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Two Arrested for Assaulting Officer Who Died after Capitol Riot; What Happens Now With Relief Checks, Timing, Delivery, Rules; Spring Breakers Flock to Florida, Defying CDC Guidance. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 15, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Stay with us. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.

We begin this hour with breaking news. Law enforcement have arrested and charged two men with assaulting a Capitol Police officer who died following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol back in January. These were the first arrests linked to the death of Officer Brian Sicknick, and CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is with us on this developing story. What more are you learning, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, these are two men who are charged in total with nine counts, including assault on federal officers. And according to the FBI, their names are George Tanios and Julian Khater.

Prosecutors don't exactly what they sprayed in the face of these officers, but I'm told by sources that the FBI believes it was an industrial type strength bear spray. And according to the documents this is the -- this canister that they were using, they sprayed in the faces of these three officers. One of them is Officer Sicknick. I'll read you just a part of the affidavit.

It says, quote, Officer Sicknick, Edwards and Chapman, who were standing within a few feet of Khater all react one by one to something striking them the face. The officers immediately retreat from the line, bring their hands to their faces and rush to find water to wash out their eyes.

This is one of the many, many assaults, Brianna, that we saw that day on January 6th, which the FBI says that people who were in this pro- Trump mob used bear spray, pepper spray, other things to attack these officers. In this case, Officer Sicknick went back to his office. He fell ill and was taken to the hospital. He died the following day.

Now, one of the other things that's interesting is right now they're only charged -- these two men are only charged with assault on a federal officer. These are nine counts in total. One of the questions that people have is why aren't they charged with murder. And, again, one of the things that the investigators are waiting for, is the final medical examiner report. And right now, there is no established cause of death.

Again, Officer Sicknick went back to his office, ends up at the hospital, dying at the hospital the following day, Brianna.

KEILAR: All Right, Evan, thank you so much for that update.

I want to discuss this now with our CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin is here, Paul Callan is here as well.

So, Paul, right now, these two men, as Evan noted, are facing charges are allegedly assaulting Officer Sicknick. They have not been charged in his death. What does that tell us?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think if tells us that they're not clear yet that they can prove causation of the death from the spraying of the bear spray in the officer's eyes. That's a hard thing to prove that that would be foreseeable that somebody would die from having this type of stuff sprayed in your eyes.

On the other hand, there may be a clear medical causation. So we have to see the autopsy. They'll need medical expert testimony to establish causation. In the absence of that (INAUDIBLE) an assault case which just requires a showing of physical injury rather than a showing that you caused the death of the person involved.

KEILAR: And for how long this took, Areva? We've seen many people charged in the insurrection but it took two months just to get to this point with these suspects just to charge them with assault. Why?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. We know that the investigation has been going from the perspective of people who are looking from the outside pretty slowly. Because what we saw on January 6th were, you know, insurrections who weren't shy about the acknowledging the conduct that they were engaged in. Many of them took to social media. Many of them gave media interviews after the insurrection, so there has been this big question, Brianna, about why is it taking so long to charge many of these insurrectionists?

There have been questions about are they getting differential treatment because they're white versus African-Americans, who we see have been treated differently when protests, nothing like the insurrection that we saw on January 6th, but even just peaceful involving police brutality and police shooting.

So I think it's fair for the public to be asking why aren't these investigations happening more quickly and why aren't more people being charged based on what appears to be a wealth of information that's available on the internet.

KEILAR: I do want to ask you both about another thing we're keeping our eye on, which is the trial in Minneapolis of former Police Officer Derek Chauvin who's charged with killing George Floyd. Today, Chauvin's attorney asked for a delay and a change of venue, questioning the timing of a huge settlement, a $27 million settlement between Floyd's family and Minneapolis.


They're calling the timing highly prejudicial. What do you think?

CALLAN: Well, I think the defense -- I think, foolishly, that Minneapolis has handed the defense a real argument here. The $27 million settlement is probably the largest in U.S. history for a death, you know, in this sort of situation with a suspect being arrested and excess force being used by the police. It was negotiated and announced in the middle of jury selection in the case.

So the defense is going to say, hey, you've prejudiced anybody who's going to sit on this case. If they think that the state officials in Minneapolis think this case is $27 million -- it's worth $27 million, that's going to affect jurors.

So I think that helps the defense with their change of venue argument. Now, that means moving it to another part of the state where people are less focused on it. Whether it wins in the end, I have my doubts, Brianna, because where in Minnesota can you go and not find jurors who know something about this case? In fact, where in the entire United States can you go? It's probably the most famous excessive force case in history.

KEILAR: Areva, what do you think?

MARTIN: Yes, I agree with Paul. I don't even understand why the announcement of a settlement would happen in the middle of jury selection, Brianna, and not only the announcement, the mayor and the city council, press conference with the attorneys for George Floyd's family, using language like unanimous decision by the city council. It was evident that the defense would respond with the motion to change venue, a motion to start over with regards to jury selection.

And the evidence is clear that the announcement of the settlement is impacting prospective jurors. One juror this morning told the judge she was just flabbergasted when she heard the amount and that she could not be impartial as a juror because, in her mind, basically, that settlement, and the large major of it, triggered that there must be wrongdoing on the part of Derek Chauvin.

So not clear why this city council and mayor decided to make this announcement, particularly, Brianna, I should note that there was a 2019 case involving an officer and a settlement by the Minneapolis city for $20 million, also a large amount and they waited until after the conviction of that officer before announcing that settlement, so, clearly, have made things more complicated not just for the defense but the prosecution as well that has a duty to make sure that the trial process proceeds in a fair manner.

KEILAR: Yes, it's really thrown a wrench into all of this. Areva and Paul, thank you so much to both of you. New court documents related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol are now revealing another disturbing picture. Prosecutors say an army reservist who is charged with storming the Capitol was reprimanded for supporting a Hitler moustache at a Navy base where he worked and was well-known by his coworkers to be a Nazi sympathizer.

CNN's Whitney Wild looks at these new revelations.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, Timothy Hale-Cusanelli was a security contractor at a naval weapons station in New Jersey. He had a security clearance. Naval investigators interviewed dozens of his colleagues who said that he had made racial and bigoted comments while working at that naval weapons station.

Now, his attorneys have noted in court filings that Timothy Hale- Cusanelli maintains that he is not a white supremacist. He's now facing several charges in this case. He has not yet entered a plea, but his lawyers maintain that he is not violent, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Whitney, thank you.

More than two months after the deadly attack on the Capitol despite the charges and all we know, Republicans are still finding ways to defend the insurrectionists, some of them at least, and this includes in racist ways.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I knew those were people that loved this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn't concerned. Now, had the tables been turned -- Joe, this could get me in trouble, had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.


KEILAR: That remark is racist and deservedly has been called out for being racist. But what's also worth dissecting is Senator Johnson saying these are people who, quote, truly respect law enforcement and would never do anything to break the law. He's lying. When all is said and done, the Department of Justice expects 400 people would have been charged in the insurrection or broadly speaking, breaking the law.


Two men were just arrested and charged with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and two of Sicknick's fellow officers. Sicknick died after responding on January 6th. The two men are not charged in his death.

This is according to a court filing, give me that bear shit. That is a quote. That is what one of these men said. The criminal complaint says the two men had a, quote, plan to use the toxic spray against law enforcement.

Officer Sicknick and two other officers were sprayed in the face with an unknown substance by one of the men. Other rioters chanted, F the blue, as they assaulted the officers with hockey sticks and anything else they could hit them with, smashing windows, destroying property, breaching federal property, making threats against lawmakers and police.

Johnson also suggested that the insurrectionists, quote, loved the country. Ladies and gentlemen, the senior senator from Wisconsin patronizing anti-government extremists and white supremacists. A rioter paraded a confederate flag through the halls of Congress, something that has never been done. The flag, of course, the battle flag of pro-slavery states in the civil war and it became a symbol of Jim Crow and segregation after World War II.

Rioters also displayed a variation of the flag that included an assault rifle and slogan, come and take it. Another that flag, the Three Percenters, an armed anti-government militia extremist group that views itself as defending Americans against the tyranny of government, according to the Anti-Defamation League, this flag seen that day is a reference to a lie by a former Trump lawyer who said she'd, quote, release the kraken to prove Joe Biden lost the presidency, which, of course, he didn't. There was no kraken. He did win the presidency. There was no kraken, though it was just a conspiracy theory of a stolen election.

Also seen in the crowd a green and white flag -- also green, white and black flag there that used at right-wing and far-right rallies. This represents a made up country named after a god created by an online community. And it's designed partially from a Nazi-era flag that was apparently done as a joke.

A rioter wrapping himself in an America First flag, with a logo of podcast from a far-right pundit, the ADL points out that the phrase which Donald Trump adopted has an anti-Semitic message used to keep the U.S. out of World War II.

And then outside of the Capitol on that day, Trump supporters put up a noose and gallows, obviously a long time symbol of racial intimidation, but in this case the rioters apparently wanted it to be the punishment for perceived treason.

Also seen in the crowd of insurrectionists, the okay sign seen as a symbol of white power. The ADL added the gesture to symbols used by extremists. Some of the people in this live stream identify themselves as members of the Proud Boys. And, by the way, nearly 20 of the charged defendants are members of that far-right group.

More than a dozen others are Oath Keepers, a pro-Trump far-right anti- government group that sees itself as a militia group defending the Constitution. And then also seen a national social club sticker linked to neo-Nazi groups that see themselves as soldiers as war with a Jewish-controlled system plotting the extinction of the white race. This is according to the ADL. And a rioter who breached the Capitol, you may remember him, wore a Camp Auschwitz shirt with a slogan from the gates of the concentration camp where more than 1 million Jews were murdered. And for the record, the FBI says there is no evidence that Antifa or any other leftist group was ever there.

Senator Ron Johnson is not oblivious to this imagery that was displayed in the Capitol insurrection and yet even now, after all this, these are the people that Ron Johnson says loved this country. These are the people that Ron Johnson says he wasn't scared of because the color of their skin matched his.

Ahead, officials warning spring breakers are out of control in Florida in defiance of CDC guidance. I'll speak with the police chief in Miami Beach where things got violent.

Plus, just in, more evidence showing that severe cases of coronavirus can affect brain function.

And then the Republican governor of Utah with a stark message for his party saying it's not about, quote, owning the libs. This is CNN special live coverage.



KEILAR: Moments from now, President Biden begins the next big phase of his COVID rescue plan, selling the $1.9 trillion price tag to the American people. The president will deliver remarks from the White House within the hour. And this is all the beginning of a coast to coast all-out blitz by the administration to explain how this bill will help Americans.

Some of that help has already arrived. $1,400 stimulus checks began entering Americans bank accounts over the weekend. And vaccinations are also ramping up. A record 3 million were administered on Saturday alone. One in five Americans now have had at least one dose of a vaccine. Hope and optimism appear to be at their highest point since the coronavirus pandemic began.

And with those stimulus checks rolling out, it's important to know what you are entitled to and when you and your family are going to see that money.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here on that. Tom, there is a lot of confusion about the details of this plan. I know some people have already seen that money end up in their bank accounts.


Break it all down for us.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's a lot of confusion about everything these days in life, I think. Who gets a check and how much? Up to $1,400 per person. That can make a big difference to some folks out there.

Individuals earning less than $75,000 generally, heads of household earning less than $112,500, so a single parent basically in many cases, married couples earning less $150,000. The wiggle room on the top of this for some people for lesser amounts than this, but still this is going to be about 90 percent of the U.S. population.

What do you need to do to collect? Well, nothing. They're going to use your tax records from 2019, 2020 to determine whether or not you get this money. They'll send it to you. If you've changed addresses or you had some dramatic change in income, that may change your timing a little bit. People who were V.A. benefits, people with social security, they also will be covered with all these records to get it to them. So, basically, sit there and wait for the money that shows up.

How will I receive my payment? Direct deposit for many people out there, paper checks, again, probably a little slower for some people, prepaid debit cards, same thing, they're sent out before the end of the month. In any events, they are trying to get that money to people when they really need it out there.

And the last real question in all of this, if you have a lot more questions amid all the confusion, how can I track my money? Go to this new tool made by the IRS,, That will tell you exactly where you would be in the queue here, how you can count in this money showing up, because, as we know, Brianna, so many people out there have been under so much pressure out there that this could really make a difference.

And I do want to note, that $1,400, that also applies to children out there. So if you have a family of four, two parents, two kids, that family could get $5,600 out of this whole thing. You're trying to pay the rent, you're trying put food on the table, make a big difference.

KEILAR: Yes, that's a lot of money. It will be well-used by many Americans. Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

KEILAR: President Biden is ramping up his sales pitch to get COVID vaccine shots into the arms of more Americans. His administration is set to rollout a $250 million national ad campaign to persuade people to get immunized against the coronavirus.

And there's encouraging news on this front. Daily vaccination rates are rising. The U.S. is now averaging more than 2.3 million shots a day. Nearly 70 million Americans have gotten their first dose. More than 37 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.

The CDC director saying today COVID cases, deaths and hospitalizations are going down but she warns it's not time yet to let our guard down because more people are traveling and more states are doing away with mask mandates. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I'm pleading with you for the sake of our nation's health, these should be warning signs for all of us. Cases climbed last spring. They climbed again in the summer. They will climb now if we stop taking precautions when we continue to get more and more people vaccinated.


KEILAR: The CDC director also noting that she's considering guidelines that could reduce physical distancing in the nation's schools from six feet to three feet.

And time is of the essence in the race to get as many people vaccinated as possible. There is alarming new evidence that severe COVID can affect your brain function long-term.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us now on this. We've known that COVID can cause damage to the brain through blood vessel damage, through inflammation, through strokes and lack of oxygen. But now, there's more new evidence and more information. What can you tell us?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, there's so much evidence now doctors have actually coined a new term. It's called CORE, and it stands for COVID-19-related encephlopathy. And what they did in the study, this is small study out of one hospital in France and they looked at around 80 patients who had severe COVID. Most of them did not have this but some of them did.

And let's take a look at the symptoms they found in these patients. These were patients who were actively ill with severe COVID and they were seeing things like movement disorders, such as seizures, they were seeing head bobbing, they were seeing disinhibition. In other words, they weren't as inhibited as one would usually expect someone to be. So in other words not a good thing.

Again, this was a very small study and they need to do more studies. Another big question is do these symptoms go away when the COVID goes away. When the virus is recovered and the person is out of the hospital, does this go away? And there are so many concerns now about long COVID that there are neurological implications of long COVID, so concerns that some of these behaviors might not go away when the virus does go away. Brianna?

KEILAR: Wow, that's incredibly alarming.


Elizabeth Cohen, always appreciate you giving us the latest on COVID. We're thankful for that.

Now, the CDC director today echoed a lot of worry that spring break travel could spark another surge in COVID cases. And we've been seeing now these big spring break crowds in South Florida, packing beaches, packing the bars and restaurants. You see it there, few masks, no social distancing and Miami Beach's mayor is warning we've got a problem, but the spring breakers, they're not too worried.


DAVID LAVELLE, MIAMI BEACH VISITOR: No one cares around here it seems like. Not no one cares but lie everyone is relaxed and we're just here to do that.

MARTY HA, MIAMI BEACH VISITOR: I'm trying to do my part just to help stop the spread or stop the spike. Everyone else around me, not too worried. Again, I am vaccinated.


KEILAR: Miami Beach Police arrested more than 100 people over the weekend and they say tat two officers were injured by unruly crowds. Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements is joining me now to talk about this. Sir, thank you for talking to us.

So, these pictures we're seeing are -- I mean you have your hands full and your officers have their hands full. These big crowds, a lot of people at the beach, at the bars, tell us what you've been seeing, what your officers have been seeing?

CHIEF RICHARD CLEMENTS, MIAMI BEACH POLICE: Brianna, good afternoon and thank you for being on this segment. Again, this has been a challenging time for us as a police department. Number one, we're weighing the responsibility for public safety on top of dealing with the COVID and potential COVID re-outbreak, if you will, from the first outbreak that happened last year. We have not lost sight of both objectives and we're trying to obviously balance the two.

KEILAR: And two officers were hurt. What are officers coming up against as they deal with crowds?

CLEMENTS: Well, what's happening, as with many spring break locations are seeing, is that the spring breakers tend to congregate closer to one another. When they do that, you know, the social distancing component goes right out the window. The crowd starts to swell, and then invariably what ends up happening is someone will go into the crowd, they'll promote some type of activity which eventually will end up leading some type of confrontation.

What my officers did this past weekend was they tried to go ahead and actually extract someone from the crowd that was doing just that. In the process of doing, the subject turned on my officers. He ended up striking one of my officers and engaging. And at that point in time, the decision was made to place him under arrest and that's when obviously the crowd began to be more aggressive towards our officers and we had to take actions in order to go ahead and disperse the crowd.

KEILAR: I know you're dealing with crowds. Are you worried that they're going to get worse? CLEMENTS: As far as the overall crowd numbers go, we saw significant increase from this week -- from last week and my belief it's going to be consistent for the rest of the time in the spring break period which goes well into April. We're hoping that by presence and by persistence, and by persistence, I mean, the enforcement of those rules and laws that we're going to enforce down here will keep the crowd at bay.

And we've been very fortunate to have been able to do that so far. But as evident by the number of arrests that we've made just this week, it's a challenge for us to be able to stay on top of it.

KEILAR: Saw pictures over the weekend of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at Daytona Bike Week. He's not wearing a mask. He is certainly very close physically to other people who are not wearing masks. Does this make things more difficult as your officers are facing -- I mean, they're facing violence, they're facing resistance to people who they want to behave like the governor is behaving.

CLEMENTS: Well, again, we're seeing a number of people that are coming down to South Florida and they're not wearing masks. My officers are. We have experienced a significant number not only of infections but exposures within our own ranks and we're concerned. So they're carrying that concern back to the people that are here and so much so we passed over almost 7,000 masks this weekend alone trying to get people to recognize the threat of the virus and the potential spread of the virus if they don't take those precautions.

So we're still taking this seriously. We don't -- we obviously don't want to see anymore in our ranks contract the virus. And, again, some of those infections, at least as far as my office is concerned, has been very serious.

KEILAR: No, it's good point. This is what they're up against. They don't want to catch this either. Chief, thank you for coming on the program.

CLEMENTS: You're welcome and thank you for inviting me.

KEILAR: The Biden administration will spend $250 million on an ad campaign that aims to convince skeptical Americans to get the vaccine, and they may want to run some of those ads on Fox's propaganda network.


Only 50 percent of Republicans say that they've either gotten a dose or that they want to get a dose.