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Interview With Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, Mayor Mike Elliott; Interview With Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods; Kevin McCarthy Rejects Bipartisan January 6 Commission. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 18, 2021 - 15:00   ET



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And some other big-name companies, they're still sticking with the masks right now.

So, the truth is, it is absolutely getting better fast. But, depending on where you are, there may still be a need for a little bit of patience as we nudge people into getting those vaccinations. And it could be pretty taxing after the year we have been through. But many municipalities, many states are hoping many folks will just hold on a little longer as we smooth into these better times.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Tom Foreman, thank you very much. We now understand it perfectly. Thank you very much.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. Good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CAMEROTA: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

A rare act of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill may be derailing. Congressman Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader, now opposes that independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

He claims it would be counterproductive and it would duplicate the work of other panels. Just last week, the commission was hailed as a promising sign of cooperation in Congress.

BLACKWELL: Now, a Republican, a member of McCarthy's own conference, negotiated a deal for its creation with a Democrat, but now several lawmakers are questioning the commission's fate.

The House votes on whether to approve it tomorrow.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill.

So, what's the vote look like in the House there? And the question is, will the commission get the support it needs to move forward?


It will pass the House tomorrow. There's no question about it. And that's because the Democrats hold a narrow majority in the House. And we do expect some Republicans, but not a lot, some House Republicans to vote for it.

That will be enough for it to pass, despite Kevin McCarthy coming out and opposing this proposal, saying that it should look into other matters, such as violence that occurred last summer during the protests over racial injustice, everything from a police shooting -- a police officer being killed outside the Capitol on Good Friday, when the man came and rammed him with a car and crashed into a barricade.

Kevin McCarthy says there should be a broad scope of this investigation beyond just January 6. Now, Republicans in the Senate, they're of different minds. Some agree with them. Some are open to the idea.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said that he was willing to listen. Others are concerned, by going so broad, it will completely undercut the idea of having a full-throated investigation to detail everything that happened on January 6.

And one of those senators is Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, who is open to the idea of a bipartisan commission, and also suggests that President Trump, former President Trump, may have to testify if the commission were to come together.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I will look to what he has stated in terms of how broad it needs to be. If you are -- if you're really making this a very broad-brush approach, it might be difficult to really get a value from a specific type of commission.

But, again, I think this is something where you need to look closely to the details and how it's configured.

RAJU: Do you think former President Trump to talk to this commission to detail what was happening on that day?

MURKOWSKI: If you put together a commission that is focused on the events of January 6, I think he's obviously a very key individual.


RAJU: So, the question will be whether there are those 10 Republicans like Lisa Murkowski who could break ranks, Mitt Romney, being one of them, signaling today that -- told me that he could support this proposal and focusing specifically on January 6.

Now, Mitch McConnell is going to be the key voice here. If he does come out in support of this, it would lead to most Republicans backing this, but he would not say that just now. He said he was reviewing it. He said his conference is undecided.

And when I asked him if he agreed with the concerns that the scope should be narrow or should it be broad, as he has said before, he would not reiterate those same concerns, only saying he was reviewing it, worried that it could duplicate other ongoing investigations.

So, we will see how this turns out, but, right now, expected to pass the House, big question mark in the Senate -- guys.

CAMEROTA: Manu, really interesting to hear from Senator Murkowski there. Thank you for sharing that.

BLACKWELL: So, for context, McCarthy's opposition to an independent commission is just the latest phase in his evolving stance on the January 6 attack, from witness of the mob terror to joining the ranks of Republicans who were downplaying the uprising of pro-Trump terrorist radicals, driven by the lie that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

Now, CNN has reported that, the day of the attack, McCarthy spoke with former President Trump and asked for his help to calm the insurgents. And former President Trump told McCarthy that the rioters -- quote -- "are more upset about the election than you are."

A week later, as the House was voting there on whether to impeach President Trump, McCarthy said this:



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

These facts require immediate action by President Trump. Accept his share responsibility. Quell the brewing unrest and ensure president- elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.


CAMEROTA: Well, that position did not last long.

A week later, McCarthy was asked about it again.


QUESTION: Leader McConnell has said that President -- former President Trump and other important people provoked the -- those folks to come to the Capitol. Do you believe that president -- former President Trump provoked?

MCCARTHY: I don't believe he provoked, if you listen to what he said at the rally.


About a week after that, McCarthy took a trip to see the former president at his Florida estate. And McCarthy's memory of that January 6 phone call started changing too.

Listen to his latest version of his conversation with Trump on the day of the riots.


MCCARTHY: I was the first person to contact him when the riots was going on. He didn't see it. What he ended the call was saying, telling me he will put something out to make sure to stop this.

And that's what he did. He put a video out later.


CAMEROTA: Well, McCarthy has since allowed his conference to remove Congresswoman Liz Cheney from leadership for continuing to call out Trump for inciting the insurrection and refusing to embrace the big lie.

Republican congressman -- former Congressman Charlie Dent is a CNN political commentator, and he represented Pennsylvania.

Charlie, great to see you.

So, what's Kevin McCarthy afraid of? What's he afraid will come out if he lets this independent commission go forward?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Alisyn, I think what he's probably most concerned about is that he and perhaps other members of the House Republican Conference will be asked to present testimony and -- or could be subpoenaed.

I think that's the fear. This commission that John Katko and Bennie Thompson negotiated, I think, is actually very similar, almost identical to the bill that John Katko and 28 other Republicans had introduced six days after January 6.

So, I think Republicans are in a pretty good place here in terms of what was negotiated. It's even-steven in terms of the number of members of the commission. Subpoena power is there for both sides, and only can be done with a majority vote.

So I think this is a good thing. But it's all about, I think, fear of members being exposed legally to having to answer uncomfortable questions in this rather public setting.

And one thing, Alisyn, too, all this stuff about, oh, well, we have other committees that are looking at this, well, the same thing happened with Benghazi. You had multiple conditions -- committees looking at that. And then Republicans established a select committee to look at

Benghazi to consolidate, where you're -- one committee to really take charge of this whole situation. I think that's the same thing happening here with this January 6 commission.

BLACKWELL: Yes, one of the reasons that Kevin McCarthy opposed it, he said, "the duplicative and potentially counterproductive nature."

That wasn't part of the reason he opposed any of the investigations surrounding Benghazi.

But to the question to the Senate, Congressman, do you expect there that this will get the support? We have seen Leader McConnell go through his own evolution on the president's egging on or leading the insurrectionists.

DENT: Well, look, Victor, I think that the Senate is key right now.

This bill -- this resolution will pass the House. The Senate, you have seven votes, seven Republican votes for impeachment. I would have to think, if Mitch McConnell puts his finger on the scale and says he supports this or does not object to it, that this should get the 10 necessary Republican votes to make it happen.

It should happen. And, of course, the Senate political dynamic is quite different than the House. I think McConnell has been very clear that he wants more distance from Donald Trump, as opposed to Leader McCarthy, who wants to embrace Trump more.

They have different political calculations. I happen to think McConnell's right. So, I think the Senate -- I would not rule anything out in the Senate just yet. But I'm reasonably optimistic that they will take this up and pass it with 60 votes.

CAMEROTA: Charlie, I'm surprised to hear that. I mean, you're awfully optimistic.

DENT: Yes.

CAMEROTA: The reporting is that, once there's this momentum to squash something and to bury it, it catches fire sometimes.

And so I'm just surprised that you're still optimistic after this McCarthy move.

DENT: Yes.

Yes, I will tell you why, because you're right, Alisyn, that there's a herd mentality in Congress. But I always felt that the Senate never liked taking their marching orders from the House. I mean, I never -- that was always my experience, that, once the Senate -- if they think this is the right thing to do, they should do it.

Again, you have seven votes there, Republicans in the Senate, who voted to impeach Donald Trump. I mean, are they going to say, well, maybe we shouldn't look into the events of that day? I think that's a pretty hard thing to walk back. Several of them are retiring.


Now, you might be right. Alisyn. Maybe the -- maybe the herd is moving in direction, and they're all going to go. But I think it -- I don't think it's that heavy lift at this point. And, also -- when you also add the retirements that -- of these members, I think you have some opportunity.

And, by the way, John Katko is a good friend. I think he negotiated a very good deal for the Republican side. And it's going to be tough for Republican leaders in the House who are on -- who are leading committees, ranking members. They need the support of their leadership.

I mean, you can't -- the leaders can't expect a predetermined outcome going into a negotiation on the January 6 commission or any other bill, for that matter.

CAMEROTA: All right, Charlie Dent, thank you very much. Always really interesting to talk.

DENT: Thank you, Alisyn. Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So, lawyers for Rudy Giuliani now want the courts to believe that his words on the day of the Capitol riot were hyperbole, not a literal call to overtake the Capitol.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If we're right, a lot of them will go to jail.


GIULIANI: So, let's have trial by combat.


CAMEROTA: In new court documents, attorneys for Giuliani now claim that, when he made his famous call for trial by combat, he wasn't literally advocating for violence or an insurrection.

This lawsuit comes -- this comes as lawsuits by Democratic members of the House are seeking to hold Giuliani and former President Trump and others accountable for what they said and the words they used, inciting the violent siege on the Capitol.

Grant Woods is a former attorney general for Arizona who became a Democrat during the Trump presidency.

Grant, great to see you again.

Let's just start there.

GRANT WOODS, FORMER ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to see you. CAMEROTA: Rudy Giuliani didn't mean any violence, trial by combat. What else does that mean?

WOODS: That's what it means. I mean, that's the problem with these people. I guess they think everybody's dumb. And, apparently, some people are because they believe it.

But it means what he said, period. And it was just a -- that was kind of the culmination of the Rudy tour around the country, which was spectacularly idiotic, in the courtroom, in front of legislative bodies, and in front of very strange venues, where he was spreading lies about the election.

He knew they were lies. When he finally was challenged in court, he admitted that he had no evidence of fraud. And that's why a large group of us now, over 1,000 lawyers, are calling on the state bar of New York to disbar Rudy Giuliani from the practice of law.

He has no business being a lawyer anymore. He's forfeited that by his actions.


You suggested -- and I read the statement today -- beyond what he said on that day, that the lead-up, the defense of the president and the big lie is, what led to the insurrection.

But his attorney said in the filing today that it's simply too far- fetched and outlandish to pass the plausibility standard of the law.

What's your reaction to that?

WOODS: Well, it's obviously not too far-fetched, because it's exactly what happened. And it happened, what, an hour later?

So, yes, if you stand up and yell fire in a theater, and there's a stampede, and people are killed, yes, you're responsible. And you can't say later, well, I didn't think anybody's going to take me seriously about that. I was just messing around.

I don't know why people take him seriously. But that crowd that was there at the insurrection, they took him seriously, as they took the president seriously and others.

So, yes, he wants trial by combat. And, within hours, we had the horrible scene that we all witnessed on January 6.

CAMEROTA: Grant, what's happening with the Arizona audit that seems to get just more absurd by the day?

WOODS: Well, I -- yes, well, for sure, shocking, given that the Cyber Ninjas are in charge.

But I think, yesterday, we had some action here which was kind of hopeful. And that is, the Board of Supervisors and the other Maricopa County officials, almost all Republicans, met the public, stood up there at a press conference, and they blasted this whole so-called audit.

They blasted the Arizona Senate for getting involved in it. They asked them to stop it. They told them they're not going to cooperate anymore. They called it out for what it is. The new county recorder, who is a Republican, who's in charge of elections now for this, one of the biggest counties in the country, he said over the weekend that Trump's comments on this were the ramblings of a lunatic.

And he called again on everybody to back off and move on because we know who won Maricopa County. It was Joe Biden.


So, the sheriff was there. He's a Democrat. One of the supervisors is a Democrat. Everybody else up there -- and that's like half-a-dozen or more people -- they're all elected Republicans, and they all stood up. They stepped up and they told the truth, at the -- at political risk.

So, maybe that's a start. You know, you combine that with Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain and people like that in Arizona, and maybe Arizona can provide some leadership. And some of these Republicans like the Senate Republicans, you're talking about now--


WOODS: -- maybe they can get a spine.

BLACKWELL: Well, listen, you got some visitors coming to Arizona who thinks this is just the bee's knees.

You have got Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz. Matt Gaetz tweeted that the audit is essential for better election policies and election security. They're going to be in Mesa, Arizona, for their, what's it, the America First Rally Tour.

Are you going to roll out the carpet, Grant?


WOODS: Yes, Victor, what do you think? I can't make it. I going to -- I'm going to -- I -- actually, I'm going to leave the state, just to be as far away from those clowns as I can be.

I don't know what they do. The old saying is that politics is showbiz for ugly people. And, man, they're proving that, because what is this? Is this a comedy routine all of a sudden? If you want to see Beavis and Butt-Head, go to MTV reruns, and you can see it. And they're a lot better and a lot funnier.

But that's who these two remind me of. To go see Marge this guy, I don't know. Maybe Gaetz needs to get around, because he may not be able to get around too easily in the future.

CAMEROTA: Grant Woods, always a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much for being--


WOODS: You too, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much.

All right, so, we're following breaking developments in a fatal police shooting in North Carolina. The district attorney showed the bodycam footage to the public for the first time. He says that the deputies were justified when they fired into the car of Andrew Brown Jr.

You're going to hear how the family is responding to that next.

BLACKWELL: Plus, we will speak with the mayor of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where police shot and killed Daunte Wright. That city is set to make some changes to how officers operate there.



CAMEROTA: The North Carolina district attorney investigating the deadly shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. just ruled it as justified.

Sheriff's deputies shot and killed Brown while they were trying to execute an arrest warrant. District attorney Andrew Womble showed some of the body camera footage that the public has been asking to see.

BLACKWELL: Womble said, as Brown backed up, a deputy was pulled into the car. We can see the deputy's arm on the hood. There's a screenshot that the DA showed of that moment.

Now, Brown then drove forward. And that's when officers started shooting.

Now, we want to show you the body camera footage, but it is disturbing.







UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gunshot wounds.


CAMEROTA: The entire interaction between the deputies and Brown lasted only 44 seconds. Womble said he did not speak to Brown's family or their attorneys

before making the announcement, and that that relationship is strained.


ANDREW WOMBLE, PASQUOTANK COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Do I think that people can see what they want to see? Absolutely. There -- I would hope that attorneys, licensed attorneys who are bound by the same oaths and the same rules of professional conduct that I am would conduct themselves a little differently.

Family members who are grieving, who deserve our sympathies, sure, I can -- everyone can perceive something differently. And until you break it down frame by frame, some of the actions are pretty hard to see.


BLACKWELL: Now, the attorneys for Andrew Brown Jr.'s family, they just released a statement in response to the DA's decision. And here it is.

"Andrew Brown Jr., his grieving family and this community deserves answers. And they received anything but from DA Womble's attempt to whitewash this unjustified killing. To say this shooting was justified, despite the known facts, is both an insult and a slap in the face to Andrew's family, the Elizabeth City community, and to rational people everywhere."

Now, we're also following the upcoming trial of a former police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Judges ruled that the second- degree manslaughter trial for Kim Potter will go forward. Now, she's charged with killing Daunte Wright back in April.

She claims she mistook her gun for a Taser. The trial could start in early December. Wright's death sparked protests around the city and nearby Minneapolis, where the Derek Chauvin murder trial was under way.


CAMEROTA: Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott joins us now.

Mayor, thank you very much for being here.

But before we get to exactly what's happening in your community, can we just start by the difference between what we have seen in terms of how North Carolina and Pasquotank County has handled that case, as we just showed with the Andrew Brown case, and then what's happening here?

I mean, do you understand why it took so many weeks for the public to see the bodycam footage? And do you understand why the DA made the decision that he made today that that shooting was justified? MIKE ELLIOTT, MAYOR OF BROOKLYN CENTER, MINNESOTA: I can't -- in my

view, the bodycam footage should be made available within somewhere between 24 and 48 hours, first to the family, and then released to the general public.

That gives the investigators enough time to interview witnesses and get all the information that they need, but also make the information public, so that there's transparency and accountability. And so I don't understand that.

I mean, we chose to move in a different direction that would provide information to the public and allow people to see exactly what happened in real time.

BLACKWELL: So, speaking of what the public will be allowed to see, the attorneys for Kim Potter, the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright, they have objected to prosecutors' request for cameras to be in the courtroom.

We all remember watching the Derek Chauvin trial. Do you believe the people of your community should be able to watch this on television to be able to see what's going on in that courtroom?

ELLIOTT: Oh, absolutely.

It's all about transparency. And transparency is a part of -- is key to accountability. This is obviously a case of great interest to the public. And so I believe that there should be cameras in that courtroom, so that people can see for themselves.

And I think it will help to quell a lot of questions that may arise around whether or not true justice is served in this process.

CAMEROTA: What has been the community response there to the judge's decision that the former officer, Kimberly Potter, can stand trial?

ELLIOTT: Well, our community has been demanding full justice from the very beginning.

There are still people out in front of the police station that are protesting even to this day. There are people who are committed to continue to protest until a verdict is had in this case. And so folks in my community are demanding justice.

And I think that, today -- or what we have heard from the judge, in that she is going to stand trial, is maybe one step closer to achieving that. But we know that true justice is Daunte being with us today. True justice is him being with his son and with his family, as is the case with George Floyd and in all of these cases.

BLACKWELL: So, the city commission there has passed a road map for some changes to policing, a new unarmed department created to respond to medical, mental health, disability-related, behavioral, social needs, a civilian oversight body.

Police can't make arrests or conduct searches for any non-moving traffic infraction, several other changes. This is a road map. How will and will these be implemented in Brooklyn Center?

ELLIOTT: Oh, absolutely.

I -- in fact, I am chairing the implementation committee that is going to see to it that all of these changes are implemented with great speed, but with great care at the same time. Our community has made it clear they want a transformed public service -- sorry -- public safety system that sees to it that everybody in our community is -- feels safe and is kept safe.

And we believe that these measures are actually going to help us achieve that. You know, just last year, roughly 88 percent of the calls that came (AUDIO GAP) to 911 in our city were related to non- criminal matters, like traffic, medical, mental health, and other requests for help.


ELLIOTT: So, only 22 percent of the calls that came in had anything to do with crime.

And so by making sure we have a variety of responses that are available when our community is in need, so that police are not -- armed police officers are not the first and only response available to all these different--


ELLIOTT: -- types of need in our community, we believe that we're really moving forward in the right direction, something that is going to, I think, transform our community.


BLACKWELL: Mr. Mayor, let me ask you before we go here, the union that represents Brooklyn Center police officers, they oppose the changes.