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Sources: Two Officers Involved in Ronald Greene's Arrest to be Fired; S. Lee Merritt, Ronald Greene Family Attorney, Discusses What Appears to be a Cover-Up in His Death; Top Republicans Plan to Filibuster Jan. 6 Commission Bill This Week; After Wave of Outrage, GOP Leaders Condemn Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene; U.S. Citizens Warned Not to Travel to Japan as Tokyo Olympics Near. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 25, 2021 - 14:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: CNN has learned that two Louisiana officers involved in the death of a black man in police custody will be fired.

This follows a stunning development in the case, which raises fresh concerns of a police cover-up.

Louisiana State Police now say the senior officer on the scene of Ronald Greene's deadly arrest didn't initially report his own body camera footage.

Louisiana State Police now say the senior officer on the scene of Ronald Greene's deadly arrest didn't initially report his own body camera footage.

Greene died after what state troopers now describe as resisting arrest in a struggle with officers. But his family says they were told Greene died in a car crash after a police chase.

CNN's Nick Valencia has been on this story and joins us now.

Nick, what more do we know about these firings? And any more information on why this new video that's come to light was kept from the initial investigation?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Erica. Good afternoon.

This is a tragedy that continues to unravel. And with every major development, with every even minor development here, it seems to add merit to the family's insistence that there was a cover-up in the death of Ronald Greene.

To the arrests first. Two sources with knowledge of the investigation tell us that the two troopers seen in that brutal arrest video of Ronald Greene repeatedly punching, tasing, and even dragging him will be terminated by the Louisiana State Police. One of those sources telling me that the arrests are imminent and will

happen soon but did not give a timeline.

A second source telling my colleague, Ryan Young, that those arrests were supposed to happen last week but did not and they did not elaborate on that.

And then today, we're also learning of this significant development of body cam footage from the highest-ranking trooper at the arrest scene that was not part of the initial investigation.

We reached out to Louisiana State Police to find out why. And this is what they sent me in a statement here, saying, quote:

"Upon continued administrative review of the incident, personnel discovered three videos utilized in the internal affairs investigation were not part of the evidence submitted to district attorney, Belton, with the original case report."

Of course, these videos were first made public by the Associated Press. Those video clips that were part of an arrest that happened more than two years ago, first being made public on Friday.

And the family is furious. They believe, Erica, that this is a smoking gun, smoking gun evidence that there was a cover-up from the governor on down to the head of the state police.

We should mention that the head of the state police at the time was Kevin Reeves, who is no longer with the department.

But the family attorney, Lee Merritt, that we're about to talk to next, insists that this is further proof that there was a cover-up, insisting that not enough was done to help the life of Ronald Greene -- Erica?

HILL: Nick Valencia, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

VALENCIA: Thank you.

HILL: And as Nick just mentioned, we are now joined by S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for Ronald Green's family.

Mr. Merritt, good to have you with us.

You know, as Nick just mentioned, when you spoke with him earlier, you talked about a smoking gun of a cover-up.

Are you confident at this point that you have seen all of the evidence, all of the video that is related to what happened to Ronald Greene two years ago, or do you think there's something more?

S. LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF RONALD GREENE: Davis, the new colonel over the Louisiana State Police, made a representation to the family that he planned to release all the video evidence within his files. In the files that he dumped on last Friday, we found new videos that we had never seen before, videos that we were told were either of no evidentiary value or they didn't exist.

And so, no, at this point, we can't take anyone at their word. We think that Colonel Davis is doing his level best to be as transparent about what actually happened.

But at this point, you know, we're going to need to go over all of the evidence with a fine-tooth comb.

We believe that District Attorney Belton should be -- should have another opportunity to turn on the evidence and decide whether or not to bring criminal state charges.

And certainly there should be a pattern and practice investigation into the entire Louisiana State Police apparatus.

HILL: And do you believe that will happen?

MERRITT: I believe that it's happening already.

And so we've been in contact with federal investigators since September. We were told that with the new administration coming -- taking over, that the U.S. attorneys would be looking at it anew.

But we're certainly participating with that process. And we're looking forward to a presentation to both a federal grand jury.

But I can't emphasize enough, these are state-level crimes and the state has a responsibility to take action as well.

HILL: You know, Nick also just reporting for us that CNN has learned these two officers will be terminated and that the arrests were actually supposed to happen last week.

Has any of that been communicated to you or to the family?

MERRITT: Well, the arrest was supposed to happen two years ago. But no, that hasn't been officially communicated with us. We've heard when a rumor of terminations.

Nick went back and forth between the word "termination" and "arrest." We are demanding that these officers be arrested. But the only thing we've got back was conversations about termination.

And, look, if I beat someone to death on the job and then I lie about it in all the reports, and that evidence comes out, the last thing I'm worried about is whether or not I'm going to keep my job. I should lose my freedom. And that's what we're waiting for.


HILL: As we look at what happened, I think for a lot of people who are just learning about what happened to Mr. Greene and what the family was told, it really stops them in their tracks. Initially, two years ago, when Mr. Greene was killed, the family was

told this was after -- this was the result of a car crash. And then I know a wrongful death lawsuit was filed about a year later.

But can you just help us understand, and for folks at home who are just learning more, when did Ronald Greene's family first realize that what they were initially told is not what happened, that Ronald Greene did not die in a car crash?

MERRITT: Well, the family maintained their suspicions. They were told that Ronald died in a car accident and that's when they left Florida, where they lived, and started making their way back to Louisiana.

By the time they got to Louisiana, they asked to see Ronald Greene's body and they were told it was taken out of the state to Arkansas. That raised a red flag for them.

And once they finally got to his body, they had a chance to observe it and they took pictures using their camera phones.

And the body, as it presented, didn't appear as if it was a person who had only been involved in a car accident.

As the medical examiner notes, he had significant abrasions and scarring all over his body, lumps on his head that weren't consistent with a crash but more consistent with being beat with a blunt object repeatedly.

The family saw that with their own two eyes and so they've been questioning the official account really since day one.

HILL: You know, as I understand it, the family plans to travel to Baton Rouge later this week where they'll be marching with the NAACP, the ACLU. And they're hoping to get an audience with the governor again.

We know the governor did speak with the family back in October. What are you hoping will come of that conversation if it does, in fact, happen?

MERRITT: Well, this is the family of Ronald Greene, who the world is now watching being tortured to death in high definition. And so the family wants to meet with the governor and the attorney general a second time.

And this time, having an open and honest conversation about what is actually occurring on that video by agents of the state of Louisiana and what are the remedies available to the family, specifically what are the criminal consequences for these officers?

And so, yes, the family is going to march and they're being backed up by the ACLU and the NAACP and all freedom-loving people in Louisiana.

But it will be to demand that they do their job, the job that the taxpayers pay them to do, to protect the civil rights of all citizens.

HILL: Lee Merritt, appreciate you taking the time to join us today. Thank you.

MERRITT: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, some top Republicans are finally, finally condemning the sickening comments made by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Why did it take them five days? And will they hold her accountable?

And Senator Rand Paul is in a fight with an '80s pop singer. It sounds funny, but it's not.



CAMEROTA: Senate Republicans are expected to block the creation of a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the capitol.

The House approved this bill, which was negotiated by a Democrat and a Republican, but top Senate Republicans now oppose it.

HILL: To bring you up to speed on the latest, let's bring in CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, and chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Manu, Senators sounding off on this right now. Doesn't look like the Democrats have the votes to get this through.

So where do we stand at this point? Could there be concessions made to win over a few more Republicans?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's possible they may make some changes to win over a few more Republicans but probably not the 10 Republicans that they need to break a Republican-led filibuster.

The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, has been coy about whether or not he would, in fact, make changes.

I asked him several times this afternoon whether he would be willing to do anything to win over some more Republicans. All he said is, I hope to have a vote on this sometime this week.

So the expectation is later in the week. And the expectation is that there will not be those 10 Republican Senators to break ranks.

One of them, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, just reiterated his opposition to reporters just moments ago.

Contending that this proposal, which would evenly be split between Republicans and Democrats -- Democratic appointees to investigate what happened, is a political one.

And argued that Democrats are trying to essentially push the narrative about what happened on January 6th and bring the discussion about Donald Trump into the forefront in the run-up to the 2022 midterms.

Which is what is driving a lot of the Republican opposition, concern that this investigation could be a distraction politically.

And a belief that they could deal with the issue about what happened on January 6th through separate means, an investigation that's happening by two Senate committees, which is looking at narrowly what happened on January 6th and the lack of preparedness.

As well as the Justice Department's ongoing prosecutions of individuals who breached this building on that day.

So those reasons alone are enough to expect here that ultimately, Republicans will block this.

And then Democrats may have to decide what to do next and whether to create a committee in the House to mount a Democratic-led investigation on their own.

CAMEROTA: Manu, one quick follow-up to that, because minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, has said, we don't need the redundancy, you know, these two, as you point out, committees are already narrowly looking at it.

He did not mind that there were eight committees looking into the Benghazi.

Now, these two committees are what's going to stop him from getting to the bottom of what Donald Trump's role was, et cetera?

RAJU: And I can tell you, I've spoken to the authors who were writing that report from these two committees in the Senate.

And they are making it very clear, this is a narrow investigation, looking at why the capitol was unprepared on January 6th, the security failures involving the National Guard, the Capitol Police, intelligence services.


Not the run-up to what happened on January 6th, not Donald Trump's role, not the organizing of the rally, none of that.

This is a narrowly focused probe. And that report will be out in the first week of June.

So what the proponents are pushing for the commission saying is that we need to investigate all of it here, not just the narrow investigation.

But the narrow investigation is enough for the top Republicans.

CAMEROTA: OK, Gloria, now, next, now, five days later, top Republicans are finally condemning the disgusting comments from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Because, obvious, she compared asking unvaccinated lawmakers to wear masks on the House floor and vaccines to Nazis loading Jews into gas chambers. OK.

But in terms of condemning it, it's really a mixed bag from people like Congressman Steve Scalise.

Here's what he wrote. Here's the statement from his office:

"Congressman Scalise does not agree with these comments and condemns these comparisons to the holocaust. We also need to be speaking out strongly against the dangerous anti-Semitism that is growing in our streets and in the Democrat party, resulting in an alarming number of horrific violent attacks against Jews."

Gloria, who in the Democratic Party has likened vaccines to Nazis?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No one. No one. It's just another ridiculous case of sort of whataboutism here.

Enough is enough. This is despicable. They should have said, enough is enough five days ago.

And the question that I have, well, I have a couple of questions. One is, why all of a sudden, now, five days later, all of them in unison, right? Saying, oh my god, oh my god, this is terrible. She shouldn't be saying this.

Maybe they got permission from Donald Trump. Maybe their donors started complaining.

We know that one prominent Republican donor, close friend of Mr. McCarthy, tweeted today about this. So, maybe they were starting to get some heat.

Second question. What are they now going to do about it? When are they going to say, OK, we want to lead a censure vote against this woman because of her anti-Semitic remarks?

She shows no remorse. She shows no understanding.

Because if you don't do something like that, then pretty soon, you're allowing your party to be identified with what she says over and over again.

At a certain point, they have to take some action. The Democrats can do it. The Democrats can call for censure. But it's very different if Republicans say, we need to censure her.

Took them five days to get this far, as you point out. As you point out, Steve Scalise wouldn't even, couldn't even get there all the way.

But when are they going to say, she has no place in the Republican Party?

HILL: It's a great question. I got to tell you, after waiting five days to hear that those comments were appalling --


HILL: -- and then hearing a little bit more whataboutism, I'm not sure how much longer. It could be a long wait.

BORGER: Exactly.

HILL: Gloria, Manu, thank you both.

BORGER: Thank you.

HILL: A warning from the U.S. State Department about travel to Japan. What does that mean about America's top athletes who are now preparing to head there for the Olympic games?



CAMEROTA: The Tokyo Olympics are just two months away but the U.S. State Department is telling Americans not to travel to Japan because of the coronavirus situation there.

The level-four "Do Not Travel" advisory is the highest level in the State Department's hierarchy of warnings.

HILL: There have been multiple protests in Tokyo demanding officials cancel the games. Japanese citizens have been critical of the government's response to the pandemic and don't feel the games can be held safely.

Christine Brennan is a CNN sports analyst and a sports columnist for "USA Today."

Christine, when we look at this, travel advisory, American tourists, don't go there. What does this say to American athletes who are preparing to go to the games?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: All systems are go right now, Erica, with the U.S. athletes. The U.S. Olympic Committee is saying that and Japanese officials as well, and all athletes from the world still are planning on it.

But it throws another question mark out there. This was supposed to be a joyous union, having the world gather to say we have fought coronavirus and the world has come out strongest because of it.

Instead, this Olympics is sending a completely different message. Right now, that's a shame if, in fact, the games do happen, which we believe they will.

CAMEROTA: Christine, I understand you will be going to these at the moment, that's your plan at least.

But Japan has only vaccinated 2.3 percent of their population. That doesn't sound like a good omen for the games.

BRENNAN: Not at all. In fact, that's the headline. If Japan were like the United States or other countries, I think we would be looking at a very different scenario.

But whether it was overconfidence they beat the virus or concern about foreign vaccines coming into the country, whatever it was, slow rollout, all of a sudden, the Japanese are sitting there at 2.3 percent fully vaccinated.

That means there could be another wave in June and that would really be a precarious situation for the Olympics.

If another few week, we have another outbreak, that could cause a real problem for the International Olympic Committee.

HILL: Absolutely. We'll continue to follow it.

Christine, always good to have you with us. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Christine.

BRENNAN: My pleasure. Thank you.


CAMEROTA: Well, this has been a time of emotions and protests and debate, of course, about policing in America. But what has actually changed in the year since George Floyd's death? We'll talk about it as the Floyd family visits lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the White House.


HILL: Top of the hour on CNN. I'm Erica Hill, in for Victor Blackwell.

CAMEROTA: I'm Alisyn Camerota.

It's been exactly one year since the murder of George Floyd. Today, the city of Minneapolis and the country are reflecting about what happened on that day and the day since.

George Floyd's family, including his young daughter, Gianna, at the White House meeting President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Congress will miss the president's deadline to pass police legislation named in Floyd's honor.

HILL: Floyd's family is scheduled to meet with Democratic Senator Cory Booker this hour and Republican Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham after that.

Let's get to CNN congressional correspondent, Jessica Dean, on Capitol Hill.

[14:59:55] Jessica, with these meetings, these all come with Senators Booker and Scott along with Congresswoman Karen Bass are negotiating this stalled police reform bill, named, as Alisyn said, after George Floyd.

Is there a sense that these meetings today could spark some movement?