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Will Putin Play Ball?; Snowden Wants Asylum In Russia; Castro Indicted On 977 Charges; Napolitano Leaving Obama Cabinet; Zimmerman Jury Has A Question; Jury Wants Inventory Of Evidence

Aired July 12, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: TAPPER: The White House has a warning for Moscow, don't cooperate with Snowden. President Obama has a phone call scheduled with Russian President Vladimir Putin today to discuss the situation. The question now is whether or not Moscow will play ball.

CNN foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott is here with more. Elise, what are Putin's options at this point?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, he doesn't have a lot, Jake. He's kind of in a box, if you will, because the Chinese sent Snowden back to Russia and some might say that they put him in a very bad situation. Putin waited a long time to do this. He didn't send him back to the United States. He didn't send them to any country where he could go. So now Putin really has to choose between domestically being the strong man that stands up to the United States and his relationship with President Obama, which is very fragile right now.

TAPPER: Now would I think the U.S. government is furious that this press conference was even allowed to take place. You could justify Snowden being in "hiding," quote/unquote, in this airport, but going before cameras, human rights groups are allowed to come and hear him, that's not something President Obama wants to see happen.

LABOTT: No, and obviously, the Russians helped facilitate this and these people could have gotten into the airport with Russian help and they were a lot of Russian officials there. What officials are saying is, look, they're already treating him as an asylum case, giving him access to human rights people. They were saying to the Russians that he was in a transit airport.

That he couldn't go anywhere and now he's getting this good treatment, treated by human rights officials. I think what they're afraid of now is that they're moving toward possible asylum. Because you see that, as Snowden said out loud, I will not leak any more information against the United States.

That was one of the conditions that the Russians put out for his asylum last week. So the question is, were the Russians setting up this press conference to give him a chance to publicly meet those conditions.

TAPPER: We also know that Putin wants to have a good relationship with the United States in addition as being seen as standing up to us. The only thing that you could really picture happening other than the asylum thing is maybe potentially, and I'm speak speculating, that there could be a trade. There is a prisoner that we have here, the U.S. has here that the Russians want very much.

LABOTT: There is a lot of speculation there could be a trade. Some Russians lawmakers have proposed that and we don't know what's going to happen in this conversation between President Obama and President Putin. What officials say that's really a nonstarter because they see these people as convicted spies against the United States. They're saying that Snowden is a criminal wanted on charges. Obviously you could see where the Russians would think it's a fair deal. If Putin could get a deal like that, I'm sure he'd hand him over.

TAPPER: Interesting. Thank you so much, Elise. Coming up after three weeks of testimony in the Zimmerman murder trial, what key moments stood out to our legal experts and what do they think will resonate with a jury? We'll go back to our panel in just a few minutes.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper on verdict watch. Right now, what you're watching is the jury has come into the courtroom. They have a question. They have a question. So that is what's going on. We'll keep tabs on what's going on in the courtroom right now and have more analysis of the George Zimmerman trial ahead.

But first, another legal drama is brewing. The suspect in the Cleveland kidnapping case that shocked the nation was just indicted on almost a thousand new charges by a grand jury. Ariel Castro was hit with 977 counts including charges of rape and kidnapping of three women and two counts of aggravated murder for allegedly beating and torturing one of the women into miscarrying a child. The indictment does not include charges that could carry a death sentence, but the prosecution is keeping that option on the table.

San Francisco police now say one of the two teenagers who died after last week's plane crash was hit by a fire truck responding to the scene. The 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan was on the ground and covered in foam when she was hit. What's not clear yet is whether she was already dead or not when the truck hit her. Investigators think the plane was flying too low and too slow when it hit a seawall near the runway. Crews have now removed big chunks of wreckage from the runway. The FAA hopes to have the runway back open on Sunday.

It's a hallmark of law enforcement jobs that ultimately you're frequently judged by the onetime the bad guys were successful and not the 99 times that you stopped them. Over the past four and a half years, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano dealt with acts of terror, most of which were thankfully thwarted along with other intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Napolitano has also had to contend with major twisters, superstorms and of course, that southern border. Today, she announced that she is leaving President Obama's cabinet in September to lead the University of California. So how will Janet Napolitano be remembered? How'd she do?


TAPPER (voice-over): One of Janet Napolitano's first major tests came on her first Christmas on the job when the failed underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to destroy a Northwest Airlines plane full of passengers flying to Detroit. The attack thankfully was prevented by the passengers and crew on the plane.

But Abdulmutallab's presence on the plane with explosives was, as a Senate investigation would later conclude, an example of systemic intelligence failures and failures of the systems and procedures in place to prevent suspected terrorists from entering the United States. On the Sunday shows two days later, however, Secretary Napolitano had a different focus.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The system has worked very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days. Everybody reacted as they should. We trained for this, we planned for this, we exercised for this sort of event should it occur.

TAPPER (on camera): But Secretary Napolitano, you keep saying everybody acted the way they were supposed to. Clearly the passengers and the crew of that Northwest Airlines flight did, but I think there are questions about whether everybody in the U.S. government did.

(voice-over): In fact, there have been a number of similar attacks. Army Major Nidal Hassan allegedly killed 13 soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood in November 2009 after e-mailing with al Qaeda cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki. In April of this year, the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly killed four and maimed dozens more in their Boston marathon bombings and subsequent attempt to escape.

The Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Michael McCall today in a rather pointed statement responding to news of Napolitano's departure said that, quote, "it is crucial that the administration appoints someone who does not under estimate the threats against us." It is critical that its mission isn't undermined by politics or political correctness. The border is not secure and the threat of terrorism is not diminishing.

The White House today was unequivocal in its praise for Napolitano, even given some successful attacks.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: There's no question that we remain the targets of threats against both the homeland and Americans abroad and we have be ever vigilant. That was true before Secretary Napolitano took the job and President Obama came into office and it will be true after President Obama and Secretary Napolitano's successor leave office.

TAPPER: Her tenure started off stormy. House Republicans criticized Napolitano in April 2009 when a Homeland security memo noted that the struggling economy, quote, "could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists."

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think it was a valuable lesson for her that she needed to make sure that she exercised some pretty strong controls over the institutional operations of the department.

TAPPER: Duke University Professor David Shansor, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security said her legacy is strongest in the federal response to national disasters, wildfires in Colorado and Arizona, tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri, Moore, Oklahoma, and Superstorm Sandy, and in what he calls a smart --


TAPPER: Sorry to interrupt our own piece there, but jurors in George Zimmerman's murder trial have only been deliberating for about two hours and they already have a question for the judge. Let's go live to the courtroom and listen in.

JUDGE DEBRA NELSON: The letters for identification purposes only. Susan, is there a way to create just what's in evidence list? You can do what? Print it out? White it out and make a copy? If counsel wants to approach the clerk and see what it is that she's proposing and tell me if you have any objections. You can look at the questions if you want but that's exactly what it says. Can you give it to them and they can look at it. You can give that to Susan. She needs to file it in the court file.

TAPPER: While the lawyers are conferring with the judge, I want to bring in CNN's Jeffrey Toobin to get some more detail, understanding and context of what exactly is going on right now. Jeff, what's the story? What is the jury asking about?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYSTS: My understanding is the jury is asking for a list of all the exhibits. That's a very common first question from a jury. It shows they're taking their responsibilities seriously and the lawyers are now conferring so that they can agree on what the exact list is. In a fairly complicated trial like this when it can be complicated to assemble a list that's accurate, but this is the kind of thing you often hear from a jury at the beginning, you often have questions like can we have a --

JUDGE NELSON: We'll just remain here. We're going to recess. So the clerk can go ahead and make that and when she's ready, I'll come back in the courtroom to make sure you review it and then if there's no objection, I'll just have the deputy bring it in to them. OK, we'll be in recess for a few moments.

TAPPER: Jeff, I don't understand. As somebody who has not served on a jury in a case like this, there isn't just automatically a list of evidence that the jury is given?

TOOBIN: No, not usually. And another very common form of question from the jury is testimony read back. We'd like to hear so and so testimony about x. That becomes often very complicated because the lawyers have to agree on what part of the testimony is responsive. This is actually an easy question to answer, but just to answer your question directly.

It is not usually a matter of course to put in the jury room anything except the jury form. In fact, another common early question from jurors is can we have more pads of paper? Can we have a black board? Can we have a white board? These are the kinds of things juries often do when they are getting organized in the early stages of the deliberation.

TAPPER: Jeffrey, in states where cameras in the courtrooms are allowed and I believe there are three, I believe it Florida, Arizona and California, correct me if I'm wrong, is video there if the members of the jury want to see someone's testimony all over again?

TOOBIN: I can't speak for every courtroom everywhere, but I don't think testimony is shown to the jury in terms of video. It's read back usually in a monotone by the court reporter, the stenographer, who reads back the part that answers the jury's questions. It can be enormously tedious and you often find that jurors will ask for read backs and then stop asking for read backs because it so frustrating add tedious to listen to testimony read in a monotone. I don't think this video is used except for the news media. It's not officially part of the court record and the jury can only hear from the official court record.

TAPPER: Linda Kenney Baden who is also with us, as long as the jury has brought the subject of evidence into discussion, what are some of the key pieces of evidence that you have seen in this trial, either for the prosecution or the defense? What are some of the items that the jury might be wondering about, ones that are significant to this case?

LINDA KENNEY BADEN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I think they're going to want to look at Trayvon Martin's clothes. And if I were a juror, I'd want to look at them outside the plexiglas container, George Zimmerman's clothes and of course the gun. The gun that killed Trayvon Martin is going to be very important.

And the jurors, I believe, you know they were challenged here, Jake, to do an exhibition themselves by Mr. Guy, to get on top of each other, to see if you could reach that gun. So I won't be surprised if you will have jurors trying to do that. But if the gun goes into the jury room, it goes in under very strict requirements and certainly doesn't go in with the ammunition.

TAPPER: I want to go to Martin Savidge who is outside the courthouse in Sanford, California. Martin, we're hearing there is some tumult out there. What exactly is going on?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a demonstration that is taking place. I was over there a few minutes ago and it's a group that came over from Saint Petersburg. They all came over by car. They said they are primarily supporters of Trayvon Martin, and they have mixed opinions especially how this case has gone. They did not necessarily think the prosecution has put their best food forward. They feel dissatisfied in the representation -- the attempt to bring justice to Trayvon Martin and they are out there to demonstrate. They're doing it in an area that was set aside, quite a large area directly in front of the courthouse. Usually you would only see one, maybe two people every day that this trial has been going on, but of course now that we are reaching a critical moment, many people, many, there are 12 or 15, have shown up here. At the time I looked at them, they were vastly outnumbered by the media.

But this has all been carefully set aside so that people can express their feelings, can come out and demonstrate, and can do so in a way that is lawful, allows them to be here with the media, allows them to be by the courthouse, if that area gets overflowed, there's another one across the street. If that gets overflowed, there's a large park set aside. So the community really has been trying to show that it is open to allow discussion, good discussion and civil discussion about this case.

TAPPER: Or even loud discussion. I mean, demonstrations in this case would not be unusual at all. We're expecting whatever side win, we're expecting there will be people on the other side disappointed and think the case was waged in too political a manner. Jeffrey Toobin, we heard earlier from somebody representing the Sanford government, basically cautioning people not to demonstrate in a way that is violent.

And Don Lemon, one of our CNN anchors, said that he was taken aback by that, that as an African-American man he thought that was sending the signal that African-Americans are not going to be able to control themselves and he was offended by that. That must be a difficult thing for people in the community to hear, both African-Americans and non-African-Americans, the idea that people are being cautioned not to be too violent.

TOOBIN: It a difficult line to walk for the authority because they don't want to suggest that people might react violently to this verdict. Since the Rodney King case, which is almost 20 years ago, there haven't been, I don't think, that I can remember, any community reactions to a verdict that were really bad. But local authorities also have to be cautious. I certainly based on what I've seen of this case expect that whatever the verdict is, the community will take it in stride. And I expect that's going to be the case, but you certainly want your local authorities to be prepared for whatever may come.

TAPPER: The prosecution has tried to clear of the race conversation during the trial, but Prosecutor John Guy closing for the state's case posed this question to the jury, "what if it were George Zimmerman who had been walking home that night?"


JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: This case is not about race. It's about right and wrong. It's that simple. And let me suggest to you how you know that for sure. Ask yourselves all things being equal, if the roles were reversed and it was 28-year-old George Zimmerman walking home with a hoodie on to protect himself from the rain, walking through that neighborhood and a 17-year-old driving around in a car who called the police, who had hate in their heart, hate in their mouth, hate in their actions, and if it was Trayvon Martin who had shot and killed George Zimmerman, what would your verdict be? That's how you know it not about race.


TAPPER: Jelani Cobb joins us now. He is a contributing writer of "The New Yorker" and director of the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut. Jelani, thanks for being with us. Let's talk about this point. The prosecutor saying this case is not about race. What do you think? Do you agree with him?

JELANI COBB, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: I think that from a prosecutorial standpoint, that's what he had to say. There's also the old truism that nothing certifies that something is about race than an unsolicited denial that this is not about race. Race is at the heart of this. If this wasn't a matter of race, we wouldn't be here. But he doesn't want to seem as if he's race baiting. Race as I've said, functions like a boomerang. If you put it out there, it comes right back at you. From his perspective as a prosecutor, that's what he has to say.

TAPPER: But this case is suffused with race. Even if the term racial profiling has not been allowed, the term profiling was allowed. This is an educated jury. They understand that even if the word "racial" isn't there that someone is suggesting racial profiling. Don't you think?

COBB: Absolutely. I think this case has followed the same contours of the way we handle race in the broader society, which is to say we talk about it by not talking about it. When the prosecutor came up to the jury and said Mr. Zimmerman made assumptions or he profiled him as a criminal and so on, anyone could tell, you know, what he was getting at there. And so race is there. It's just we can't say so explicitly.

I also think it's telling to the extent that it been discussed in the case, the only explicit instance is when Mark O'Mara was questioning Rachel Jeantel around we were going through the whole creepy ass cracker, I'm not sure if I can say that comment on the air, it was said that Trayvon Martin had a racial mindset going into the situation. I think they'll throw anything they can at the wall and see if it sticks. This is really about the same way we deal with race in the open society.

TAPPER: I think if nothing else, they've seen "A Time To Kill," with is a similar closing argument about seeing difference cases of race for individual. We're going to take a quick and when we come back, we're going to have more with our panel looking at the George Zimmerman murder trial. The jury is of course now in the middle of deliberations.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, we're on verdict watch. Let's get final word from our panel, Jelani Cobb, Jeffrey Toobin and Linda Kenny Baden. Jeff, we want to go over some of the key moments from the trial and we only have a couple of minutes here. Let's play Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda in his closing arguments yesterday.


BERNIE DE LA RIONDA, PROSECUTOR: He bought Skittles and some kind of iced tea. That was his crime.


TAPPER: What about that moment is so vital to you?

TOOBIN: It takes us back to why it became a national story in the first place. Can a 17-year-old African-American boy go to the store, do a perfectly innocent act like buying candy and soda and then walk home without getting killed? I think putting that question in front of the jury in that way puts it in a stark way and I think a very favorable way for the prosecution.

TAPPER: Linda, you thought the key moments were when both mothers testified. Why?

BADEN: Duelling mothers brought the emotion back to the jury and about what this case is about, the human condition and that's the jury has to deal with losses on both sides no matter what the outcome.

TAPPER: And Jelani Cobb, your big moment was Sybrina Fulton, the mom on the stand, did she make her case?

COBB: Well, if there's nothing else, people remember her saying, you know, my son is Trayvon Benjamin Martin and he is in heaven. That gets to the core. This is a grieving mother. Regardless of whatever we think about the legal (inaudible) or concerns, those complications, at the end of the day, this is a woman who lost her son and they want to stand what happened.

TAPPER: Jelani, Jeff, Linda, thank you so much. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper, also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page, for video blogs and extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Jake, thanks very much.