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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Fallout in NJ Bridge Scandal; Christie Deals with Political Fallout on Possibly Presidential Run; Government Takes Cussing Child from Home; Insane Posse Fans, Called Juggalos, Sue Government.
Aired January 10, 2014 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is hardly off the hook this morning even after spending almost two hours yesterday apologizing profusely for last year's lane closures on the busiest bridge in America, the George Washington Bridge, in New York, bridging New Jersey. Governor Christie also fired one of his top advisers and told another top adviser he need not reapply to the campaign or anything else. They both allegedly planned that gridlock as political payback.
One lingering issue involves this woman. Florence Jinova died after going into cardiac arrest on the first day of the horrendous traffic jam. The next day, the local EMS chief said the backups delayed paramedics rushing to her aid. Jinova's daughter however is not blaming the gridlock.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VILMA OLERI, DAUGHTER OF FLORENCE JINOVA: No. I don't think so. I really don't. I think she was 91, and I believe in my heart, she was already gone when the ambulance got there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: However, one New Jersey lawmaker is seeing it somewhat differently.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. RAY LESNIAK, (D), NEW JERSEY: We have reckless endangerment of people's lives and possibly criminally negligent homicide. Those investigations have to be pursued by the authorities of the U.S. attorney's office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Our Alexandra Steele is in Fort Lee this morning and she has been during duty at the bridge, right there behind her.
What is the fallout there in Fort Lee and throughout New Jersey after all of this?
ALEXANDRA STEELE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot for people to talk about in Fort Lee this morning, Ashleigh. They're talking about two things. One is the manner or the method by which Governor Christie made that apology yesterday at that press conference and then that personal visit. That doesn't seem to be generating a whole lot of criticism. People are saying, yes, he did what he had to do. But the other issue people are still talking about is the apology itself. Was he sincere? Was it believable? That's a question we have asked in Fort Lee and here are a couple of their answers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MILLER, NEW JERSEYIAN: I think it's too little too late in my opinion. I must say, to be fair and honest, I always thought that he was a very arrogant person and I never really cared for his operative and the way he operated.
BARBARA MURRAY, NEW JERSEYIAN: He is very good for this state. He would not injure any possible presidential run by doing something like that to the state, to the town of Fort Lee. He would never get involved in that. I have confidence in him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEELE: As you might expect, in a case like this, people who were supporters of Governor Christie may have been more inclined to believe that that apology was sincere. Those who weren't supporters of Governor Christie may not necessarily have been won over.
There is also some gray matter in this issue. We spoke to people who consider themselves Governor Christie's supporters and we asked them what they think this will mean for his future in White House. They say his opponents will take it and run with it. Others say, look, a presidential election is still a few years away. Some things will be explained by then and other things, Ashleigh, could be forgotten.
BANFIELD: Alexandra Field, live at the bridge.
Looks like I'm there, too. I'm not. I'm in the studio, which is a great place to conduct an interview because, beside all the legal consequences, Chris Christie is now dealing with political fallout from this bridge fiasco, including how it could affect his chances of winning the Republican nomination for president in 2016 if he so chooses to seek it.
Joining me are political strategists, Sally Kohn and CNN's political commentator, Ross Douthat.
Thanks to both of you for being on the program today.
Let's just start with the damage control.
Sally, you have been very outspoken about this. You wrote about this. There is a lot of dirt that's already discussed and there may be more dirt that's unearthed. But is the governor in any way inoculated?
SALLY KOHN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think so. And, look, I have to be honest, I'm not a supporter of Christie's policies. He is however an infectious political figure. It is hard not to like him. So this really casts doubt on who he is as a person.
First of all, what is coming out is we have seen this well-documented reputation he has for being a bully and taking pride in that. Now there's two things. One, did that bullying at the very least contribute to his staff engaging in political retribution on his behalf? But also, he in his press conference, he kind of acted not like a bully but like a baby, making it all about him and how he was lied to and not how the people of Fort Lee were really hurt.
BANFIELD: Ross Douthat, the "I'm not a bully line," I could almost hear the echoes in the headlines and, sure enough, it ended up on the front cover of one of the major papers in New York.
ROSS DOUTHAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No good political sentence begins with "I'm not a --."
BANFIELD: -- to say I'm not a witch, I'm not a crook, I'm not a bully.
BANFIELD: Was that the right thing to do?
DOUTHAT: The issue for Christie here is that, as Sally said, there is a problem where his public image is this guy might be a bully but he is a bully on your side, on the side of the ordinary Joe against corrupt special interests. So he needed to respond to the idea that this showed that he was bullying the ordinary guy, but the only way to do that was to essentially make himself look a little bit ineffectual. His argument here was essentially that he didn't know what people, who he admitted he trusted and kept in his inner circle, were doing.
That being said, from the point of view of primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and general election voters in 2016, there is plenty of time for the wheel to turn on this scandal and for people to cast their ballots based on unrelated issues.
DOUTHAT: Right. But, the issue for Christie right now is, one, obviously, if it comes out that he is lying and did know something about this, his national political prospects are finished. But, two, he is working right now in what people talk about as the invisible primary, where he is trying to line up donors and endorsements and build a campaign infrastructure. Part of his big advantage was that lots of Republican donors looked at him and said this guy is a winner and we are going to give him a big edge going into 2016. And right now, if you're one of those donors, maybe you are taking another look at Marco Rubio or Scott Walker or getting on the phone to ask if Jeb Bush could be persuaded to get into the race.
BANFIELD: But like you said, still a lot of time left. Still a lot of time left. Memories could be short. News cycles are aplenty in between now and then as well.
Sally, really quickly, on the length of time that the governor stood at that dias and apologized, there was an enormous amount of contrition. As the minutes continued, I kept thinking, I can't imagine any former attorney general, who has a legal mind, as Chris Christie does, continuing to say these things if they're not, in fact, true.
BANFIELD: Otherwise, you get an Anthony Weiner videotape out there, a Bill Clinton "I did not have sex with that woman" video tape out there that are life destroying.
KOHN: Yes. Look, he certainly did, I would say, at this point -- and he doesn't end the investigation. At this point, he did a good job, as good a job as he could have done in making it appear that he did not know anything or was not involved. If that's true -- I still think we need independent investigations into that, both journalists and on the side of the public officials -- the question remains, why wasn't he curious about this sooner? This happened in September. By November, the assembly in New Jersey had already convened hearings. The media was widely speculating it was politically motivated. And he only tried to get to the bottom of it a few weeks ago.
KOHN: That alone raises questions.
BANFIELD: We're flat out of time, but I will only answer that with what he says, I was blindsided. Why would I answer to something I did not know and did not think existed until I saw it existed in the e- mails? And whether that's true or not, I think the investigators will probably --
KOHN: -- Jersey Strong.
BANFIELD: I don't know. You know, sometimes I think he looks so extraordinary Jersey Strong he scares me.
Ross Douthat and Sally Kohn -- and he inspires aw, he inspires all at the same time.
Thank you both for being on the program.
DOUTHAT: Thanks, Ashleigh.
KOHN: Thanks, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: So this young child, he has got a potty mouth and he hasn't even been potty trained. Now, toddler's teenage mom, 16, is coming forward to explain this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on the clear right now.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Huh?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: That boy, on tape, heard mimicking sexual references, repeating gang references, he has been ripped from that home. Now we ask, when can the government come in and take your child if what that child is doing is just talking? Is this right on the line? We're going to dig into that in a moment.
BANFIELD: We are now hearing from the mother of a toddler taken into protective custody after he unleashed a slew of obscenities in a video that's gone viral. While standing in his diaper, and being taunted and cursed at by people in the room, adults, they coaxed the child to do the same. His mom says, at this time, when the video was rolling, she was in another room and a family friend was videotaping. That video showed up on Facebook and the Omaha Police Officers Association took that Facebook video and posted it on the association website saying this was a cycle of thug violence.
We can not play most of this because it is so explicit. But there is a key example I want to draw your attention to. Have a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say -- (EXPLETIVE DELETED) (EXPLETIVE DELETED) -- I'm throwing a fit right now.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something is different. He said he was (INAUDIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: I know a lot of that is hard to make out. Effectively, those were sexual references and gang references. Sexual references and gang references. Remember that? The boy clearly doesn't understand what they are saying or what he is saying while he exchanges with them, but he does say about 35 different swear words in a minute and 23 seconds. Sex and gang references, which is key.
His mom is only 16 years old. Let's let that ruminate for a moment. She told the affiliate KETV that she doesn't endorse what happened but she also says it is not all that uncommon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MOTHER OF TODDLER: They weren't worried about the video because he had a clean diaper, the house was clean. Kids cuss. Every kid does it. He is a smart little boy. All that cussing he does, he doesn't do that. The person that saw him do that, my son doesn't cuss like that. I don't allow it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Kids do that. Kids cuss. I'm going to go on the record saying kids don't say those things, especially when they are wearing a diaper and they are only two. It's a problem. Mom says police have come to the house before because there has been a history of gang violence at home.
We want to bring back in our HLN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson, and our criminal defense attorney, Heather Hansen.
There is just so much wrong here. I also see something that is right but challenging. When the government comes and takes a child out of the circumstances, we like to think it was for the right reason, that the child is in danger. That kid was swearing and saying ugly things. Where is the danger the government should sweep in and take that child away?
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It's an interesting question. Heather and I were having this discussion off the air. She is of the view -- you'll get to your view.
The bottom line --
BANFIELD: You don't even want to repeat it.
JACKSON: The bottom line is that it is a fine line. Why? Because we expect the government to intervene. Child abuse is not only about physical abuse but abuse that relates to the mental welfare of the child. What they did, as they should do when you see a video that is as unfortunate, to put it mildly, as this one, is they should conduct a further investigation, which they did. In doing that, it was uncovered there was a lot of gang activity at that home. The child was exposed to guns and other things and grazed by a bullet last year. And so --
BANFIELD: Wouldn't that have been the time to sweep in and protect the child?
JACKSON: Yes, it would have been. But it is never too late to sweep in and protect our youth and toddlers, especially so young. At the end of the day -- perhaps they did it late, but I think certainly this is something that needs to be addressed. The government was right to do so.
HANSEN: I agree. Especially given the danger this child was in. However, if it was just the swearing, Ashleigh, the unfortunate reality is Child Protective Services in this country are so overburdened in cases where children are in danger. Swearing, while it may border on mental abuse, is not the type of danger that Child Protective Services should be focused on right now.
BANFIELD: Is morality something that the government can come into your home and say, we don't like your morals, we're taking your boy?
JACKSON: Is it morality itself?
Heather, to your point, and you made a great point, and that is that he was taught in many different ways. What's the distinction? Heather, I credit you with this. What's the distinction between hate being taught this way or if you look at a child in some mansion that's being taught to hate just as much. Is it injurious to both factors? It is.
BANFIELD: Will you touch on the sexual reference and gang references that were being encouraged with this child? It changes the metric, doesn't it?
HANSEN: It certainly leads to an investigation. If the child had just been swearing, I don't know if it would have been stopped there. When you're talking about gang reference and sexual references, it opens it up to investigation. Thank god it did because it got this child out of a dangerous home. It is a fine line. Parents have the right to raise their kids the way they want to as long as they are safe.
JACKSON: When you see it like this, it makes you cringe. You have to wonder, what are the other tapes that we are not seeing? It is sickening?
BANFIELD: Talk about competing interests. We want to protect our children and we want the government to help us protect kids but we don't want the government stealing our kids because they don't like our morals.
HANSEN: And it would be nice if they could go into the home and help that child raise this child.
BANFIELD: Thank you. Help that child raise --
JACKSON: Raise this child.
BANFIELD: By the way, a 16-year-old mother with a 15-year-old sibling and a 12-year-old sibling, it is a mess no matter how you stop it.
I have to stop it there.
Joey Jackson, Heather Hansen, thank you.
JACKSON: Thank you.
HANSEN: thank you.
BANFIELD: Stick around because this next one is great.
Does listening to a certain band make you a target for the police? Again, with the government already. Apparently, if you follow the Insane Clown Posse and you call yourself a Juggalo, as the fans tend to, well, FBI calls you gangster. And you know what? Those Juggalos are fighting back. In court. I swear. Find out how these clowns are actually serious about suing the government.
BANFIELD: You wouldn't think a guy named Violent Jay in a band called Insane Clown Posse would take offense at a four-letter word. But he and his partner and some fans are now suing the FBI for calling them a name, a name that is allegedly wrecking their lives.
Jake Tapper has our report.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So first off, for the uninitiated, who or what exactly is the Insane Clown Posse?
TAPPER: Well ICP is a horror core band, mixing rap, heavy metal and heavy makeup. Their songs focus on homicidal themes. The Detroit- based duo, Violent Jay and Shaggy Dope, formed two decades ago and have sold millions of albums and inspired an intensely loyal following among their fans, who call themselves Juggalos and share a subculture and love of face painting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emily, Emily!
TAPPER: Every year, since 2007, fans have gathered for a week-long summer festival, the gathering of the Juggalos in southern Illinois. The event attracts about 10,000 people, and heaps of trouble. There have been several deaths in recent years, and dozens of arrests, according to Illinois State Police.
UNIDENTIFIED INSANE CLOWN POSSE MEMBER: We're the most hated band, because people hate and people fear what they don't understand. You know? And there's a lot more to us than what you see on the surface. Or even what you hear listening to just one of our songs, you know?
TAPPER: Those songs are often profanity-laced, fictional narratives that the band says has an underlying positive message. But the FBI disagrees. In 2011, the Juggalos ended up on the National Gang Threat Assessment, as, quote "a loosely organized hybrid gang. Quote, "A small number of Juggalos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang-like criminal activity," the FBI says.
UNIDENTIFIED INSANE CLOWN POSSE MEMBER: Let me tell you something about Juggalos. They're human beings. They're not Neanderthals. You don't have to tell them that. You know what I'm saying? They know not to go out and murder somebody because of our music. They're (EXPLETIVE DELETED) human beings, man.
TAPPER: Now the members of the Insane Clown Posse and several Juggalos have partnered with the ACLU to sue the FBI, saying that designation has led to police harassment and denial of employment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three times police have stopped me on the street and asked me questions about my shirt, my tattoos, and what being a Juggalo meant. The police kept saying my tattoos and shirt meant I was a gang member, even though I told them that I was just a music fan.
TAPPER: They said they asked the FBI to explain its rationale for classifying Juggalos as a gang, and when they got no response, they filed the lawsuit on behalf of their fans.
BANFIELD: Jake Tapper reporting for us.
Joey Jackson, Heather Hansen back with me.
What I love is the Insane Clown Posses is filing on freedom of speech, freedom of association and due process. Do they have a case?
HANSEN: I think they're going to have a hard time. The reality is, in 2011, the FBI did an investigation, and they found that there was enough of an affiliation that they could be classified as a gang. If that is the case, the FBI has the right to make that classification. It's similar to what happened to the hell's angels, who are also --
BANFIELD: How is this any different from Deadheads or Little Monsters to Lady Gaga?
JACKSON: The point is that it's about guilt by association, and are we our brother's keeper. So the reality is, if you choose to follow a particular band, a particular group, and you individually engage in criminality, should the group itself constitute a criminal organization? And that's what it's about. And we, right, constantly in court use the defense of mere presence, a crime happens, our client is there. Is he guilty simply because these merely present?
BANFIELD: By association?
JACKSON: And by association? And that's the issue.
BANFIELD: We have association. We have it.
HANSEN: But the FBI is allowed to investigate gangs. Any gang is an association. Any five or more people together that are trying to look into criminal activities, it can be classified as a gang.
BANFIELD: I just wonder what the number of fans that Lady Gaga has -- if you were to count the number of people who have criminal backgrounds, you could probably make that argument, too.
I wish I could talk about this. We'll do it again. Tell you what. This isn't over. And I love --
I love this. Just love it.
Thank you, everyone, for watching. It's been nice to have you with us. Happy Friday. Have a great weekend.
AROUND THE WORLD starts right after this quick break.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Hundreds of documents are set to be released any minute now in the Bridgegate scandal. Could they actually reveal how much New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knew about a political vendetta that left a New Jersey town in terrible traffic for days?
And this. Could basketball --