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Parole Board Grants O.J. Simpson Early Release; Trump Legal Team Taking a Page from Bill Clinton Playbook?. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired July 21, 2017 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- Pompeo was offering the clearest and strongest words yet from a sitting administration official that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
[06:30:07] Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Of course, and the one before that and the one before that. They've been at this a hell of a long time and I don't think they have any intention of backing off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Director Pompeo says that the web makes intervenes easier, cheaper, and more effective. The CIA director also offered aggressive comments about North Korea, saying the administration needed to find a way to separate Kim Jong-un from his growing nuclear stockpile. But he stopped short of calling for regime change.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The Minneapolis police chief says that that bride-to-be who was killed by one of the officers did not have to die. The chief placing blame solely on officer Mohamed Noor for shooting Justine Ruszczyk after she called 911 to report a possible sexual assault outside her apartment.
Last night, mourners flooded the streets for a march in Ruszczyk's memory. Her family hired one of the attorneys for the family of Philando Castile who you remember was shot near Minneapolis last year.
BERMAN: All right. O.J. Simpson will be a free man this fall, but his comments to the parole board, raising eyebrows. Our legal experts weigh in, next.
[06:35:13] CAMEROTA: O.J. Simpson will soon be a free man. The 70- year-old former football star could be released as early as the fall after spending nearly nine years in prison for an armed robbery conviction.
CNN's Jean Casarez is live in Carson City, Nevada, with more.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
You know, it was an oddly similar situation. O.J. Simpson involved in a legal proceeding, the spotlight on Simpson, waiting for a verdict, and his demeanor really spoke volumes. He did express some regret, but really didn't express a lot of remorse. But remorse is not a requirement in the state of Nevada to be granted parole.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Simpson, I do vote to grant parole when eligible. And that will conclude this hearing.
O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Thank you.
CASAREZ (voice-over): After a unanimous decision, former NFL hall of famer, O.J. Simpson, set to walk free as early as October after serving nine years in prison for an armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel room.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you humbled by this incarceration?
SIMPSON: Oh, yes, for sure. As I said, I wish it would have never happened. Nine years away from your family is just, just not worth it. And I -- I'm sorry.
CASAREZ: Speaking for over an hour, the 70-year-old was apologetic and at times defensive before shocking viewers with this eyebrow- raising remark.
SIMPSON: I've always thought I've been pretty good with people and I've basically have spent a conflict-free life.
CASAREZ: Simpson's comment blatantly ignores his double murder trial and his long history of domestic abuse allegations against his ex- wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.
911 DISPATCH: We're sending the police? What does he do? Is he threatening you?
NICOLE BROWN SIMPSON: He's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) going nuts.
911 DISPATCH: OK, just stay on the line.
BROWN SIMPSON: I don't want to stay on the line. He's going to beat the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
CASAREZ: Provoking criticism from her family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a sense of denial there, and a lack of sense of responsibility, still today.
CASAREZ: Simpson's lawyers arguing his stiff sentence for the robbery was payback for his controversial acquittal in the murders of Brown and a friend, Ron Goldman, in 1995. The parole board stressing the acquittal had no bearing on their decision, deeming him a low-risk release. Simpson avoided taking full responsibility for the kidnapping, armed robbery, and assault that led to his incarceration.
SIMPSON: I had no weapon. They didn't feel threatened by me, for what you said, and that I didn't threaten them. It was the other two security guys that did that.
CASAREZ: The most striking testimony coming from a friend of Simpson, who was the victim in the heist, arguing that Simpson deserves a second chance.
BRUCE FROMONG: This is a good man. He made a mistake. And if he called me tomorrow and said, Bruce, I'm getting out, will you pick me up? Juice, I'll be here tomorrow for you.
CASAREZ: O.J. Simpson has requested to live in Florida and there are definite conditions of parole. The commissioners yesterday, when they were talking to O.J. Simpson said they had determined that he had a substance abuse issue. He appeared upset, he disagreed with that, he said, I haven't had a drink in nine years.
But the number one condition for his parole is that although he can drink alcohol, he cannot drink it in excess. And at any time, he could be subject to a blood or breath test. Another condition, he cannot associate at any time with convicted felons and he cannot participate in any type of criminal activity -- Alisyn, John.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Jean, what a fascinating display of everything that -- all the different personalities and comments yesterday.
There's a lot to discuss, John.
BERMAN: All right. Let's bring in CNN's best legal minds, heck, America's best legal minds. CNN legal analysts, Mark Geragos, Paul Callan, and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Mark, I want to start with you here. You were saying during this hearing and before that parole was essentially a legal slam dunk. Why?
MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, because they an evaluation. In fact, they kind of predicted it, if you will, where they do what's called a risk assessment. And there's a bunch of factors. It's the age. It's the prior convictions or lack of prior convictions, things of that nature. And when they did that, he comes out at the lowest end of the scale.
And then you combine that, even though it's with the severity of the crime, with the fact that this is a case that the prosecutors offered 2 1/2 years, and he rolled the dice basically, and he got tax, tip, and service charge of over nine years. And I thought that this was going to be a legal slam dunk.
And sure enough, that's exactly what ended up happening. They only needed basically four votes. [06:40:04] They have extra commissioners that are waiting, kind of
like alternates, so to speak, in a jury trial who can come in and break any kind of a tie. And he got 4-0 on the first vote.
CAMEROTA: But Paul, Mark Geragos is asking us to un-know what we know about O.J. and everything that was just outlined in Jean's piece there. How can the parole board say with confidence that he's not a threat to society in the future?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I really don't know how they could reach that conclusion. You know, mark was talking about the risk factor portion of the analysis.
You know, they started out by asking, have you ever been arrested before? And this parole commission that appeared to me to be star struck by O.J. left out the most important chapter in his life. And it's the domestic violence chapter, because even if you accept the verdict of not guilty in the original murder trial, there were at least 50 incidents in both the civil case and in the criminal case in which O.J. was engaged in acts of violence against women. And more particularly, against Nicole Brown Simpson, who we believe he ultimately murdered. When I say, we believe, the attorneys who tried the civil case.
Why didn't the parole board look at that? They -- this suggests a risk to the community, a risk to women where he settles, and while it was a happy day for O.J., it's a tragic day for victims of domestic violence.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Maybe one reason why they didn't ask -- or at least one of the parole officers didn't ask, is because he was wearing a Kansas City Chiefs tie. Like, why? Out of all the ties you could have wear, do you wear an NFL tie? But that's why it's good to be a celebrity.
BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, you were uncharacteristically outspoken about O.J. Simpson's behavior as he was testifying yesterday. You know, Jean points out, not legally required to show remorse. What went over the line in your eyes?
TOOBIN: The statement that he led a conflict-free life, because I thought it was so indicative. I mean, the thing that's so rich about the O.J. Simpson case, is that it has illuminated so many dark corners of American life. And here's a guy who was a convicted wife batter, saying, well, that's just private. That's not -- you know, anything related to domestic violence is a private matter.
And one of the things the O.J. Simpson case illuminated is how pervasive domestic violence is without regard to race or income, and how the old attitude that domestic violence is simply a private matter, but not a crime against society as a whole, that attitude is obsolete and wrong. But it was still reflected in how O.J. behaved yesterday.
CAMEROTA: So, Mark, what about all of that? What about the idea that O.J. still poses a threat to women and possibly to the community? GERAGOS: Well, look, the problem is, and I understand everybody wants
to judge him by this, that, or the other thing. You've got somebody and the 11 factors that they have to take into account in Nevada and what the parole commissioners have to look at is, and the biggest one is, has -- how did he behave over the last almost nine years in prison? And he didn't have a single offense while in prison. That in and of itself is one of the most compelling factors for a parole commissioner. Because --
CAMEROTA: Yes. But I mean, he's not with women in prison, you know? I mean, I just don't know if that's --
GERAGOS: Well --
CAMEROTA: -- a natural habit --
GERAGOS: -- not necessarily -- I understand. But the fact remains that that's the way the system is set up, and that's way that those are the risk factors they take a look.
His age, when was the first time he was ever arrested? Was it over 24? All of the things they went through yesterday.
And, you know, while I love Paul and Jeff, the fact remains that this was a legal slam dunk and they got it right. This is exactly what they were supposed to do. I know people don't like it, and people want to basically, as one of the commissioners said, there were many letters in opposition, but almost all of them were based on stuff that was not related to this offense, that wasn't related to his serving the sentence now.
And that were completely unrelated to what they were supposed to do, what their job was. They got it right.
BERMAN: Paul, I want to ask you, because, again, you were co-counsel to the state of Nicole Brown Simpson in the civil case here. What does O.J. Simpson's life look like now once he's released going forward with particular focus on his finances?
CALLAN: Well, I can tell you one thing he won't be doing. Remember at the end of the '95 trial, he said he was going to engage in a search for the real killer. I think we can mark that off the list. But what he will be doing is he will be out trying to make money in a way that it will not be collected by the Brown and Goldman families, who have a $35 million verdict against him.
[06:45:03] So, that's -- it will be his quest to do that quietly so the creditors don't get his money.
BERMAN: All right. Guys, thanks so much.
A quick programming note, we have an exclusive CNN special report, "After O.J.: The Fuhrman Tapes Revealed." That's tonight at 10:00. Here's a brief look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: The notorious case.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty.
ANNOUNCER: The infamous detective.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark Fuhrman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish to assert my Fifth Amendment privilege.
ANNOUNCER: And until now, the tapes you've never heard.
FUHRMAN: White men made him everything and now he's blaming the white man for what he's become.
ANNOUNCER: Meet the woman who recorded Mark Fuhrman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why did you decide to come forward now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's time.
ANNOUNCER: A CNN exclusive, "After O.J.: The Fuhrman Tapes Revealed," tonight at 10:00.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK, make sure you tune in for that.
Meanwhile, is President Trump's legal team's plan to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller, is it somehow a throwback to Bill Clinton, as we've been hearing people say? Up next, we'll compare President Trump and President Clinton's responses to their independent investigations with two people who know these presidents better than most.
BERMAN: All right. "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" report that President Trump's lawyers and aides are looking for ways to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian connections. "The New York Times" even suggests that the Trump administration is taking a page from the Clinton administration which publicly challenged independent counsel Ken Starr in the 1990s.
I want to bring in two folks intricately involved in both and all of this. CNN political commentators Jason Miller and Paul Begala. Jason worked for the Trump campaign, Paul worked for President Bill Clinton. Now they both work for CNN, so they have to answer my questions.
You know, Jason, I want to start with you here. Is the White House and the outside advisers trying -- are they all now trying to discredit the investigation, present the idea of a conflict of interest? Because it sure sounds like that when the president was interviewing with "The New York Times"? JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, John, I'm not part of
the president's external legal team nor am I part of external communications team.
[06:50:00] But what I can speak to here is the fact that it sounds like these lawyers are doing their job, which is to go through and look for every pushback point that they have to go and make the case that they're defending the president. And to make sure that we're rooting out any conflicts of interest.
This is what they're supposed to do. And if anything, the White House would be wise to follow the playbook that the gentleman sitting next to me helped implement 20 years ago. This guy was an absolute genius, calling out the corruption and witch hunts and such and calling out the political dynamics of an investigation we saw 20 years ago.
And Paul Begala helped write the book. And I think the Trump White House would be smart to go and follow that because, look, here's the bottom line -- right after the election, it was the talk about Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote, in an effort to try to discredit the Trump presidency.
BERMAN: She did win the popular vote.
MILLER: Well, as a way to undermine, saying that President Trump wasn't really the president. That's what all that talk was. Then we go --
BERMAN: Let me -- let me -- I'm not sure that the popular vote has anything to do with the Bob Mueller investigation. But let's go to your first point, which is, Paul Begala, you did have an awful lot to say about --
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I still do. Don't get me started. Call me in $70 million and five years, when Mueller is investigating Donald Trump's sex life. It's a completely different situation.
First, we had a special counsel in Whitewater named Robert Fisk, a career prosecutor, Republican, who was investigating Whitewater. Not a peep from us, full cooperation, no criticism of the Fisk investigation. He was a legitimate prosecutor, like Mueller. Mueller is a career prosecutor.
Ken Starr, the Whitewater case was his first case as a prosecutor. He never did a traffic ticket. He was put in there by a very political process. Republican federal judges forced him in. And he started right away looking into Bill Clinton's sex life. It has nothing to do with real estate, a completely different situation.
It's not going to work. Jason, I can tell you, Starr was incompetent, Starr was politically biased, Starr was forced in there and he was sex obsessed.
BEGALA: Excuse me, no, I didn't interrupt you.
Mueller is a war hero and career prosecutor and FBI director. On top of that, President Trump, I sometimes get caught saying that, President Trump, our president, my president, goes out of his way to Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who's presiding over a civil case he's involved in, demeans him for being a Mexican America, he attacks the rest of the judiciary, calls them so-called judges.
This is an all-out war on the rule of law by our president.
MILLER: That's not at all what this is about. What this is about is making sure that this investigation stays focused on what this investigation is supposed to be about, which was there some supposed cooperation between the campaign and a foreign entity, which the answer is no. And they can keep digging and keep looking and there's -- the answer is no.
BEGALA: By the way, there's one other really important distinction. No matter how much we criticize Ken Starr, the president, President Clinton, had no power to fire him. He didn't work for us and that made us more free to be able to criticize him because he didn't work for us.
Bob Mueller, at the end of the day, is not protected by the law that protected Ken Starr, because that law, thank God, has lapsed. It was a crumby law.
But when President Trump goes after Mueller, after the attorney general and the Justice Department, he is purposefully trying to undermine the rule of law. The investigation into whether or not he was corrupt.
BERMAN: Rod Rosenstein, who is the person who I a pointed special counsel Robert Mueller, the directions, his charge, Robert Mueller, was look into possible connections that might have come up in the Russia investigation, which he hasn't determined yet. You say it's over, it's not over yet.
But also, matters that may come up in the investigation, which lawyers -- Jonathan Turley, even lawyers who have defended the president in some cases, lawyers will note is an incredibly broad parameter right there, matters that may come up in the course of the investigation. If the investigation turns up things of questionable legality, why not look into that?
MILLER: And I think it's perfectly fair for this administration and the administration's legal team to call out what appears to be a big fishing expedition. I think it's perfectly fair for the administration to call out where there might be conflict of interests. This is what legal teams are supposed to do, they go and call, set this -- what stage and communicate their message to people. I think they're doing their job and it's good they're pushing back. BEGALA: I agree with that. No one's above criticism, including Mr.
Mueller, who is a war hero with an unblemished record, and his team.
The problem is, as I said before, when you fit into the context of this all-out war of our president attacking the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the acting FBI director, former FBI director, federal judges, this guy is -- I'm telling you, like he's one pair of sunglasses away from standing on the Truman balcony, rolling tanks down Constitution Avenue.
BERMAN: One of the things that Trump allies have pointed out, is that there are members of Robert Mueller's staff who gave to Democrats.
BEGALA: Which raises the important question --so what?
BERMAN: Well, would you -- if this were reversed, you wouldn't point out --
BEGALA: Absolutely, absolutely. But then, let's look at the proof. Let's look at how they conduct their investigation. Again, Starr was appointed to an investigative real estate deal, he winds up prying into Clinton's sex life.
[06:55:00] Mueller has been appointed to investigate whether -- not just the president but larger entities -- corruptly tried to buy us our election, and other matters that come up, like obstruction of justice and perjury. And we got to at least let him do his job, let him try.
BERMAN: Should the president fire Robert Mueller?
MILLER: I'm not going to wade into that. But I think the point that Paul is getting to, or if you look at it from my perspective, what Democrats are really upset about here is the fact that Hillary Clinton lost and they're trying to have this cloud.
MILLER: They want to have a cloud.
BERMAN: But is it actually Democrats were not involved in the president talking to "The New York Times" and suggesting there should be parameters of Bob Mueller's investigation. They weren't in that interview. Nor were they part of these stories that came out in "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" overnight, talking about Robert Mueller.
MILLER: We see the partisanship coming from the hill --
BERMAN: But do you see it coming from Robert Mueller? Do you see partisanship coming from Robert Mueller?
MILLER: I haven't seen anything yet, but I think it's smart for the president's legal team to go ahead they're pushing back, and make sure there aren't conflict s of interest and I think they're doing their job. But again, this is about, we have to remove this cloud, we have to get back to doing what people elected President Trump to do --
BERMAN: We got to go --
BEGALA: Will he cooperate? Bill Clinton even had to give blood to Ken Starr. Will our president obey the rule of law and turn over his tax if Mueller asks them?
BERMAN: All right. Stay tuned. That will be in our next episode of the Russia investigation, guys. Thanks so much.
Alisyn, to you.
CAMEROTA: Of as the stomach turns, one of their favorite soap operas. Meanwhile, so how much authority does the president have in terms of pardons? Of course, he can pardon his aides? Can he pardon family members? Can he pardon himself? We discuss the law, straight ahead.