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The Situation Room
Kyle Rittenhouse Not Guilty On All Charges, Biden Spending Bill Faces Uncertain Fate In The Senate After Passage In The House; Moderate Dem Joe Manchin Still Holding Out Support For Biden Spending bill As It Heads To The Senate; CDC Advisers Endorse Pfizer, Moderna Booster Shots For All Adults After FDA Authorization; White House Releases Biden Health Summary After His First Annual Physical As President; Defense Atty Likens Rally Supporting Arbery Family To A "Public Lynching" Of Three White Defendants; Kyle Rittenhouse Not Guilty On All Charges; Jury Wraps First Day Of Deliberations In Trial For White Supremacists Who Organized Deadly Charlottesville Rally. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 19, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's it 9:00 at noon Eastern.
I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now breaking news, Kyle Rittenhouse is found not guilty of all charges after claiming he fatally shot to racial justice protesters and wounded another in self-defense. We're getting new reaction to this polarizing verdict.
Another major story we're following, President Biden's landmark spending bill is approved by the House of Representatives after months of delay. The nearly $2 trillion centerpiece of the President's agenda now faces serious hurdles in the U.S. Senate.
And CDC vaccine advisors just endorsed COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans. We could get a final decision from the agency's director at any moment. Standby.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: And let's begin with our coverage tonight with the very latest on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. I want to go straight to our Senior National Correspondent Sara Sidner. She's just outside the courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Update our viewers, Sara.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was relief on the part of the defendant Kyle Rittenhouse and disappointment on the part of the prosecution. It was a dramatic day in court when the jury read all five counts and came up with not guilty verdicts. Here's what it looked like in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State of Wisconsin versus Kyle Rittenhouse. As to the first count of the information, Joseph Rosenbaum, we the jury find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty.
As to the second count of the information, Richard McGinnies, we the jury find the defendant Kyle H. Rittenhouse not guilty.
As to the third count of information, unknown male, we the jury find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse not guilty.
As to the fourth count of the information, Anthony Huber, we the jury find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse, not guilty.
As to the fifth count of the information, Gaige Grosskreutz, we the jury find the defendant, Kyle H. Rittenhouse not guilty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The reaction there you see Kyle Rittenhouse becoming unstable. He heard falls onto the desk in -- filled with emotion. His mother, I heard her gasp. I was in the courtroom as this was being read. And then eventually her head fell into her hands and she appeared to be crying.
There were also family members of those who were shot and killed that day and injured, they're very upset with this verdict, feeling like justice was not done. But for Kyle Rittenhouse and his attorneys they were pleased with this verdict, though it took about 25 hours for this jury to deliberate and get through to this not guilty verdict.
Here's what Kyle Rittenhouse's defense attorney had to say about the verdict.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK RICHARDS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR KYLE RITTENHOUSE: It's been a long three weeks. We're very happy with the verdict. We're happy that the jury took the time, put in an incredible amount of effort. There were times we doubted the case, there were times when we were confident. And to say that we were relieved would be gross miss understatement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The star evidence in this case for anyone who was sitting and watching the trail really was the video that was taken not only from those who are on the streets that night, live streamers showing Kyle Rittenhouse and his actions that night. But also from a very clear high definition drone video that the jury requested to look at, and they did relook at that evidence after the case was done.
We do know that there has also been reaction, as you might imagine, from the prosecutors in this case, they said that they were disappointed, but that they respected the jury's decision. And they wanted to make sure that others respected the jury's decision as well. This means that Kyle Rittenhouse is a free man at this hour. Person who is relieved, though his attorney say that he is suffering from PTSD from all this and hasn't been sleeping and has been getting counseling.
As for those who lost loved ones, they are furious about this verdict and they feel that justice was denied their loved ones. Wolf.
BLITZER: What's it like, Sara, outside the courthouse where you are?
SIDNER: You know, this is the calmest it has been in all the weeks that we have been here, the two and a half weeks of this trial. There was a little bit of arguing going on outside as soon as the verdict was known to the public. You had the uncle of Jacob Blake, Justin Blake, out here. He had been here every single day of the trial.
But what ended up happening in the end is that it dissipated in the last couple of hours and there are far fewer people on those court steps than there have been in the last two plus weeks. Wolf.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by Sara, but I'll bring you into this conversation.
I also want to bring in Defense Attorney Shan Wu, and CNN Senior CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.
Shan, not guilty on all charges. What's your reaction to this verdict?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Not surprised, Wolf. I really think this case offers us a glimpse and a reminder of everything that's wrong with our criminal justice system. The prosecutors here did themselves no favors. They had a lot of self-inflicted injuries.
Yes, I think starting right off the bat, why did they even choose to try it in a small community that was obviously impacted by these demonstrations and even riots. They had an uphill battle, the judge was very difficult for them, even appeared to demonstrate bias. But I think the real takeaway here is all the things that are wrong with our system, and those need to be paid attention to.
BLITZER: Well, let's follow up. Ellie, what do you make of this verdict? Would you have expected Rittenhouse at least to have been found guilty on some of those lesser counts?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, Wolf, I found -- I would not have expected that. And I found this jury verdict to be not surprising.
At its core, this case was about two things, the law of the state of Wisconsin and the facts of this particular case. And that's by design, our criminal justice system is supposed to take this kind of decision and insulate it from any politics, any emotions, any outside influences. And all indications are that's just what happened here. And an important point to keep in mind here. The law requires the prosecutors in this case to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. That's a very high bar. And so if the jury found themselves back in the deliberation room, and they said, this is a close call, that's it. That's reasonable doubt, and that leads to a not guilty verdict. And that's what we saw today, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Sara, the shootings unfolded at the height of the racial justice protests last year over there and Kenosha, does the community feel there's still a very long way to go to see racial justice right now? What are you hearing?
SIDNER: There is a sense that there has been justice denied and that there are two different justice systems, one for black Americans and one for white Americans. But that has been said throughout this because that is coming mainly from Justin Blake, Jacob Blake's uncle, who was very disappointed that the officer in that case, that by the way, was the precursor to the protest, the reason for the protests that turned to riots in the first place. There -- that has been a thread throughout all of this. And this is just another moment in that belief for some people.
For others, I think Elie Honig hit the nail on the head. It was about the evidence in this case, it was about the details of this case, not the details of what people think or believe or want to believe, but the details in this case. That is what the jury had to work with, and they worked with it for three plus days. They looked at it, they went over it, they went over it again and again and they deliberated for more than 25 hours over the past three and a half days.
In the end, there were a lot of things that were learned in trial, Wolf. We learned that the AR-15 style rifle it turned out actually was possessed legally by Kyle Rittenhouse, even though he was 17 and a minor because the measurements of the gun matter in the laws here in Wisconsin. And it was under this specific measurements that allowed him to possess it. The prosecutor clearly did not know that or did not look into that because it was one of the charges, and then eventually a charge the judge ended up dropping in this case.
We also learned that Rittenhouse was staying at his father's home and there are other family members here in Kenosha. The night of this he was here staying with a friend, so he didn't come into town with this rifle from Illinois where he lives with his mother. He was already in town, the rifle was already here in the state of Wisconsin at his friend's family's home.
There were lots of different things that we learned in this trial and that the jury learned and then took back, looked over all of the evidence and came up with a not guilty verdict. And in this country, you cannot be tried twice for the same crime once you are acquitted. So he is a free man tonight. Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, no double jeopardy as they say.
You know, Shan, the jury clearly believe Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense. But he wouldn't have needed to act, let's say in self- defense, if he hadn't been there armed himself with an AR style -- an AR-15 style rifle. Is that simply not relevant from a legal standpoint?
WU: No, it's quite relevant. That was the burden, you know, as Elie's pointed and Sara point out was on the prosecution, they needed to establish their narrative of the provocation beyond a reasonable doubt and they didn't do that.
The jury can only work with what has been given. And I view this case as evidence of the problems with the justice system. The judge's antics, he seemed biased to me, but there's no accountability for that. I mean, starts with the U.S. Supreme Court that refuses to adopt its own code of ethics, that trickles down.
But the jury worked with what has had, and I give them credit for being out three days and they tried to work the case. But, you know, it's the hand they're dealt with.
BLITZER: You know, Elie, Rittenhouse broke down in tears today, we just saw the video. And all of us remember, he broke down on the stand during his own testimony. It was a pretty big risk to have him testify. But clearly, I suspect you agree that paid off for the defense, didn't it?
HONIG: It wasn't risk, Wolf. It was also a necessary risk, I think, in a self-defense case. It's awfully hard to make a self-defense case without calling the defendant himself.
And I think it's worth reflecting here, the prosecution really did not do much on the cross examination of Kyle Rittenhouse. I don't think they undermined his credibility. I don't think they undermine his fundamental story.
And Wolf, as to that show of emotion, it's worth keeping in mind, the most solemn event that we have in our criminal justice system is when a jury delivers a verdict, particularly in a murder case. And the stakes are just unimaginable for everybody. You have a defendant, his liberty is on the line, whatever anyone may think of him. You have the family of the people who were killed.
Again, whether this was legally self-defense, legally, not self- defense, you have to empathize for the people who lost loved ones here. So the stakes are unimaginably high. And these kinds of things are resolved in an orderly fashion in courtrooms in this country.
BLITZER: You know, Shan, it was never going to be necessarily what they call a slam dunk. But how much of this verdict do you attribute to the performance by the prosecutor and the, let's call it, unorthodox approach by the judge?
WU: I would attribute a fair amount to that. I mean, prosecutors, lawyers, you know, as Elie knows, we have to deal with tough judges sometimes. But this judge did some things that gave signals to the jury that he somehow seemed sympathetic, even that a very unusual situation of having Rittenhouse pick out who the alternates were, that shot video of him having Rittenhouse, you know, right by aside looking at the video, that made it harder for the prosecutors. But the prosecutors definitely had a lot of self-inflicted wounds here. They needed to carry their narrative and they did not do that.
I totally agree on cross. They did not make a dent in them. And they basically, you know, they were overwhelmed by a pretty solid defense team, they seemed well funded. They had a very legendary jury consultant on their side, you know, but that's the way it goes. When you're a prosecutor you have to overcome that, and they obviously didn't.
BLITZER: Yes. Really (ph) say the defense team was very, very strong in this particular case.
Shan Wu, Elie Honig, Sara Sidner, guys, thank you very much.
Up next, we'll have more on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict after a jury found the 18-year-old not guilty on all charges.
Plus, a pivotal win for President Biden today after the House of Representatives passes his sweeping spending bill. Now it goes to the Senate. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: More breaking news this hour President Biden is responding to the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. He says the jury system works and the nation must abide by the verdict. But he also acknowledges that the anger and the concern many Americans are feeling right now are -- is really evident. This comes as the President is also marking a critical win, a huge win, the House passage of his nearly $2 trillion dollar spending bill. Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, the President is calling this vote a giant step forward for a key part of his domestic agenda. So where do things go from here?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a significant step, there's no question about it, related to a $2 trillion proposal that would touch nearly every corner of the economy filled with Democratic priorities, not just the last year or a couple of years, but perhaps in some cases several decades. However, there are still many steps to come and they are complicated. Most notably, with two centrist Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
Wolf, we've talked about them pretty much constantly over the course of the last five or six months and they still have not signed on. Not just to the House proposal, but to the President's own framework, which was slimmed down from that House proposal. That is where work is going to be over the course of the next several weeks, that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear the Senate wants to move quickly on this, but in a 50-50 Senate, they cannot afford to lose a single Democrat. That means they can't go anywhere without Manchin and Sinema signed off on.
However, there's optimism from the same Democrats that just passed the president's bill. Take a listen to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Whatever comes out of the Senate, we'll be working together with them so that we have agreement when it comes back to us. I have absolutely no doubt.
We -- the biggest hurdle was to get the bill there. The biggest challenge was to meet the vision of President Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And now the challenge for President Biden will be to get Sinema and Manchin on board, something he said he believes he can do. Now, the reason he needs everyone is there are not going to be any Republicans in the Senate who support this proposal.
There were no Republicans in the House last night or this morning, sorry, who supported this proposal. In fact, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy set a new record for longest House remarks, more than eight hours and 30 minutes breaking Speaker Nancy Pelosi's record when she was a minority leader a couple of years ago. Just tearing in to every aspect of the bill and, perhaps most importantly, getting a compliment from former President Trump. Clearly, Leader McCarthy trying to rally his troops for, perhaps, his own internal positioning inside the conference, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, good point.
At the same time, there was, I think, a rather notable and historic moment today. For 85 minutes, Vice President Kamala Harris actually became the first woman to hold presidential powers. Tell us about that.
MATTINGLY: That's exactly right. Look, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier today, pretty much everything that this White House does with the first female vice president, the first African American vice president is historic to some degree. But there's no question, the hour and 25 minutes that President Biden was receiving a colonoscopy was the first time a woman has held those powers even on a temporary basis.
Now the President went through that colonoscopy as part of his annual physical exam. He called in 11:35, both the Vice President and his Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, and make clear he was out OK and feeling well about things. And we also, Wolf, just got a copy of the summary of the President's physical, which we're still going through at the moment. But the bottom line right now on the first read through of things from Kevin O'Connor, the physician of the President is President Biden remains a healthy, vigorous, 78 year old male who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency to include those as chief executive, head of state and Commander and Chief.
President Biden earlier today told reporters he thought it was good and nothing had really changed from his last exam in 2019. Would note the President is 78 right now, he turns 79 tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: Happy birthday tomorrow. And we're going to have a lot more on this physical exam of the President today. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be joining us later this hour so we'll get a full assessment of how he did.
Thanks very much for that Phil Mattingly at the White House.
I want to bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger right now and our CNN Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod.
Gloria, there's more work clearly to be done, but take a look at what's in the sweeping climate and social spending bill that passed the House of Representatives. Will this be a transformational moment as President Biden had hoped?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if he gets us through, as Phil Mattingly was saying. But when you take a look at everything that's on this graphic, Wolf, you see that even if they get part of it, they are affecting younger families in this country, older families, families in poverty, and they're talking about the future. They're talking about fighting climate change. They're talking about things like child tax credits, paid family leave, which as we all know, Joe Manchin objects to, who knows if that's going to remain or not remain.
But given the struggle to get this through, what is remarkable about what happened this morning, is the virtual unity of the Democrats in supporting this. I mean, we all know what they went through with the progressives and moderates, and there was only one Democrat voting against this, all Republicans voted against it. But hats off to Nancy Pelosi for shepherding this through. Ron Klain, the White House Chief of Staff, just tweeted that she is the goat, you know what that stands for, greatest of all time. And, you know, look at what went on the floor when this was finally done in the morning hours today.
So, they now have something they can take to the voters. If they get it through the Senate. And again, no votes to spare, they just have to learn how to sell their story and have to -- how to tell their story to the American people about what they are trying to do for them.
BLITZER: Yes, the Democrats were all very, very happy, applauding, screaming, standing up, the Republicans were all sitting, as you can see one side versus the other side.
BLITZER: You know, David, the President will need to get some moderate Democratic senators on board to get it through the Senate. That is going to have to go through the House one more time. How much of an uphill battle in the coming weeks is he facing? DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Wolf, it's going to be complicated. Let me say, first, Wolf, if you're going to have a physical, there's no better way to lower your blood pressure than to get a really big vote out of Congress. So, good for him, it was a really big win.
And I agree with Gloria, Nancy Pelosi is a master at this, and I experienced it myself when I was in the White House. But she puts these things together like a Rubik cube and somehow she always manages to assemble it.
It's not going to be as easy in the Senate. Manchin and Sinema, and particularly Manchin lately, have been pretty stubborn about details of this plan.
There are progressives like Bernie Sanders who are unhappy particularly about a tax break that was included for property tax deductions from income taxes, a cap was raised that would really benefit wealthier people. It was done mostly for high wage areas, New York, New Jersey, California, a lot of people object to that. That was one of the reasons why they didn't get all the Democrats in the House to vote for today. One representative didn't on that particular issue, but that's how they got some of the other moderates to come along from these high wealth states.
These are things that are going to have to get sorted out. There are things as Gloria mentioned, a family -- paid family and medical leave that Manchin has raised questions about, he doesn't want to add cost to Medicare. So, it's going to be a really challenging month. And they have to do this in such a way that it comes back to the House in a way that it can pass the House. So, you know, I think the President should celebrate tonight, and then roll up his sleeves tomorrow because the hill just gets steeper from here.
BLITZER: Yes, he can celebrate his birthday tomorrow. He turns, as we said, 79 years old tomorrow.
BORGER: I think he should invite Joe Manchin to his birthday party, don't you?
BLITZER: Yes, that would be that.
All right, Gloria and David --
AXELROD: They may just (ph).
BLITZER: -- thank you guys very much.
Coming up, we're going to have more reaction on the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict today after his acquittal in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Plus, another high profile trial we're following right now, this one in Georgia, where three men are charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're following a major new development in the fight against COVID-19 here in the United States. A key CDC Advisory Committee has just endorsed booster vaccines for all Americans 18 years and older, all American adults. Final approval from the CDC Director could come at any moment.
Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us right now. He's the author of the important new book entitled, "World War C: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One." Sanjay, thanks as usual. Did the committee, from your perspective, make the right call?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it sounds like it, Wolf. They looked at this data. They've been making the case that the vaccines continue to work really well. But there was some indication that some of the effectiveness was starting to wane a bit. And, you know, they've been talking about this for a while.
Let me just show you, Wolf, what we've been seeing in the United States first, and I want to show you what's been happening in Israel. First of all, again, the vaccines work really well. If you look at who is hospitalized with COVID here in the United States, you find that the vast majority of those folks are unvaccinated. But the number of people who are vaccinated, also developing severe illness, started to increase a bit.
I don't if we have the graphs, but I can show you what happened in Israel up until November 1st. They found that an increasing percentage of those in the hospital were people who had two shots. But when they got a booster, the protection really was significant. There were far less likely to actually end up needing a hospitalization. You can see there. That's an important graph, Wolf, on the screen.
Again, the primary problem as far as people getting sick with COVID, are the unvaccinated. But increasingly, people who would even receive two doses, were ending up in a hospital. And when they got the boost, they were really well protected. So, it does seem like the right call.
Listening to the meeting, Wolf, or something else that I thought was interesting, they said that the adverse events, you know, side effects that you get from the third shot in their trials was actually less so than as compared to the second shot. That comes up as a question a lot, how am I going to feel after the third shot. They say, as a general rule, you'd have fewer symptoms and after your second shot.
BLITZER: Yes, after my first, second and third shot, I felt fine with all three of those shots. And I hope everyone feels fine after all three shots as well.
Let me turn to another issue, very important one. I want to get your thoughts, Sanjay, because you've done a lot of reporting over the years on this. We're talking about right now, President Biden's health. The White House just released a medical summary after his first annual physical as President of the United States. He was over at the Walter Reed Medical Center today. First of all, what can you tell us?
GUPTA: Well, so, on the screen is what we sort of hadn't known about President Biden. Before this exam, he has this history of atrial fibrillation, he takes medications for cholesterol. He had brain surgery a long time ago, Wolf, in the late 80s for aneurysm and then he's had this fracture of his foot.
What we know is now, there's a pretty detailed report, six-page report that came from his doctors talking about what the President had done today, examining his cardiac rhythm, and they say that his atrial fibrillation is stable. They did a full exam of his lungs as well. They did a colonoscopy, which we knew about, Wolf, that was something that required sedation, that is when transfer of power occurred.
But we also know at the time that he had that done, he also had a upper endoscopy as well. So looking for evidence of reflux, something that has been bothering the President and they did find some evidence of reflux. They also looked in his sinuses as well to see if there was some explanation for what people may have heard more recently with the President. Lots of throat clearing when he's giving his speeches. And what the doctor seemed to have indicated in this report, as I'm reading it, is that this is probably due to some reflux that he's having.
They also have noticed and you may have noticed it as well, Wolf, his gait, his his walking, they said has changed a little bit. A little less fluid, as they described, a little bit more stiff, and they wanted to find out what was sort of causing that. And what they're saying here, it seems to be a combination of this foot fracture that he had had, but also some evidence of what's called spinal stenosis, some arthritis in his lower back.
So these are two new things that sort of came about that they were investigating as part of the President's physical today. But again, the big procedure, the colonoscopy, the endoscopy, looking for the reflux, and then also looking at his sinuses. So, his heart, these other issues that we've known about appeared stable as they've outlined. His cholesterol still good, actually very low on the current medications. So, overall, they say they started the letter by saying he remains fit for duty.
BLITZER: Yes. I was impressed that he had a colonoscopy and endoscopy to check for reflux, that's up -- higher, he was with sedated for at least an hour, maybe even longer. Yet, when he got to the White House for the pardon of the turkeys, he looked fine, he sounded fine. You know, I've had those procedures and I sort of wanted to rest a little bit afterwards. I know you have as well, right, Sanjay?
GUPTA: Yes, you know, I mean, not over sharing, but I actually had a colonoscopy yesterday, Wolf, so I, you know, very, very recent experience. And you're right, I mean, the nice thing about some of these medications is that they are very quick on and quick off as they are described. They work very quickly to put someone to sleep and then they come off very quickly as well.
So you often do feel a little groggy for a little bit afterwards, Wolf, and, you know, he turned 79 tomorrow, so maybe even more so for him. But I agree with you. He looked pretty good when he got back to the White House.
BLITZER: I was very impressed. All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. You feel OK after your colonoscopy, I assume, right?
GUPTA: Yes. I feel fine. Thanks.
BLITZER: OK, good.
GUPTA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you. Just ahead, we'll get more reaction to the not guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. We got more reaction coming up.
BLITZER: As we follow the breaking news in the Rittenhouse case, we also heard some inflammatory comments today in Georgia from a defense attorney representing one of the three men charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Brunswick, Georgia for us covering all of this. What did we hear today, Martin, from this attorney?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, once again, the attorney involved here is Kevin Gough. He represents Mr. Bryan here who is one of the three defendants in the case. He is the man that took the video. So here's what happened. Kevin Gough is in court today, the jury is not present. He jumps up and again, makes a motion for a mistrial.
His argument this time is the large crowd of primarily African American pastors that showed up yesterday for a prayer vigil and support of the family of Ahmaud Arbery. He took offense, he felt that the loudness of the crowd, the size of it could somehow influence and impact the jury. But remember, this is the language he uses. And this is a trial involving (INAUDIBLE) white man accused of killing a black man. Listen to how he makes the complaint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM "RODDIE" BRYAN JR.: Third parties are influencing this case. They've been doing it from the gallery in this courtroom. They've been doing it outside. This is what a public lynching looks like in the 21st century with all due respect. Just because they haven't put a gallery up (INAUDIBLE), they haven't put a podium up that side with a hangman's noose on it doesn't mean that this isn't a trial despite the best efforts of this court. This isn't a trial, it's been infected by mob violence of a woke left mob.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: So he is essentially accusing a crowd of primarily African American pastors of somehow being involved in what he describes as a lynching of his white client, who is charged with the murder of a black man. You could imagine that there was already immediate outrage to those comments. But meanwhile, this case is expected to go to the jury on Monday. They'll be closing arguments starting 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. Wolf?
BLITZER: We'll see what happens then. Martin Savidge in Brunswick, Georgia for us. Thank you.
Let's bring in Lee Merritt right now, he's an attorney for the mother of Ahmaud Arbery. Lee, thank you very much for joining us. How hard is it for the family to hear the defense attorney compare this trial to a 21st century lynching, he used the word lynching?
LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY FOR MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: Well, this was a 21st century lynching. Ahmaud Arbery was lynched by his client and two of his friends, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael. And so for him to turn around the peaceful gathering of black pastors who came to support Ahmaud Arbery and call that a lynching is really a slap in the face. And at this point, Mr. Gough has really been targeting the parents in a way I've never seen before. The parents who are attending the murder trial, the men who killed her side, are being harassed by the attorneys for the defendant.
BLITZER: This is the same attorney as you will remember, Lee, who's publicly said he doesn't want black pastors in the courtroom. Now he's actually filed for a mistrial because of the demonstration yesterday of the pastors, the clergy, others supporting the Arbery family. What do you make of these tactics? Do you agree with the prosecution that this is a strategic -- this is strategic, it's calculated, it's an effort on the part of the defense?
MERRITT: It's certainly an effort to preserve the record so that they have -- they'll have a sudden appeal. We know that Mr. Gough feels like he's in trouble. I know personally, because the prosecutor had to come to Wanda Cooper, Ahmaud's mom yesterday and say Mr. Gough was asking for a plea deal. He wants to turn state evidence against the other defendants in the case, a proposition with outright (ph) rejected because his client William "Roddie" Bryan shares just as much culpability as everyone else, but this is certainly desperation.
BLITZER: It comes as well know, as a jury in Wisconsin, acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse in all counts earlier today. Does the Arbery family have any reaction to that verdict?
MERRITT: Oh, it's deeply troubling and it's very scary for that family. Kyle Rittenhouse was a vigilante who instigated a -- an encounter with people that in many -- he used the danger that he created to justify the use of deadly force. Well, that's very similar to what happened in Glynn County there in South Georgia. Ahmaud was the victim of vigilante justice. He was misidentified as someone who may have been responsible for petty thefts in the area. And instead of allowing law enforcement to look into it, these men decided to take the law into their own --
BLITZER: I think we just lost our connection with Lee Merritt, the attorney --
MERRITT: -- that's their defense (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: Lee, can you hear me OK? I think we just lost you for a few seconds. I just want to make sure you can still hear me.
MERRITT: I hear you fine.
BLITZER: Go ahead, finish your thought.
MERRITT: No, it's so similar. Kyle Rittenhouse case was a case about vigilantism. This case is a case about vigilantism. And I'm hoping that the jury doesn't take (ph) the same courses as the Rittenhouse jury (ph).
BLITZER: What's your sense of the justice system here in the United States right now?
MERRITT: Well, it doesn't work well when the victims involved --I'm sorry, when the assailants are white. Right now, you know, there's a long history of racism that exists within our courts. It's a reality. It's a statistical reality that we see playing itself out. We saw a successful outcome for the civil rights community in the conviction of the officer who murdered George Floyd.
But this kind of outcome is something that we've become more accustomed to the injustice. And it's a, you know, like I said, it's just a scary proposition as we approach closing statements in South Georgia on Monday.
BLITZER: All right, Lee Merritt, thank you very much for joining us. We'll clearly stay in touch with you. Appreciate it.
Coming up, we're getting more reaction right now in the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict after a jury found him not guilty on all charges in the 2020 shootings in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Plus, a civil trial underway in Charlottesville, Virginia right now of white supremacist and Neo Nazis, who organized that deadly "Unite the Right" rally back in 2017.
BLITZER: We're following another high profile case that's playing out in a federal courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia. A jury there is just wrapping up by their first full day of deliberations in the "Unite the Right" civil lawsuit. CNN's Brian Todd is Brian Todd is on the scene for us. He's been following every step of this trial. Brian, this is a wide-ranging case what, with 14 people and 10 organizations being sued in this civil case. Update our viewers.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It has wide-ranging in the number of defendants. As you mentioned, 14 individuals, 10 groups, they're all white supremacists. But the crux of the matter is really one central question and that is, did these defendants, did they conspire to plan racially motivated violence on that weekend of August 11th and 12th of 2017? That's the central question for the jurors.
The jurors have just broken up for the day. They will resume their deliberations on Monday. No verdict reached yet in this case. This was their first full day of deliberations. And the plaintiff's attorneys presented a trove of evidence in this case that they say shows that these defendants did plan this violence in advance.
Among the evidence were videos of the violence but also secret communications that the plaintiff's attorneys laid out where the defendants, according to them, talked about the possibility of violence. Discussed (ph) bring people who are known to be a violent white supremacist to the rally. And also were they engaged in private communications over an app called Discord, over Twitter over other social media where, according to the plaintiff's attorneys, they discussed the possibility of violence. They discussed whether it was legal to drive a vehicle into a crowd of protesters, which we know happened on that weekend when James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters killing Heather Heyer and injuring several other people.
So that's the crux of the question, Wolf. Did these defendants engage in a conspiracy for all of that to happen? The defendants claim they did not do that, that they didn't plan this, that they didn't want violence that weekend, Wolf.
BLITZER: What damages, Brian, are the plaintiff is asking for the name, any specific amounts?
TODD: It's an interesting question, Wolf, because yes, they did. One of the plaintiff's attorneys Roberta Kaplan yesterday, asked the jurors to award the people who are hit with James Fields's car, several of them were injured, to award them $7 to $10 million each in compensatory damages, and to award other plaintiffs or injured that weekend, $3 to $5 million each.
Now as for punitive damages, Roberta Kaplan did not put a number on that. But she told the jurors just consider this. What would it take to make sure these defendants never did anything like that again? So we'll see what kind of punitive damages are leveled at these defendants if they are found to be liable for this pain and suffering caused that weekend, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd, I know you're staying there. We'll be in close touch with you. Important trial underway there.
There's more breaking news straight ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're getting reaction on the ground in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after Kyle Rittenhouse is acquitted, acquitted on all charges. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, Kyle Rittenhouse's family raising concern for his safety after he was found not guilty on all charges including homicide. CNN is on the ground in Kenosha, Wisconsin, covering this bombshell verdict.
Also tonight, President Biden is touting a giant step forward for his agenda after his sweeping spending bill finally passes in the House of Representatives. Now he's turning his focus to the Senate where the bill's prospects are uncertain.
And just minutes ago, the CDC Director gave the final green light for all adults in the United States to be eligible for COVID-19 booster shots.