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Infowars Host Alex Jones On Trial For Lies His Platform Spread About Sandy Hook School Massacre Was A Hoax; Hondo, Texas City Council Revokes Agreement To Host Fundraiser For Friends Of NRA; Guy Reffitt, A January 6 Rioter, Receives Jail Sentence; Senator Kyrsten Sinema Could Be The Key Vote To Secure The Manchin-Schumer Bill On Climate And Health Care. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 07:30   ET





BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It is a pivotal day today in the trial of Infowars' host Alex Jones. The parents of a child murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are expected to testify. The trial in Texas will determine how much money the conspiracy theorist and his company owe for spreading lies about the 2012 shooting.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is covering this case.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's going to be an emotional day in court, for sure. First, we're going to hear from Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. They're the mom and dad of Jesse Lewis, one of those children killed in the 2012 school shooting.

Now, they're expected to testify to the anxiety, the trauma, not only caused by their son's killing, but those lies that Brianna just talked about, spread by right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his platform Infowars.

In fact, prior to today's testimony, CNN learned they've been in isolation with professional security after an unspecified incident occurred once this trial got underway in a Texas courtroom last week.

Now, we're also expecting to hear from Jones himself today on the stand as the only witness in his defense.

Lewis and Heslin are seeking $150 million from Jones and Infowars' parent company. Their lawyer says $1 per each person who believed the lies about Sandy Hook that were pushed by Jones, who called the shooting a giant hoax, totaling $75 million there and then $75 million more for the anguish they endured from his harassment.

It will be up to a jury to decide how much of that amount these parents should be awarded in damages after last year a judge ruled Jones was liable by default because he refused to hand over a bunch of court documents and testimony.

Now, this -- guys get this, all while Jones' company filed for bankruptcy protection just as this trial got underway on Friday. That's not stopping a judge though from allowing this trial to move forward, but it's unclear if that's going to impact this jury's decision on how much money should be awarded here or if it will even press pause on some separate trials that were about to get underway from other parents who are also seeking damages.

So, there's a lot of stuff happening in the background here for this and it's just adding to the emotional toll that, of course, these parents have already experienced.

KEILAR: It is hard to imagine --

GINGRAS: It really is.

KEILAR: -- what they've been through. Brynn, thank you so much for covering this.


GINGRAS: Thanks.

AVLON: All right. A town near Uvalde, Texas has banned an NRA- affiliated event planned for this weekend. The Hondo City Council revoked an agreement to host a Friends of NRA fundraiser at a city- owned facility, where an AR-15 was to be raffled. This after hearing emotional pleas from parents of the children killed in the school massacre just back in May.

CNN's Rosa Flores joins us live from Houston.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, good morning. This is very painful for the families. But, I want to start with this, because it's very important for the families as well.

A lot of the families of the victims and the community overall in Uvalde they are pro-gun. They are gun owners. What they're against are assault-style rifles, the same type of rifle that used to massacre 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde.


So, here's the backdrop of this. The Friends of NRA were organizing an event in Hondo, Texas, which is just down the road from Uvalde, about 40 miles east. And they were going to rent a venue from the city for this event and the flyer had an assault-style rifle, an AR-15, on the page of the flyer and that was the big raffle item that was going to be part of this event.

This, of course, didn't sit well with the families in Uvalde. And so, they packed city council in Hondo, Texas, demanding that the city revoke its agreement with the Friends of the NRA. Take a listen.


JAZMIN CAZARES, SISTER OF JACKIE UVALDE SHOOTING VICTIM: It's a slap in the face to all of Uvalde, especially the ones that lost a loved one, some of us being here today.

What's an even harder slap in the face is the AR-15 you get if you donate $5,000 to the NRA.

NIKKI CROSS, RELATIVE OF UVALDE VICTIM UZIYAH GARCIA: But what happened to love thy neighbor? Is that not a thing here? The specific gun that they're giving away in this, what if that falls into the hands of another angry 18-year-old? Then it could be your children that are at risk and we would stand with you. I'm just asking that you postpone it. Give us time to grieve. We're going through enough already.


FLORES: So, at the end of that the city of Hondo voted to revoke its agreement with the Friends of the NRA, which raises the question, so is the event actually canceled or are they just changing the venue?

John, I asked that question to the organizers last night and I have not heard back.


AVLON: Absolutely stunning. Rosa Flores, thank you very much. Up next, we're going to be joined by the son of the Capitol insurrectionist who was just given the longest sentence so far in the attack. This son turned his dad in. And he'll join us live.



KEILAR: A federal judge has sentenced a January 6 rioter to seven years in prison, which is the longest sentence so far for participants in the Capitol Insurrection.

Sentencing for Guy Reffitt comes nearly 20 months after he brought a gun to the Capitol and threatened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Back in March, a D.C. jury convicted Guy of five felonies. Here is how Reffitt's daughters reacted to his sentencing.


SARAH REFFITT, DAUGHTER OF GUY REFFITT: To mark my dad as this horrible person and then having him prosecuted like this when somebody is maybe even able to get elected again doesn't seem right to me.

PEYTON REFFITT, DAUGHTER OF GUY REFFITT: Trump deserves life in prison if my father is in prison for this long. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Joining us now is Guy Reffitt's son, Jackson Reffitt. Jackson warned the FBI about his father both before and after the insurrection.

Jackson, thank you so much for being with us this morning. How are you feeling? How are you reacting to this sentence?

JACKSON REFFITT, SON OF GUY REFFITT: I mean, I'm not happy at all. And I haven't been happy through this whole situation and no one in my family has either.

But to say I'm surprised would be a lie. I mean, every -- everything my dad did, he's his own person, and his action has consequences. And, but I'm not happy at all.

KEILAR: Do you think he deserves this length of sentence?

J. REFFITT: I mean, absolutely. He deserves some time, rather to for anything to rehabilitate, for his mental health. He deserves a lot of safety nets. But, yes, he does.

KEILAR: You have worries about him being in prison that long? You mentioned his mental health.

J. REFFITT: Absolutely. I mean, the prison system in this country can be pretty harsh for a lot of reasons. And to blame my dad's deteriorating mental health for a pretty bad effect on him, I'm not going to be surprised.

But, I mean, that's why I mentioned it in my letter.

KEILAR: Do you now or have you throughout any of this process had any second thoughts about turning him in?

J. REFFITT: Absolutely not. But, it still bears the guilt that he is his own person and he has made his own choices. But, he's also been pretty much manipulated into making those choices. And it pains me that he is still responsible for his actions.

KEILAR: Jackson, I want to talk about what this has done to your family. This is your mom speaking yesterday. I want to listen to this.


NICOLE REFFITT, WIFE OF GUY REFFITT: No matter if you are a liberal, if you're an independent, if you're a Republican, this is not OK. This is what this. It's political persecution. We are patriots. Ashli Babbitt was a patriot. My husband is a patriot. Rosanne Boyland was a patriot. And all I can say is that you all can go to hell and I'm going back to Texas.


KEILAR: What is your relationship like with your mom? With your sisters?

J. REFFITT: It's been really hard over the past couple years. The really polarizing differences in how we view our father and the people that are involved in communities such as what my father was in. But -- and it feels like we're each pulling on each string one way. But, I don't view this as a political matter. This is more of what is morally correct and how to go about it.


And what my father was manipulated into doing and what he led to think was the best and only way to do it, he decided, as an adult, to make those choices. And whether my family views it any differently, it doesn't have an effect of the outcome. Yes.

KEILAR: What did -- when you heard -- you heard what your mom said there? You know, what do -- what do you think about what she said?

J. REFFITT: This -- I mean, realistically this doesn't have a matter of political opinion, what my father did is far from politics. This is completely off the rail as violence. Whether it had a political motive at this point doesn't matter. It's more about what he did and who he did it for.

KEILAR: It seems like, you know, you sister Peyton, listening to her, she feels kind of caught in the middle of this, you know. She was there at the courthouse. She loves you. She made that clear yesterday. She thinks that your dad, if he's getting this time then Trump should be getting some time. What do you say to that?

J. REFFITT: Absolutely. When she said that I was flabbergasted. I -- not only was I so impressed with her, but she was so right. I mean, my dad was used as a puppet and thousands of families have been.

And whether you deny or agree with that, it's just at this fact -- it's facts at this point. It is disgusting to see that someone with practically money and social power can just get away with manipulating thousands of people just for whatever reason and have no outcome.

KEILAR: When we look at this sentence, which is the longest one we've seen so far for a January 6 participant, part of the reason was that your father carried a weapon. He did not enter the Capitol. But he also decided that he was going to trial instead of accepting a plea. And that, obviously, is something that would have potentially gotten him a longer sentence, more time in jail.

It seemed in court that he regretted that a bit. But, why do you think he wanted to do that initially? Why do you think he wanted to be an example?

J. REFFITT: I can't think -- I can't think of anything other than my own experience with my father, knowing that he is a narcissist. And that he has a rather large ego.

And it was horrible to see him make that decision, knowing that he could have gotten off much easier. And I feared the moment that he was offered that and he denied it, that he would deny it and try to fight it into court. And I knew it wasn't going to end up like anything other than it is right now.

KEILAR: Have you talked to him since he was arrested? And have you talked to him since he was sentenced?

J. REFFITT: Briefly. I had a really weird phone call with him that was really awkward. But, yes, it was -- I talked to him once and we did not talk about anything other than like Magic: The Gathering, because they have guards in prison. But, nothing too serious, no.

KEILAR: So, it was just a hello and talking about Magic: The Gathering and that was it?

J. REFFITT: Yes, it was. It was -- it was really weird. But, I would love to talk to him again.

KEILAR: You would love to speak with him again. What would you say to him, Jackson?

J. REFFITT: I don't even know. Whether -- I don't want to embark -- engage with such deep emotions with him right now. It still is taking a lot of time. I still don't even know how to process right now, in terms of what I'm actually feeling. But, I would just talk about the most pointless stuff, just to go -- have a one-on-one with him at least a couple more times before he gets out.

KEILAR: Because he's your dad?

J. REFFITT: Absolutely. He's still my father. That doesn't justify anything that he's done. But, it's still -- I still have that attachment to him.

KEILAR: Jackson, thank you so much for taking the time with us this morning. We appreciate it.

J. REFFITT: Absolutely. You have a wonderful day.

KEILAR: Next, we'll be speaking to the White House's John Kirby about the killing of the leader of Al Qaeda, the intelligence that led them to one of the master planners of the September 11th terror attack.

AVLON: And could moderate Senator Kyrsten Sinema sink Democrats' hopes of passing a massive climate and healthcare bill? Her former communications director joins us next.



KEILAR: Democrats are hoping to seal a major legislative win this week after negotiations between West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer produced a breakthrough -- a huge breakthrough and quite a surprise on a climate and healthcare initiative that could give Democrats much-needed momentum going into the midterms. Timing is set to be critical here as the Senate breaks for recess by the end of the week. But, have Democrats made a strategic error by not first securing the key vote that they will need to pass this legislation? That is Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

Joining us now is John LaBombard. He served as the former communications director for Senator Kyrsten Sinema. He is currently a Senior Vice President at ROKK Solutions, which is a bipartisan public affairs firm.

All right, John, you tell us. Did they mess up by not including her?


JOHN LABOMBARD, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR SINEMA: Thanks for having me. I don't know that they messed up by not including her. This strategy on Senator Schumer and Senate leadership's part is a little bit perplexing to me. And how they rolled it out and allowed the caucus to learn about this via press release with some provisions that were not included in the House passed bill or the White House framework last year.

That said, I know Senator Sinema, I know the metrics she's using to analyze this proposal. And I think it should be, perhaps, both annoying to some in Washington, but heartening that she's not going to give in to pressure from either side. She's going to take a substantive look at what this proposal would mean for everyday Americans.

AVLON: Yes, when you look at this proposal, I mean, from a revenue standpoint, you know, it raises more than it spends, through 15 percent corporate minimum tax, prescription drugs, very popular across the country, but also in Arizona. Critically, the care and interest loophole, which we'll get to. But also energy security, climate change, Affordable Act extension, things that are broadly popular, both I imagine in Arizona and around the country.

Have you spoken to Senator Sinema or any of her staff in the last few days and gotten a sense of how she might vote?

LABOMBARD: I have not gotten a sense of how she's going to vote on this. I know her and I know sort of the lens through which she looks at this. You went through some of the key pieces of this proposal. You're right, I think they're popular. And I think a lot -- a huge swath of this proposal represents something that could earn consensus from 50 senators in the U.S. Senate today, including Senator Sinema.

The climate provisions that you mentioned, she's talked extensively about how a changing climate represents real challenge to Arizona and our country. I have a feeling that she's looking at this through almost a singular lens, which is, is this going to achieve the goals of getting at rising costs that Americans are facing and solving some of these big problems, like a changing climate. And is it going to achieve those goals without unintended consequences? Without inadvertently further hampering our economic recovery. And if it earns her vote I think it will have met those metrics.

KEILAR: So, well what wouldn't then? What would the hang-ups be, in your opinion looking through that lens, as you see what's in this bill?

LABOMBARD: Sure. Well, some of this is guesswork but, obviously, it's no secret that Senator Sinema has been keenly interested in tax policy, how the revenue is raised for this proposal.

And she's, perhaps, a little old-fashioned in this way. She thinks we should be very cautious and very thoughtful when we're talking about raising taxes or raising tax revenue, to make sure that it's done in a way that doesn't harm or economic competitiveness.

You know, we're in a pretty precarious economic moment right now, emerging from a pandemic, record inflation, supply chain disruptions. So, I have a feeling she's going to be looking very closely at those tax provisions and making sure that they're not going to carry on any unintended consequences.

AVLON: But look, I mean, this is someone who was a former Green Party activist. If Republicans take control of either House, which seems not unlikely, this could be the last chance to do something big on climate. Do you think that Senator Sinema would really trade carried interest for climate change to kill the bill?

LABOMBARD: Yes, it's a good question. And here's what I would say to that. I, again, think that there's huge swaths of this bill that could quickly, and I do think time is of the essence, to your point at the top, quickly earn consensus from 50 senators to support and advance this legislation.

I don't know, honestly, where Senator Sinema's going to land on the carried interest provision or anything else. And there may be others who raise concerns and objections.

As a Democrat who wants to see this get done, including someone who has worked for red-state Democrats, like Senator Sinema and others, what I would hope sincerely is that Senator Schumer and Senate leadership do not let any hang-ups over, for instance, a provision that represents a pretty tiny portion of this bill in terms of revenue, the carried interest provision, I hope that there's nothing that hangs up the huge swaths of these bills that could earn consensus from 50 senators.

KEILAR: John, it is great having our insights here. Thank you so much.

AVLON: Thank you.

LABOMBARD: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: John LaBombard.

AVLON: Very helpful. Very important.

LABOMBARD: Of course.

KEILAR: And New Day continues right now.


BIDEN: The United States successfully concluded an air strike in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed the emir of Al Qaeda, Ayman al- Zawahiri.

He was deeply involved in the planning of 9/11.

We make it clear again tonight that no matter how long it takes, no matter where you hide if you are a threat to our people the United States will find you and take you out.


KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Tuesday, August 2. I am Brianna Keilar. John Berman is off. And John Avlon is here. Good morning to you, John.

AVLON: Good morning.

KEILAR: President Biden's message to the nation, justice has been delivered, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda and the world's most wanted terrorist killed in a precision U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan.