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Biden DOJ Appeals Order to Release Trump Obstruction Memo; Faulty Redactions Show Feds Seized More Than Previously Disclosed in Giuliani Raid; Trump Lawyer Responds to Insurrection Lawsuit by Claiming Presidential Immunity; Optimism for Policing Bill on Anniversary of George Floyd's Killing; Poll: 53 Percent of Americans Say Policing Needs Major Changes or Complete Overhaul; Early Research Suggest Dogs Can Detect COVID-19 Infections. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: The Biden Justice Department is appealing a judge's order to release a pivotal 2019 memo about whether then- President Trump obstructed the Russia investigation.

Now, this appeal means much of that memo will remain secret, at least for now.

CNN's senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, joins us.

Explain to us what this DOJ memo is and what led to this court ruling.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Ana, it all goes back to the Mueller report. We remember that Robert Mueller found 11 separate instances of potential obstruction of justice.

And we also remember that Bill Barr took that 448-page single-space document and somehow miraculously in all of two days declared that, in fact, there's no obstruction.

Now, this lawsuit was brought by a transparency group called CREW. And they basically said we want to get the internal memos around that decision by Bill Barr.

And DOJ said in this lawsuit -- it's what we call a pre-decisional memo -- meaning this is a memo that Bill Barr studied and relied on when he made his no-obstruction finding.

However, the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, was not having it at all. She found that not only was the attorney general disingenuous then when he mischaracterized the Mueller report but DOJ is being disingenuous now in this court. Meaning, I don't believe DOJ. They haven't shown me this was a pre-

decisional memo. It's something they've done after the fact to paper over the record.

CABRERA: I don't understand why the Biden administration, the new DOJ with Merrick Garland at the head, would be appealing this ruling by Judge Jackson.

How do you make sense of it?

HONIG: I agree. I think it's a mistake by the current Biden administration DOJ to appeal this.

DOJ often inherits messes from the prior DOJ. That happens no matter what takes over. And DOJ is famously or infamously secretive with its internal memos.

I think this is a mistake, however. Why should Merrick Garland have anything to do with defending, supporting or apologizing for or going into court arguing in favor of Bill Barr's obstructionism and dishonesty?

It would have been a much better opportunity for Merrick Garland to say, no, we're drawing a line here, we're not doing things the old- fashioned way, we're not OK with this disingenuousness, as the judge put it, by the prior administration.

CABRERA: Let's pivot. We have new details about what federal prosecutors seized when they raided Rudy Giuliani's home. And it includes documents from a wider array of people than we previously knew.

What are you learning?

HONIG: Yes, so it's fascinating, Ana. If you look at the court filing, there's a lawyer from Lev Parness, who claims in a court filing that the documents that DOJ seized relate to a whole bunch of different people.

Including to Bill Barr, to DOJ, his communications with -- according to Parness's lawyer, Donald Trump, members of Congress and others, to try to time out the arrest and indictment of Lev Parness so it hadn't hurt Donald Trump around the time of his first impeachment on the Ukraine scandal.

It that's true, if that's the case, that's a massive scandal, a massive abuse of power.

This is new breaking news CNN has uncovered from the looking at the docket.

And, again, remember, this is an allegation made by Lev Parness' lawyer. It's not something that DOJ or a court has said. But if it's true, it's a very big deal.

CABRERA: And we have this just in during our last commercial break, an issue related to the insurrection.

Donald Trump's attorney is now defending former President Trump's speech on January 6th saying he's protected under the First Amendment, and he had absolute immunity as president.

Your reaction?

HONIG: That's utter nonsense. They tried this absolute immunity argument several times in the courts, thoroughly rejected.

Donald Trump, no question, had a right to contest the election, to go into courts as frivolous, as his lawsuits were. There's no problem sort of criminally with contesting the election results.

However, you do not have the right to incite a riot. You do not have a right to incite insurrection or sedition.

So there's an obvious line there that they're trying to blur. It's a nonsense defense.

CABRERA: Elie Honig, you put things in a way we all understand much better. Thank you. Good to see you.

HONIG: Thanks, Ana.


CABRERA: We are watching the White House this hour where President Biden will meet privately with the family of George Floyd on the one- year anniversary of his murder.


CABRERA: Right now, the president is privately meeting with the family of George Floyd one year after his death.

This comes as there's new optimism from top Senate negotiators about the possibility of a bipartisan deal to reform policing in America.

GOP Senator Tim Scott and Democratic Senator Cory Booker both indicated the two sides are moving closer to a deal.

But there are still key sticking points. Specifically, so-called qualified immunity, which provides officers protection from lawsuits for actions while on duty.


And Senator Dick Durbin told CNN that issue still isn't resolved. And they will miss President Biden's deadline of today to pass that legislation.

Now, just moments ago, the White House press secretary said Biden remains in close contact with the negotiators.

Let's discuss with former Boston police commissioner, Ed Davis, and Bakari Sellers, an attorney and CNN political commentator.

Bakari, by the way, is also one of the lawyers representing the family of Andrew Brown Jr, the black man who was fatally shot by police in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, last month.

Bakari, as we reflect today and as the White House meets with the family of George Floyd right now, I want you to listen to what his brother told CNN this morning.


PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: I think things have changed. I think that it's moving slowly. But it's making progress.

I just want everything to be better in life because I don't want to see people dying the same way my brother has passed.

We were at his court, at his trial, and Daunte Wright passed 10 miles away from where my brother -- when we was trying to get accountability.


CABRERA: So, Bakari, what are your thoughts about whether progress has been made since Floyd's death?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Progress has been made, Ana. But what we can tell you is that it's been slow. And justice for people in -- of color in this country, particularly black folk in this country has been slow, if not fleeting at most times.

But the reason that I say that we have had progress is because -- and I know that I'm going to get a lot of flak from my friends to the left.

But you have to applaud the work on this issue of people like Tim Scott. You have to applaud the work of Karen Bass and Cory Booker who have set aside partisanship to come and try to get this bill across the finish line.

No, we will not meet the deadline we all wanted which was the one-year anniversary of his death.

However, people want a good, strong bill. We don't necessarily want a fast bill.

And just having Republicans on board, even Lindsey Graham on board, in these discussions, shows you that George Floyd's life mattered and his death will not be in vain.

CABRERA: Let's drill down to one of the sticking points right now.

And, Commissioner, I want to come to you on this.

Because I spoke with a retired LAPD sergeant yesterday, Cheryl Dorsey, about this issue of so-called qualified immunity that is at this point preventing, you know, civil lawsuits against police officers.

Listen to what she said on this.


CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: I'm all in favor of totally dismantling qualified immunity.

If you're not going to get rid of it -- GOP said it's a non-starter discussing it. I think the Democrats should stand firm in -- if qualified immunity is off the table, then it's not worth pursuing.

If officers -- if police chiefs, if others who look over these uses of force are not intent on murdering people, why are you so worried about civil liability?

If you're going to do your job the way you're trained and taught, there's not an issue for you.


CABRERA: As a former police commissioner, how do you see it? Do you agree with Sergeant Dorsey?

ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, I certainly agree that any police officer that acts in a criminal way, or that violates the policies and procedures that they're trained on and the rules of engagement, if you will, should be held accountable for that and in civil liability should be part of that.

I draw the line, though, at complete elimination of civil liability protections simply due to the fact that there are good police officers who make honest mistakes.

There are good police officers who are attempting to do their job, and this, as it's showing, has a chilling effect on their ability to conduct their duties when you risk losing a house or your financial stability.

So I think that a compromise is necessary here. And if cops on the street act out and do things that they shouldn't be doing they should be held liable, even on a civil -- in the civil courts.

CABRERA: Bakari, Derek Chauvin was one of the few officers who were held accountable in a criminal court of law. But we're still reporting on instances of excessive force, lack of transparency, discrepancies in police reports.

Clearly, Derek Chauvin's case could have a ripple effect but this issue is much deeper and much more complex than holding individual officers accountable. No?

SELLERS: It is much deeper, and it is much more complex, and there's a compromise to be had. I think everybody will tell you that.

[13:45:00] There will not be a bill that the families of Terrence Crutcher, the families of George Floyd, the families of Eric Garner, there will not be a bill they can sign off on and support that does not include at least the limiting of qualified immunity.

For anybody who thinks there's a George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that does not include something with qualified immunity or something happening, then they should just take George Floyd's name off the bill. That won't happen.

But there's room for compromise.


DAVIS: But to your larger point, Ana, and I want people to understand this, this is not new.


SELLERS: The only difference is we're able to see it with our own eyes. This is something that's been going on and it has to stop.

CABRERA: So, Commissioner, there's a new poll from CNN that found 53 percent of Americans say policing in the U.S. needs either major changes or a complete overhaul.

What kind of change to policing could have the biggest impact?

DAVIS: Well, Ana, I've spoken to my colleagues almost daily over the last year. And when we saw what happened in Minneapolis, Mr. Floyd's torture and death that occurred, it was a pivotal point for policing.

There's been an enormous amount of reflection that's happened in our business, and we know we have to change.

And there already is pretty substantive change in state Houses across the country so far.

I think we just have to continue down this road, examine our implicit bias issues.

If you ask police officers if they're racist they're going to say no. But it's important to reflect on what you've done and the way we've operated and come up with better ideas that include the community, that get officers out of the police cars talking to people so that not -- they don't treat people like they're the enemy.

And that's really the problem here is the militarization of policing and the fact that police chiefs have been working for a long time to make some of these changes.

Many of us are very happy that most of these changes are being put in place.

CABRERA: It just doesn't seem like it's happening quickly enough to have a real tangible effect or making a tangible difference at this point, especially as we continue to report on these cases.

But it's an ongoing conversation again, it's not a simple solution, clearly.

I appreciate both of your voices and perspectives. Thank you very much, Ed Davis and Bakari Sellers.

Yes, they're cute. But they could also be key to preventing the spread of coronavirus in the future. We'll see.



CABRERA: A faster and much cuter coronavirus test may be coming. The first phase of a study involving medical detection dogs found that they may be able to sniff out COVID-19 in people's clothing and masks.

Now, this test group included Labrador, Golden Retriever, and Cocker Spaniel breeds.

And Professor James Logan led the study. He heads the Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He joins us from southern England.

Professor Logan, it's great to have you with us.

How does this training work?


So, the training basically works by letting the dogs learn the smell of a disease.

We've known for some time that diseases have an odor and the training essentially, just the way that you would train a dog to sit and you can train a dog to learn a smell as well.

So they associate a smell with a treat, like their favorite toy or a food treat as well. And they can do it remarkably well.

CABRERA: So, you've identified what COVID actually smells like?

LOGAN: So, we know that COVID has a very strong odor, and that was the first thing we set out to test and then we looked at whether dogs could be trained to detect it.

And so, we know that there's a very strong odor associated with COVID. We can't smell it, but the dogs can, because they have such an incredible sense of smell.

CABRERA: Again, this is early. This was a phase one trial which had some encouraging results. The dog showed a sensitivity rate of 82 percent to 94 percent in detecting COVID. So how will now phase two of this research be different and how long might it take?

LOGAN: Yes, that's right. Their level of accuracy was really high, which is great.

The next thing we need to do is we need to test the dogs on real people.

In the first phase, we tested the dogs on samples that had been collected from people who were positive and negative for COVID by PCR.

In the next phase, we'll be testing the dogs on real people to determine how well they can do it in the real-world situation on real people with lots of distractions around them.

But we believe that they will be able to do it just as well, if not even better.

CABRERA: Oh, that is encouraging.

And how long will that phase of the trial take, do you know?

LOGAN: It's likely to take another few months. We want to be really sure to make sure that we've got the right data and we can be sure about how accurate they are before they're actually used.

CABRERA: I don't want to get ahead of the research, but if it is proven that dogs can help detect COVID-19, given where we are in this battle against coronavirus, as it appears the worst is behind us, how do you see these dogs being utilized moving forward?

LOGAN: Well, the amazing thing about these dogs is they can screen people very, very quickly, so we estimate that dogs could screen 300 people per hour per dog.

So that's incredible. There are no other diagnostic tests that come close to that in terms of speed.

The other incredible thing is that the dogs could detect people even with a very low virus load. And that means those are people without symptoms, usually, or at the early stage of infection.

So, we think that we could use dogs at places like airports to screen people coming in, at border control, for example, or at stadiums and sporting events.


It's basically, anywhere where you need to screen a lot of people very, very quickly, we could use dogs in those situations.

CABRERA: This is fascinating. I look forward to hearing more and learning more about what your research concludes.

Professor James Logan, thank you very much for sharing it with us and joining us today.

LOGAN: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: And thank you all at home for being with me. I'll be back here tomorrow, same time, same place, 1:00 eastern. In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

I'm going to hand off the reins to my colleagues, Alisyn and Erica, as "NEWSROOM" continues right after this.