending more than four decades in prison as an innocent person, convicted of a triple homicide. But for one Missouri man, that has been his reality.

Despite the surviving eyewitness trying to recant her testimony, despite another man convicted of the crime saying that he wasn't involved, despite numerous family alibis and absolutely no physical evidence, Kevin Strickland was sentenced to 50 years in prison without the possibility of parole back in 1979.

And yesterday, just hours ago after 43 years behind bars for a crime -- crimes that he did not commit, he left a free man and Kevin is with us now, along with his attorney, Tricia Rojo Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project.

Kevin and Trisha, thank you so much for being with us.

As I mentioned, Kevin, you were freed just hours ago after 43 years in prison. What is that like?

KEVIN STRICKLAND, EXONERATED AFTER 43 YEARS IN PRISON: Atmosphere (ph) changed. It's, you know, it's refreshing. I guess that would be a start.

Disbelief. Once again, I recite (ph) to saying, feelings and emotions, but it was a restless night last night. And I'm thinking that this is -- this still isn't true. Are they waiting for me outside to take me back? I mean --

KEILAR: Is that what --


STRICKLAND: It's unbelievable that I finally made it.

KEILAR: Is that is that what was keeping you awake?