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Fate of January 6th Commission Uncertain; NY AG Investigating Trump Organization; Video of Ronald Greene Released. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2021 - 09:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


From fleeing for their lives to falling in line. This morning, the January 6th bipartisan commission bill heads to the Senate, but its future is increasingly unclear despite overwhelmingly passing the House, including the 35 Republicans defying their leadership to vote in favor of the bill. Republican resistance in the Senate, it is growing.

CNN has learned that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is taking steps to bring the bill to the floor next week.

HARLOW: And if it fails, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is warning Democrats may go it alone, strongly signaling that she will approve a Democratic-led House select committee if the bipartisan bill fails in the upper chamber. With no commission, many of the biggest questions about the day may go unanswered, at least by this forum. Like, what did former President Trump say to Kevin McCarthy during their phone call that day? And what exactly was the president doing as the violence unfolded at the Capitol?

Also this morning, a U.S. Capitol Police officer on the front lines that horrific day is slamming Republican leadership for not supporting the bipartisan commission. This officer anonymously sent a letter claiming it represents the views of 40 to 50 of their fellow officers and writing in part, it is inconceivable that some of the members we protect would downplay the events of January the 6th.

Let's begin on Capitol Hill with our colleague Lauren Fox.

When could we see a vote in the Senate on this?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the expectation is it could come as soon as next week, Poppy. But, look, this commission is now on life support as it heads to the U.S. Senate. That's because it's looking increasingly unlikely that there will be ten Republican senators to back this bill. Without that support, this bill dies in the U.S. Senate. And that's exactly what things are starting to look like at this

point. Given the fact that there are so many objections in the Senate, including, and I think this is very significant, McConnell's objection yesterday, which he announced publicly. He'd been laying the groundwork for a couple of days with members, educating them behind the scenes, trying to explain how he believes some of the efforts were already being undertaken in key Senate committees.

But, look, this list is going to grow of member who are not going to support this bill or who are leaning against supporting the bill right now. You are hearing a litany of reasons that Republicans have.

But I think an important one, and one that is underscoring all of this tension, is the fact that Republicans know that a commission is going to force them to talk about what happened on January 6th over and over again. That is a political liability moving into 2022. And you've heard some Republican senators, including John Thune, really acknowledge the fact that this commission would keep January 6th and what happened that day, including the big lie and former President Donald Trump, in the news for several more months.

Just think back to that 9/11 Commission report, how highly scrutinized the rollout that that bill had -- the rollout that the report had. I think that that is the kind of fanfare that a lot of Republicans are very worried about as they look to try to take back the House and the Senate in 2022. That's not to say there aren't some members who are going to support this bill. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Mitt Romney, both of them have suggested they could back it. But I think it's unclear right now if there would be those ten votes and it just doesn't seem like they exist at this point.

SCIUTTO: Lauren Fox, politics dominate on The Hill, as always.

Let's keep the conversation going with CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon and former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman.

Mr. Riggleman, I wonder if I could begin with you. Representative Don Bacon, Republican, one of the 35 who voted for this commission, he said last night, Democrats, quote, basically gave us what we wanted, including, for instance, changing the representation on this commission to an even number of Republicans and Democrats.

So what kept more Republicans, or 83 percent of them, what had them voting against this? Is it fear of Donald Trump, who has called this commission a trap?

DENVER RIGGLEMAN (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, it's a political calculation. You know, I'm friends with Don. You know, he's a retired Air Force general. I don't know if you knew that or not, Jim. And, you know, I'm an Air Force guy. And I know John Katko very well. He's a dear friend. And, you know, I had even talked to John beforehand and it seemed like they had gotten what they wanted.


So, you know, I never like to be cautiously optimistic, but I thought that they would get over 30 votes. They did. But I thought it could be as high as 50, but it didn't get there.

So this was a political calculation and I find it interesting, and I want to say this very quickly, is that the further this could be pushed out, it might even be more detrimental because the issue that you have is, if Donald Trump is not going to let this go away, he's going to continue to push the stop the steal theatrics. So I just find it interesting that we're talking about a political calculation on the GOP side. We know that President Trump isn't going to let stop the steal go. You're going to still see these odd challenges like the Cyber Ninjas right down in Arizona. You're going to see sort of this ridiculous, you know, push from conspiracy theories from months ago.

So I just -- again, I think that we need an aggregator. I think we need a commission to look at all the data. And if I would -- and if I could humbly submit, I would say, let's just have two commissions, right? Let's just have one commission that says, hey, we were looking at 1/6 and another commission that looks at left and right wing ideologies and looks at digital polarization, radicalization and violence, I think if we split up two committees, I think we could actually push forward something that could work for both parties.

HARLOW: I saw your tweet on that. We have a Democratic congresswoman on later in the show. We're going to ask her what she thinks of that idea.

But just quickly before we move on to you, John Avlon, Congressman Riggleman, you actually -- you want to be on this commission. You tweeted as much. I mean that's what I read in your tweet. So would you subpoena McCarthy?

RIGGLEMAN: I think I would subpoena anybody where the data led. And that's the -- that's the thing that I think that scares everyone. I don't think it's just McCarthy. I think it's a lot of people that -- data leads to very specific places. And I have done it for two decades, right, I've done social network analysis, pattern of life. We've looked at telephony, tracking people using cyber methodologies, right, or internet methodologies, using steganography. There's some things that you can do that are really just facts-based and data- based.

And I don't want people to be afraid of that. If you're not afraid of that, the data is going to exonerate you. If you are afraid of that, you might not want this to happen. And I don't know what's in everybody's hearts, but, again, this comes back to data. You have to have something that's unbiased and professional. I've done it for two decades. And that's really where I come from. There's a note to the Constitution. There's also a note to integrity. And I hope that, you know, we can have a commission like that. But, again, I don't think it's going to happen. I'm not trying to -- you know, I don't think it's going to happen.

SCIUTTO: The facts just might, frankly, make folks uncomfortable. What did Trump do and not do on that day? What did McCarthy say to him? What did he say to McCarthy?

John Avlon, I wonder, playing devil's advocate here, should we be surprised that 83 percent of Republicans voted against this when two- thirds of the Republican caucus on the night of the violent insurrection still voted to decertify the election, which, of course, was the lie that fueled the violent insurrection, right? I mean is that much of a change from where we were four months ago?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That -- there are two low moments in the modern political history of our republic. But I think it's significant that 35 Republicans bucked House leadership, which was whipping this vote, calling people individually, begging them to back off the idea of an independent bipartisan commission. And they said, no way. This is bigger than your political needs and your personal fears, Leader McCarthy. And that's exactly the perspective that we need to carry forward in the House. You know -- in the Senate.

I know Mitch McConnell has laid down the gauntlet. You had, you know, people like Mike Rounds, who said he didn't want to sweep this under the rug, now we're busy sweeping. But you're going to need 10 to get to filibuster-proof majority. But if we can't agree after an attack on our Capitol that we need to reason together with a bipartisan commission, when so many of the arguments being raised are utterly BS, as John Katko said on the floor of the House in a speech yesterday, then we're in real trouble.

Whatever it takes to get to yes, as long as it's got subpoena power and it's balanced, go for it. But this is much bigger than cynical politics. And that what we -- that's the fight we see today. It's not just Trump versus truth, it's party over country.

HARLOW: Congressman Riggleman, I just want your response, finally, to what we heard Ohio Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan say, who is one -- you know, one of the leaders on all of this in figuring out what happened.

Listen to him.


REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): Benghazi, you guys chased the former secretary of state all over the country, spent millions of dollars. We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head and we can't get bipartisanship! What else has to happen in this country? Cops. This is a slap in the face to every rank and file cop in the United States. If we're going to take on China, if we're going to rebuild the country, if we're going to reverse climate change, we need two political parties in this country that are both living in reality, and you ain't one of them.


HARLOW: Is he right?

RIGGLEMAN: I think we do need two viable, political parties. And I understand the frustration.

Listen, the issue that you have when you talk about Benghazi, you talk about other commissions, this is -- why is 1/6 commission so important?


And I know that people look at this politically. But it's so important is because data is perishable. If we're going to find out the linkages and what radicalized these individuals and how to stop disinformation flows, we've got to look at the data on how people were contacting each other and how this metastasized.

Companies don't hold data forever. You know, I put that out also is that I've done this for so long that Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, everybody has different methodologies on how they hold their data, whether you text or not, what -- locational data, how long they keep that, which is different from the call detail records.

And so what -- think what Tim is saying is this, is that if we're not -- if we're going to be serious as a country, we need to seriously look at our own difficulties that we have here and our own weaknesses when it comes to data, radicalization and what actually caused people to scale the walls at the Capitol?

And I'm, frankly, a bit embarrassed, you know, because looking at this, if we want to be a country of facts and integrity and identifying those dangerous to us inside and outside, we need to understand what's happening within our country. And I think that's why Tim was so angry.


HARLOW: Thank you, Congressman Riggleman. Thank you, John Avlon, very much.

Meanwhile, there is new legal trouble potentially mounting for former President Trump. The New York Attorney General's office has opened a criminal tax probe into the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg. That's according to people familiar with the investigation, which they say has been going on into Weisselberg for months.

SCIUTTO: Sources tell CNN that prosecutors are trying to find leverage to convince Weisselberg to cooperate with authorities and help build a case against people higher up in the organization. That might, of course, include the man on the left-hand side of that screen.

Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell.

I mean Weisselberg and Trump, you know, deeply intertwined in the business practices of Trump Organization for years. Tell us the significance of prosecutors pushing him, perhaps showing him he has criminal exposure to convince him to cooperate.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, good morning, Jim and Poppy.

This is definitely a, you know, a pressure campaign here. They're looking into Allen Weisselberg's personal finances, examining many of these benefits that he had received over the years for working for the Trump Organization. You know, whether that was tuition for private school for his grandchildren, perks including apartments and car leases.

So this is all now under scrutiny by the New York Attorney General's office. There's a small unit there that does have criminal jurisdiction. One of their focuses is tax. And they've been digging into this for several months.

And this probe began, in part, because of information that they received from Allen Weisselberg's former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg. She has been cooperating with authorities. She was married to Weisselberg's son, Barry Weisselberg, who also worked for the Trump Organization. And they had received a free apartment from the company for years.

So this is now all under scrutiny by the New York Attorney General's Office from that criminal probe, looking at Allen Weisselberg personally. This certainly adds a lot of pressure to him because he is both someone who has, you know, been a loyalist to Trump for more than 40 years. He's the chief financial officer of the company. He was one of the people put in charge along with Donald Trump's sons to run the company when Donald Trump became president.

So he certainly is someone that is trusted, that knows the ins and outs of that company. And so there is a lot of pressure on him to cooperate.

Now, this investigation, though, you know, it is still ongoing. He's not been accused of any wrongdoing. You know, it -- he has cooperated before. He cooperated in the investigation into Michael Cohen, which did involve questions about how the Trump Organization reimbursed him. You know, he is someone that has sat for depositions. He even met with the New York Attorney General's Office last summer when they were conducting the civil investigation into the Trump Organization. Now that, as we reported yesterday, they have teamed up with the DA on the broader criminal investigation into the company. So this certainly just adds a lot of pressure here. But he has not been accused of any wrongdoing at this point.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Listen, bringing up his cooperation in the Cohen case is notable. Cohen went to jail, right? And prosecutors are going to prosecute.

Kara Scannell, thanks very much.

Still to come this hour, the family of Capitol Police Officer Howie Liebengood, who committed suicide following the insurrection, they have a message for Congress. We're going to speak with a lawmaker who has been in direct contact with the family.

Plus, outrage after disturbing new video surfaces showing a black man being Tased, kicked and then dragged by Louisiana State Troopers. The man later died. We're going to show you the video that directly contradicts what authorities said at the time and told his family. HARLOW: And a new timeline about when you might need to get a COVID vaccine booster shot. Dr. Fauci's weighing in on that. More on that ahead.



SCIUTTO: Well, this morning, notably two years after the death of a black man in the custody of Louisiana State Police, we are just now seeing body cam video of his final moments. And when you watch this, it's disturbing. The footage shows Ronald Greene being Tased, punched, kicked, dragged by state troopers. Cursed at, as well. In that video, Greene can be heard apologizing for leading them on a high-speed chase. He says that he was scared.

HARLOW: The video shows a very different reality of this encounter from the initial report filed by police in 2019. Ryan Young is following all of this for us.

Ryan, what happened?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, when you watch this video, obviously, it's very difficult to watch. But let's not forget this main point here. This video was leaked. It took two years for us to get to this point, and we haven't seen all 46 minutes of it. We can't independently see how things went down with the officers there on scene.

Now, I have to warn you, the video that you're about to see is difficult to watch.



RONALD GREENE: I'm your brother. I'm scared!

YOUNG (voice over): Terrifying pleas from Ronald Greene after a high- speed chase led to a deadly confrontation with Louisiana State Police just outside the city of Monroe in May of 2019.


YOUNG: In body cam video obtained by the Associated Press, troopers can be seen repeatedly punching Greene after dragging him out of his vehicle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taser, Taser, Taser.

YOUNG: Troopers Tased Greene multiple times while he's face down on the ground, as they attempt to handcuff him. Another trooper can be seen kicking Greene.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got blood all over me. I hope this guy ain't got f-ing AIDS.

YOUNG: The Associated Press released three segments of the original video which it says is 46 minutes long. Only two of the video clips have audio. CNN has neither reviewed nor obtained the original video and it's unclear what occurred before or in between the video clips. The video is being seen by the public for the first time, but the incident took place two years ago.

The body cam footage is shocking considering the way the encounter was described in Louisiana State Police initial report in 2019, which says troopers attempted to pull Greene over for unspecified traffic violation that ended when Greene crashed his vehicle. The report also says, quote, Greene was taken into custody after resisting arrest and a struggle with troopers. Greene died on the way to the hospital, the report said.

At no time on the video can troopers be seen trying to render any medical aid to Greene, who, according to the Associated Press, was face down and moaning for more than nine minutes.

CNN has reached out to the attorneys for the officers for comment. Lee Merritt is an attorney for the Greene family and spoke to CNN.

LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY FOR GREENE FAMILY: It's not only what you're seeing, but the sounds that go with it. You can hear him screaming and writhing in pain as he says, I'm your brother, please stop. I'm sorry, I was just scared.

YOUNG: The Department of Justice is investigating the incident, and in a statement to CNN, the Louisiana State Police says, the premature public release of investigative files and video evidence in this case is not authorized and was not obtained through official sources. LSP is confident in the judicial system and fair review of this incident and continues to offer our full cooperation. Unauthorized release of evidence undermines the investigative process and compromises the fair and impartial outcome for the Greene family, LSP employees and the community. We are unable to provide any further information at this time.

Greene's mother tells NBC she thinks the Louisiana State Police murdered her son.

MONA HARDIN, RONALD GREENE'S MOTHER: They beat him with the purpose of letting him just die.


YOUNG: I think something that stands out to me, there's a point in the video, if you watch it, that Greene's on his stomach. And anyone who knows about policing in terms of being handcuffed, there's a point where he seems to turn to see if he can get some breath, some air. At that point you actually see a trooper walk over and put his foot in the middle of his back and place him back down. You've got to believe that probably didn't give him any chance to catch a breath at that point after all that had happened to him. Lee Merritt, the attorney for the family, has actually told us that

one of these officers is out there patrolling the streets even as we speak.

And, guys, when we talk about transparency, all the time, especially with all these cases, we're talking about two years ago that this happened. And the only reason why we're talking about it today is because someone decided to release this video.

HARLOW: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it reminds me of that description, the first police description, in Minneapolis in the George Floyd arrest, right? I mean, you know, after a health event, I mean, you know, similarly, if not misleading, playing it down ridiculously, to say the least.

HARLOW: Yes. Right.

YOUNG: Well, Laquan McDonald in Chicago.


YOUNG: Like there are so many cases that we see where police departments have said one thing and then the next thing you know this video comes out. Body camera sometimes helps police officers. This time it's obviously shedding a light on something that we can't believe.

HARLOW: Ryan, thank you so much for that reporting.

Let's talk about what Ryan just reported and what we all saw with LAPD -- former LAPD Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, also the author of the book "Black and Blue: Creation of a Social Advocate."

Sergeant Dorsey, I mean the fact that this police report reflects nothing of what we saw with our own eyes take place, and that's just two minutes of the 46-minute video, how does that happen?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, it happens because great deference is given to a version that a police officer gives in an incident. And we know that when an officer kills us, there's only one version and that's the one that they tell. And we see time and time again where officers will manufacture a reason to use force, escalate it to deadly force. We're hearing that Mr. Greene made some kind of an infraction, traffic violation, that precipitated this interaction and then, of course, the go-to famous 148 PC, resisting arrest, occurred. And then, ultimately, led to his death.

And we know all of this not to be true. They've been lying from the very beginning.


They said he died as a result of a traffic accident. And, listen, the fish rots from the head. This police agency administration knows exactly what occurred, much like we saw in the case of George Floyd. And they allow these offenders to live to offend again. So do we have to wait for another death before they get this officer off the street? He's still out there.

SCIUTTO: Sergeant Dorsey, tell me about the policing in this case. Police say what proceeded it was he fled arrest. But to watch those moments there, repeat Tasings as we were describing with Ryan before, keeping the knee on the back, not administering medical care when it appeared that perhaps he needed it. Just what would the police procedure be there in this? Is any of this justified?

DORSEY: Well, I always say, once the handcuff goes on, the person is in custody. There's no reason to administer any more use of force. But what we see again, time and time again, are officers punishing black folks who run, who don't comply, who don't comply quick enough. All of those are things inherent to police work.

People are fearful. People who are doing bad things don't want to go to jail, and so they run, either on foot or in a car.


DORSEY: We saw this just the other day in the case of the video released with Andrew Brown.

HARLOW: Right.

I mean, look, one of -- one part of Ryan's reporting that was so heart wrenching is the fact that Mr. Greene was left down on the ground, face down, moaning for nine minutes, and that there was no evidence of a medical response to him. And you just think about nine minutes and you think about George Floyd, right? And you do have the Justice Department now, Sergeant Dorsey, looking at this from a, you know, civil rights violation standpoint. What can they do in this case?

DORSEY: Listen, I don't know what they will do. I mean, we understand that there are KKK infiltrators on these 18,000 police departments. We've heard from the FBI years ago and again most recently that white supremacists, neo-Nazis, folks who just don't like black people, white folks are on these police departments and they're there for one reason, and that's to kill us. And so we're seeing state-sponsored murder that's being condoned and in some cases encouraged. We have officers here on the L.A. Sheriff's Department who get tattoos to celebrate abuse and murder.

And so what will the Justice Department do? I can't wait to see. It's not like they haven't known that this is going on.

SCIUTTO: Well, Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, thanks so much for using your experience to help us understand this.

DORSEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.