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U.S. House Passes Bill to Create Independent Commission; Hamas Rocket Fire Resumes Amid Talk of Ceasefire; First High-Level Talks Between U.S. and Russia Since Biden Took Office; New York Attorney General Investigating Trump Organization Executive; Video Shows Black Man Tases, Kicked by Louisiana Police. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM, the House votes to establish a commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection. Why the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

Plus, growing calls for a ceasefire as both Hamas and Israel show few signs of backing down. We're live in the region.

And pleading for his life. We will show you the shocking and disturbing video of a black man killed in an encounter with police.

Thanks for joining us. Well, after months of difficult negotiations the U.S. House of Representatives has approved the creation of an independent bipartisan commission into the attack on the Capitol last January.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: On this vote the yeas are 252 and the nays are 175. The bill is passed without objection a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.


CHURCH: 35 Republicans broke ranks with their party's leadership in the final vote. That could be significant as the measure now heads to a showdown in the U.S. Senate. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers hammered out the deal last week four months after thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. But once the plan was unveiled Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell had this to say.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): After careful consideration, I've made the decision to oppose the house Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the 6th.


CHURCH: Even if Republicans successfully block the Bill in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democrats have other alternatives.


PELOSI: We will find the truth, so it's not a question of doing this in addition -- something in addition to this, it's a question of if they don't want to do this we will.


CHURCH: Well for more on the uphill struggle expected in the U.S. Senate here is CNN's Manu Raju.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The House passed a bill to create this bipartisan January 6th commission, that vote 252 to 175, 35 Republicans broke ranks despite the recommendation by the Republican leadership in the House to vote against this bill. And despite what Donald Trump called for to kill this bill because of concerns that a lot of them are voicing because of the politics here. Potentially the long investigation could undermine their ability to take back Congress next year when they want to focus on the jobs, the economy. They want to focus on immigration.

What they don't want to focus in on is January 6, the investigation that also that also could ensnare McCarthy himself. Someone who spoke to Donald Trump on that day. Potentially had some insight into what Trump was doing as rioters stormed this building right behind me.

Now after this passed the House on a bipartisan basis, the question will be whether or not 10 Republican Senators will break ranks because they need 60 to overcome any filibuster. At the moment that seems slim. Because Republican leaders in the Senate like Mitch McConnell have come out against it. Others including number two Republican raised concerns about the politics of this. And it's unclear where the ten Republicans would come from.

Even a couple who voted to conflict Donald Trump like Susan Collins of Maine and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, both have yet to say if they are for it. Collins wants some changes. So Democrats will try to win over Republicans. Some may consider voting for it. Some may vote for it at the end of the day. But those expectation that it will fail in the Senate and at that point house Democrats may decide to move on their own. Have an investigation created by the House, a select committee to look into this, not an outside commission as the leadership wants.

Manu Raju, CNN, Capitol Hill.


CHURCH: Well now to the Middle East where an eight and a half hour pause in rocket fire from Gaza has now ended. That comes after Hamas officials told CNN a ceasefire with Israel could be imminent, possibly within 24 hours.


Israel has not stopped its air strikes on Gaza which have killed 227 people according to the health ministry run by Hamas. Meanwhile, France is circulating a resolution at the U.N. Security Council aimed at securing a ceasefire. But the U.S. is blocking the move saying it's not the right time for U.N. action and it won't help to deescalate the fighting.

U.S. President Joe Biden did deliver a much more pointed message on de-escalation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, with pressure building at home and abroad the White House is taking a tougher stand. Phil Mattingly has our report.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A dramatic shift in U.S. posture as violence in the Middle East is not easing up. President Biden 48 hours after privately taking a firmer tone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time ramping up the public pressure.

The White House releasing a readout of a call between the two leaders stating Biden, quote, conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease fire. Netanyahu for now showing no intention of backing down. Tweeting that while he very much appreciated the support of, quote, of our friend Joe Biden, quote, I am determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved, to restore peace and security to you, citizens of Israel. Biden facing escalating pressure on several fronts, including from close allies.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): I think standing publicly for a ceasefire is what we would do in virtually any situation and we ought to do it here.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I have conveyed my thoughts to the Biden administration that they should be working as hard as they can for a ceasefire.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And on the international stage, with Biden and top U.S. officials warning their Israeli counterparts Monday that pressure could only be withstood for so long. But as the U.S. sticks publicly to its message of quiet, yet intensive diplomacy, it's the White House readouts of a week of calls with Netanyahu that tell a story of what one official deemed clear and growing frustration. It was on May 12th when Biden underscored, quote, unwavering support for Israel's right to defend itself and agreed to maintain close consultation.

To May 15th where he reiterated the strong support for Israel's right to defend itself and agreed to continued that close consultation. To the start of the shift on May 17th where he repeated the further support for Israel's right to itself, but for the first time expressed his support for a ceasefire. To today, where a curt readout, dropped any mention of support, and for the first time laid out an explicit timeline. It's a clear and pointed shift. One officials say underscore the grave risks that escalate with each passing day of this conflict.

NATAN SACHS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MIDDLE EAST POLICY, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: This is the kind of danger with every single moment and every single day that continues without a ceasefire, each side tried to get their victory image and the other side of course then feeling that it has to strike back.

MATTINGLY: While there has been no shortage of international pressure on the U.S. to try and find some pathway forward to ramp up the pressure particularly on Israel to try and reach some type of de- escalation situation, to try and drive the parties towards a ceasefire, there is also a lot of domestic pressure on the president and his team.

The Democratic Party is in a very different place than it has been for decades with progressives very out front with their effort to try to push President Biden to do more, to say more, to critique Israel in some way, shape or form, to talk more about the Palestinian people. All of these elements coming into play including a weapons sale to Israel, $735 million weapons sale that predates the current conflict but Democrats -- progressive Democrats actually introduced a resolution in the House to block that weapons sale.

Now it's not going to do that, they don't have any pathway forward, Democratic leadership has made that clear, the weapons sale will go through. But it is a signal. It is a warning, that while all eyes might be focused on this crisis at this moment there are going to be broader domestic political issues the president is going to have to weigh, the president to going to have to walk the line on whenever he's dealing with the Middle East from here on out.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: Journalist Elliott Gotkine joins us live from Tel Aviv, Israel and CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is standing by in Beirut, Lebanon. Good to see you both. So Elliott, let's start with you. And despite calls from President Biden to significantly deescalate the violence Prime Minister Netanyahu continues his aerial assault. What is the latest on the exchange of fire?

ELLIOT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Rosemary, this eight and a half hour lull that we had ended about 90 minutes ago with rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip into surrounding communities and also southern towns in Israel. The IDF also said that one of these attacks was an anti-tank missile that was fired at an empty bus, shrapnel which injured a nearby soldier.


The IDF continued its airstrikes and said that it continued them throughout the night despite the lull in rocket fire. Targets included submarine launch sites, rocket launchers, the tunnel network that it says Hamas uses underground and other targets that it deems to be fair game.

So that's what's been -- what's been going on here. At the same time of course, you know, there is this hope that we are moving towards a ceasefire. But whenever that happens as we've seen in previous rounds of fighting inevitably both sides try to eke out as many gains as they possibly can before the rockets or fighter jets fall silent.

So it wouldn't be a surprise if we actually see an acceleration in fighting going on throughout the day ahead of what we think could be a ceasefire on Friday morning. So if this path to a ceasefire that Joe Biden has demanded is going to happen, it looks like it's going to continue to be one that is pot marked with rocket strikes and air strikes along the way.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed. And Salma, let's got to you now. While global calls for a ceasefire grow louder Hamas says a ceasefire could be imminent but Israel's air strikes continue as we've been reporting. So what is going on here?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: You have several mediation efforts, Rosemary, that are happening in conjunction with each other. Of course, on the Israeli side the key to that is President Joe Biden who has had his fourth call in the matter of a week with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has urged de-escalation on the path to a ceasefire. That's vague language. How long is the path? What do you mean by de- escalation? You could argue there's already been a waning of the air strikes, it's not at the same level of intensity that we saw at the beginning of this latest flare up.

And then of course, you have Hamas. Who is speaking to them? Well that would be Egypt, the Jordanians, the French all pushing for what they call a concrete proposal. Hamas indicating that they are interested in that, that they expect a ceasefire within 24 hours. The French are also trying to push a statement through the U.N. Security Council. Although the United States that is blocked three such attempts and has made clear that they will block this fourth attempt most likely. Although another U.N. statement probably wouldn't change matters on the ground.

The bottom line here is that both sides, both Israel and Hamas will want to come out of this with some sort of achievement, some sort of victory for Israel, for Prime Minister Netanyahu, that means saying that he has been able to significantly declaw, demilitarize Hamas in some way, degrade their capabilities to fire rockets inside Israel. For Hamas that means saying that they were able to stand up for the holy sites in Jerusalem and of course for the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where really all of this began with those proposed evictions of several Palestinian families in the neighborhoods Sheikh Jarrah.

So there's a sense there that both sides will need to be able to say, yes, we can claim this. We can claim some sort of step forward. But there is a significant shift here, Rosemary. And it's important to note. We're seeing the traditional waves of this conflict always plays out. Egypt stepping in, speaking to Hamas, the United States pressuring Israel, but these are temporary solutions. These are band- aids. What's the long term sustainable solution? That is why you have a whole new generation of progressives in the Democratic Party demanding ...

CHURCH: All right. Looks like we lost our Salma Abdelaziz joining us live from Beirut. We thank her and also Elliott Gotkine who joined us live from Tel Aviv.

Well Russia and the U.S. signal they are ready to improve their relationship but admit deep divides may make that difficult. The U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Foreign Minister met on the sidelines of the Arctic Council Summit in the Icelandic capital. This is the country's first high-level encounter since the start of the Biden administration. There was speculation this visit could lay the groundwork for a possible meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents. But we're hearing there is no final decision on that just yet.

So our Frederik Pleitgen has been following all of this. He joins us live from Moscow. Good to see you Fred. So let's talk about just how significant this meeting between Blinken and Lavrov was and what it could signal for the potential Biden/Putin summit in the coming weeks.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well I certainly think that it wasn't detrimental to that summit to moving forward. The Biden administration has for a very longtime said that it wants a meeting with Vladimir Putin. It wants a summit with Vladimir Putin. The Russians, you know, they've been a little more coy about the subject. They have simply been saying that all of that is under consideration.

But I do think that the fact that both sides are saying that this meeting was constructive, essentially went well between the Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister, that certainly is something that could move that whole process forward, even though, as you said, both the Russians and the Americans are saying that so far nothing has yet been finalized.


It was quite interesting to hear, I was actually watching the first exchange between Sergey Lavrov and Antony Blinken late last night and both of them did indeed say, yes, there are deep division, yes, there are big disagreements, yes, the United States said that if Russia acts aggressively against both the U.S. and any of its allies that the U.S. would very much respond.

The Russians then for their part, Sergey Lavrov saying that within diplomacy there's a principle of mutuality and that the Russians would then respond for their part. That of course is that pattern that we've been seeing over the past couple of years between the U.S. and Russia.

But both did also say that they believe there are issues where they could possibly cooperate. And both seemed to outline those issues in the same way. They said Afghanistan the situation there could be one of those fields. Also trying to get the Iran nuclear agreement back on track. That as well they say and also the situation on the Korean Peninsula. So those are all geostrategic issues where the two sides believe that some sort of cooperation could be possible.

The U.S. saying that it wants to move the relationship to Russia -- which of course we've been reporting about so much, Rosemary, which has been very volatile -- into a more predictable sphere. And it did seem as though both sides are interested in that. And then of course also we can't forget the main reason why both politicians are in Reykjavik at the moment. And that of course is the situation in the Arctic where we've seen a large Russian military buildup due in large part or enabled in large part by global warming. The U.S. very concerned about that.

And it's certainly going to be very interesting to see. Because the main part of that Arctic summit of all the Arctic nations is actually today. Whether or not we're going to see some sort of statement that at least says that all these sides understand each other and will try and find some sort of common way forward.

But by and large both sides are saying -- I read from the Russian side the readout as well this morning -- that they believe that this meeting was constructive and could at least lay the groundwork to at least moving things into a little less of a tense atmosphere -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, we'll see what happens. Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Moscow, many thanks.

And still to come, why the New York Attorney General's office is investigating the personal taxes of a top Trump executive. We will have the details ahead.



CHURCH: A top Trump organization officer is facing legal pressure from two sides. The New York Attorney General's office is looking into Allen Weisselberg's personal taxes, while the district attorney is digging into his role at The Trump Organization. Sources tell CNN they are trying to find leverage to flip Weisselberg into cooperating with authorities to help build a case higher up in the organization. CNN's Paula Reid has more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Trump Organization on notice, the New York Attorney General has joined the Manhattan District Attorney in its criminal investigation. Attorney General Letitia James campaigned on a promise to investigate Trump's businesses.

LETITIA JAMES, NEW YOUR ATTORNEY GENERAL: It doesn't matter who you are. If you are betraying the public trust for personal gain, I will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. REID (voice-over): For the past two years her office has been

investigating The Trump Organization for possible fraud.

JAMES: What we are investigating is the fact that The Trump Organization inflated their assets for the purposes of obtaining loans and insurance coverage and deflated their assets for the -- same assets for the purposes of avoiding and evading tax liability and or limiting it.

REID (voice-over): But that civil investigation has now turned criminal. James' office saying in a statement to CNN we are now actively investigating The Trump Organization in a criminal capacity along with the Manhattan DA. Earlier this year James said --

JAMES: Until we uncover some unlawful behavior or conduct, an investigation will continue as a civil matter.

REID (voice-over): Her investigators have deposed multiple Trump Organization officials including Eric Trump and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg. Today the former president fired off a lengthy statement saying they failed to stop me in Washington so they turned it over to New York to do their dirty work. He has previously dismissed the investigation.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is just a continuation of the witch-hunt.

REID: This comes as the former president has just relocated to his New Jersey golf club where he was expected to spend the summer focusing on his political future. This week end he will attend a make America Great Again fundraiser as he tries to build a political operation that will allow him to maintain his control over the GOP.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: But it may not be easy to prove criminal wrongdoing in this kind of white collar investigation, a top legal expert explains why.


TRISTAN SNELL, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, NEW YORK: This can be difficult. You obviously have the numerical misrepresentations allegedly that were made. But then the defense to that is we screwed up. We didn't know. It was an accident. Somebody prepared the one document, other people prepared the other one, the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing, et cetera, et cetera. Being able to show that it was actually a knowing or intentional act, that's what's going to level this up from being civil to criminal.


CHURCH: For the first time police bodycam video has been made public showing a police pursuit that led to the death of a black man in Louisiana two years ago. CNN's Ryan Young is following this story for us, and a warning, the video is disturbing to watch.


UNKNOWN: I'm your brother. I'm scared.

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



YOUNG (voice-over): In bodycam 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 (voice-over): 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 does not got (BLEEP) AIDS.

YOUNG (voice-over): 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 or 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 bodycam 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 an 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 of 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 THE 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 (voice-over): 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 was 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 (voice-over): Ryan Young, CNN, Atlanta.


CHURCH: Still to come here on CNN NEWSROOM, a U.S. regional airline racks up a long record of close calls. Ahead why regulators believe some of its pilots may not be cutting it in the cockpit.

And get ready to dust off those passports, the European Union has agreed to relax travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors looking to holiday in Europe this summer. We're back in a moment.