Return to Transcripts main page


Republicans Risk Backlash as They Unite Against COVID Relief; Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur, U.N. Human Rights Council, Discusses Delay in National Intelligence Report on Khashoggi Murder, New Evidence Pointing to Crown Prince; Asian-American Attacks & Insults Rise Sharply During Pandemic. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 25, 2021 - 13:30   ET



MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: You saw Kevin McCarthy yesterday talking about how this bill was a giveaway to progressive constituencies.

But sometimes I think the arguments that get lost in Washington when Republicans are arguing this is too big and too expensive is the fact you have people still struggling all over this country to get by. You have small businesses that have not been able to open. There's aid in there for them.

And then this issue of schools. Republicans have said that in the midterm elections, they want to really hammer that issue, that they would be the party that has done more to help get kids back into in- person instruction. There are funds for that in this bill.

So you can already see the attack ads kind of being made in this process if Republicans come out and vote against it. And I think that it's going to end up being a big issue in the midterms coming up.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The proposed increase of the federal minimum wage is another thing that's still a part of this bill. It's future certainly is in question.

It's not just Republicans, though, who are opposed or concerned. Even some key moderate Democrats are. Is this just totally dead in the water?

RESTON: Well, I think we'll see. Obviously, Joe Biden is kind of -- this is showing the very difficult political terrain that he is navigating in this evenly divided 50-50 Senate.

And you have Senators like Joe Manchin, of Virginia -- I'm sorry, West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, who are saying they don't like this part of the bill.

Joe Biden has said that, you know, he's acknowledged that it may not make through. And the Senate parliamentarian is going to have to weigh in on whether it's germane or not.

But clearly, this is where he's sort of caught between progressives and moderates in his party. So it's not just the Republican blockade that he's having to navigate.

But his office is having to reach out to Senators and negotiate on this bill, because he cannot afford, as you know, Brianna, to lose a single vote on this coming up.

KEILAR: For anything, right? Including --


KEILAR: -- his cabinet picks, which he's been having some trouble with some of them. Neera Tanden in particular, for OMB. That seems very much in jeopardy right now.

RESTON: Right.

KEILAR: We're seeing just how consequential Senators Manchin and Sinema can be.


KEILAR: Did President Biden -- do you think he misunderstood or maybe he miscalculated how difficult it might be to keep his own caucus together to do these things, like get his nominees moving along, the things he needs?

RESTON: Yes, I think there was so much focus after the election on what President Trump had wrought that there's some surprise by the force of the pushback that he's getting within his party.

And that's why his office has been doing so much to reach out to Manchin and Sinema, who are the huge power players here in this cycle.

And I think that it's -- but he did know going into this that it would be very hard to keep the progressives and the moderates in the party happy on both sides.

And that's going to be his challenge going forward, even beyond a piece of legislation that is as popular as this one.

And it really has just sort of revealed that the depth of the leadership challenges that are facing him.

And the fact that it's very hard for him to follow through on what he promised to the American people was that he would be able to create bipartisan consensus here. Even within his own party, it seems difficult enough to create consensus -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Indeed.

Maeve, it's great to see you. Maeve Reston, thank you very much.

RESTON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Delayed. Why we will have to wait a little longer for a much- anticipated report that could answer what role the Saudi crown prince may have had in the killing of "Washington Post" journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.


And later, a new video shows an ally of controversial Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was among those involved in the capitol mob attack.



KEILAR: New today, CNN has learned the release of a long-anticipated report into the killing of "Washington Post" columnist and Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, has been delayed.

The report from the director of National Intelligence will wait now until President Biden speaks with the king of Saudi Arabia, King Salman. That is according to three officials who are familiar with the matter.

Khashoggi was critical of the king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his policies.

And in October of 2018, here in this video, Khashoggi was seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. A Saudi hit team had arrived just a few hours ahead of him and Khashoggi was killed minutes after entering that compound.

The CIA later concluded that the crown prince personally ordered the journalist murdered. He denies this.

But now new CNN reporting is shedding light on just how closely tied the crown prince was to the killing.

Documents from a Canadian court case revealed that two private jets used by Saudi assassins were operated by a company that the crown prince had taken control of less than a year before the murder.


I'm joined now by Agnes Callamard. She is the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She was the lead investigator on the first independent report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Agnes, thank you so much for being with us.


KEILAR: You put out your report on the killing in June 2019. You laid out the detailed evidence that suggested Saudi officials at the highest level planned to carry out this murder and hide it from the international community.

What are you looking for in this report coming from the U.S.? This delayed report but, hopefully, we'll have it soon.

CALLAMARD: I'm expecting key evidence of the role played by Mohammed bin Salman. I'm expecting evidence proving that he ordered the killing, that he was fully aware of what was happening and that he gave it its full endorsement.

KEILAR: So are you -- you're expecting that he was fully aware, that we'll learn he was fully aware, that he endorsed it? Are you expecting this report will say he directed it?

CALLAMARD: Yes. I mean, that's what I am expecting, indeed.

KEILAR: And so you called -- in your investigation, in your report, you called for a follow-up investigation to determine individual liability of high-ranking Saudis, including the crown prince, this very thing we're talking about in this report.

And you heard this new CNN report about these airplanes. The airplanes the Saudi hit team traveled on had been -- they're from this company that was seized by MbS less than a year before the murder.

What conclusions can you draw from that?

CALLAMARD: Look, in my report, I had already pointed out that there was much circumstantial evidence pointing to the responsibility of the crown prince, including in terms of ordering of the crime.

That included the fact that the killing of Jamal Khashoggi was clearly well resourced by the state. It was premeditated. It was well organized. The men made sure they were ahead of Jamal Khashoggi before he left.

We now know further that there was a private jet that carried members of the team, some that traveled under a private passport. One of the private jets had diplomatic clearance. And those were privately owned by the other crown prince.

All, all of that points clearly to not only the fact that it was a state killing, but that it was a killing orchestrated and planned at the highest level of the state by the crown prince.

KEILAR: In your report, you say that the international response, really, to all of this, condemnations, sanctions, that that has been insufficient.

Do you expect -- have you seen that improve? And do you expect that that is going to change with this U.S. report coming out?

CALLAMARD: Yes. I mean, you know, just this is not an outcome. It's going to be a journey. Ad we have been on that journey for more than two years.

Including CNN, including international news, because you guys have kept this issue under the spotlight.

So tomorrow is a very important benchmark which is a very important element in identifying much more evidence and individual liability, the individual responsibilities of the crown prince. It's part of it.

The next step is, what do we do with this information once we have clear evidence that the crown prince was implicated? Clearly, the U.S. is going to be put under a lot of pressure to take action on the basis of that evidence. And it cannot be just business as usual.

In my opinion, what happens is now we have circumstantial evidence to charge the crown prince for individualized censure, targeting him. That's a minimum that can be done in the spirit of sanctions.

Secondly, I believe that the conference has proven that he is not fit for the diplomatic circle or the diplomatic arena and that he should be banished from a number of those international meetings. That, to me, are really meaningful steps that can be taken to punish the individuals.

In addition, I do hope that the U.S. administration is going to seize on that opportunity to say, now, let's put in place some international and national instruments that are going to protect individuals.


Because you know as well as I do that there are dozens of journalists every year are killed that do not receive the kind of attention as Jamal. We now have an opportunity to push for far more effect instruments to protect them and prevent targeted killings.

KEILAR: This is obviously going to be a big development when this report comes out. We know you are watching it carefully.

And we thank you for being with us.

CALLAMARD: Thank you to you. Thank you to you.

KEILAR: Hate crimes and other attacks against Asian-Americans are on the rise during the pandemic. I'll talk to a woman who says she was targeted by someone dumping a dead cat outside her business. That story and the video that she captured, next.



KEILAR: Hate crimes against Asian-Americans are on the rise during the pandemic. Police in California are trying to positively identify this man -- who is blurred, his face, identity blurred by our affiliate.

He was spotted at a family-run Chinese butcher shop in Sacramento, California. And it's not what he did inside the store but what he did outside, here in this video, that's being investigated as a hate crime. He was seen dumping a dead, mutilated cat in the parking lot.

I want to bring in Kelly Shum, who owns the store where that surveillance video was made.

Kelly, you've talked about your business and how you have faced many instances of bigotry during the pandemic, but that this was the worst.

Tell us what this was like for you.

KELLY SHUM, OWNER, MAD BUTCHER MEATS COMPANY: I think I would be very -- I would be lying to you if I told you I was surprised. I wasn't surprised that it had gotten to this level of violence.

We've been dealing with this for the last year. We actually have a security guard out front, which is very not typical of a butcher shop but we do have one out front for our safety and for our protection and this is the exact reason why.

KEILAR: So how did you learn what had happened? Who figured out what that was in the parking lot? How did that go down?

SHUM: Yes. Actually, a customer had told us that she had seen this terrible-looking cat in the parking lot, and that we should probably go take care of it.

That's how we first alerted to it. And we thought maybe, oh, like, maybe, like, road ill or something. But once we went out to take a look at it, it was very obvious that someone had left the cat there.

And the cat's body was so mangled, that it was -- it was very obvious it was meant to send a message and meant to be seen.

KEILAR: This person came into the store beforehand. And police are trying to identify this person. Have they gotten anywhere with that?

SHUM: I actually had a phone call with a man this morning, who actually called and left a voicemail after seeing his face all over the news. And he claims he turned himself in to the police but nothing had happened, which was extremely disappointing.

So I am following up with Sacramento Police Department myself after this to kind of get a little more verification and a little bit more information as to what's going on, because I have not been in contact with them?

KEILAR: You haven't been able to confirm that this is the man and that this man turned himself in? OK. You're going to try to confirm that. We'll follow-up with you as well.

Can you tell us about -- you know, this isn't something -- like you said, you're not surprised? It didn't happen in a vacuum. You've been seeing comments and pranks or even worse.

What has your family, has your family been dealing with in the pandemic?

SHUM: I'm sorry if I get emotional. When I talk about my family, it's very -- I feel like I will be stronger but when I talk about my family and everything they've had to go through, it's very difficult for me to talk about.

The reason why we have a security guard in the first place is because, you know, most of our workers are Chinese here.

And -- my sister was at the door with a mask, since we knew what the perception was. My sister was actually at the door enforcing that people wearing a mask because we knew how people felt about us.

And someone tried to attack her. And when they did, they called her the "China virus" and "the coronavirus."

And -- I -- like I said, I'm just not surprised at the level of violence and anti-Asian rhetoric, especially anti-Chinese rhetoric that's kind of going around right now. I've been dealing with it for a year.

So --

KEILAR: From the beginning?

SHUM: -- it's not surprising.

Yes, definitely, from the beginning. Anti-Asian has sentiment always there. I've always dealt with it. But never at the level I have in the last year.

KEILAR: And your governor just signed into law a list of measures specifically targeting bias or hate crimes against Asian people. Do you think that's going to work?

SHUM: No. I hate to say it like that. I am a Democrat. And, no, I don't think it's going to work.

I saw -- I have been on this side now, being questioned by the police and being interrogated like I had done this for, like, publicity or that I had done this as a stunt and maybe that this wasn't going to be taken seriously as a hate crime and that maybe it would be categorized under vandalism.

It is so hard to prove a hate crime. And it is so hard to prove the intent behind it. Because you're not in that person's head when they're doing these things.


So -- I don't -- I don't think that anything's going to come of this. I don't think there's actually going to be change just because a bill has been passed.

I just saw with my own experience this week how devastating and how traumatizing that this can be.

KEILAR: You've been through a lot, Kelly. We appreciate you talking to us about it.

Kelly Shum, thank you.

SHUM: Thank you so much. KEILAR: And follow-up, as you do, with the law enforcement, we'll

follow-up with you to see if we can update our viewers about that. I know they'll be curious.

Kelly, thank you, again.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is at the center of another controversy. This time, for hanging a sign that mock a colleague with transgender -- with a transgender child. I'll talk to the Democrat running to unseat her in the midterms just ahead.