Return to Transcripts main page
Louisiana A.G. to Release Decision on Death of Alton Sterling; Strong Possibility Kim Jong-Un on Mystery Train that Rolled into Beijing Yesterday; Trump Indicates He's Preparing to Oust V.A. Secretary; New Details on Prince's Death; Arrest Made in Seattle in Connection to Suspicious Packages. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired March 27, 2018 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:31:14] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All right, very shortly the family of an African-American man who was shot and killed by police officers will find out if those officers will be charged. Alton Sterling died nearly two years ago outside a Baton Rouge convenience store. Police had Sterling on the ground they say they thought he was reaching for a gun before one officer fired. At this moment, the Sterling family is meeting with a Louisiana attorney general.
Nick Valencia joins us. Nick, what are we expecting to hear from the attorney general?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, we're waiting outside that building with the family of Alton Sterling is meeting right now with the attorney general. And if you ask community leaders here, they're not very optimistic that the attorney general will bring charges against these two officers.
This has been months in the making. And in fact leaders here have criticized the attorney general Jeff Landry for, quote, "lulling the community to sleep." The attorney general when he took over the investigation for the Department of Justice back in June of last year had warned the community that it was going to be a tedious and thorough process, but community leaders think it's just taken too long.
We mentioned the Department of Justice. And they declined to bring civil rights violations or charges against those two officers involved. And in their findings they pointed to Alton Sterling's unpinned right arm and the encounter saying that the officers had reasonable suspicion that he may have been reaching for a gun.
We should remind our viewers that Alton Sterling was armed at the time of the encounter, but critics here of the police department say that Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake were aggressive from the start in their encounter with Alton Sterling and did nothing to de-escalate the situation. Community leaders here say that it's still an emotionally charged atmosphere and things do not end today after these findings.
If the attorney general does not bring charges against those two officers, the findings will then be handed over to the Baton Rouge Police Department and the mayor's office and they'll have the opportunity to decide whether or not they will file their own charges. Still here in Baton Rouge, not very optimistic from community leaders
and activists and supporters of the family of Alton Sterling -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Nick Valencia for us in Baton Rouge, keep us abreast in the situation down there.
In the meantime, the grandmother of a Sacramento man shot and killed by police in her backyard is pleading for justice. Officers say they thought Stephon Clark had a gun when they opened fire. Only a cell phone was found at the scene. Sequita Thompson says she wants criminal charges filed against the officers involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEQUITA THOMPSON, GRANDMOTHER OF STEPHON CLARK: My great grand babies don't have their daddy. Why didn't they shoot them in the arm? Shoot him in the leg? Send a dog. Send a taser. Why? Why did they never do that? You all didn't have to do that. It was a cell phone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The family is preparing for an independent autopsy of Clark's body.
Several sources say that the president will push out the Veterans Affairs secretary, that he could be the next to lose his job. But veterans groups stepping forward to try to stop that from happening. Will it work?
[10:38:10] BERMAN: So the most watched train on planet earth in Beijing, the question who was on board? Look at that. The mystery train as it was called. The question is, was it carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on his first trip out of his country since taking power?
Alexandra Field joins me now.
So, Alexandra, what do we know?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, international guessing game, John. You put me on the spot. I don't have the answer for you. It seems that we will really have to wait for official confirmation from Beijing or from Pyongyang. Look, that's the way that these countries have done it in the past when previous North Korean leaders have made these kinds of trips to places like China, Russia, aboard trains that looked suspiciously like that train that rolled into Beijing yesterday.
It did fuel a lot of speculation and there are certainly heavy suggestions that it was indeed Kim Jong-un aboard. But again no official confirmation yet. There were other indications, not just the train that's been used by the Kim family before, but also heavy security presence at a guest house in Beijing. Also some impressive motorcades on the streets of Beijing, that train has now left the station, presumably headed back for Pyongyang if Kim Jong-un is in fact aboard.
But it isn't just these indications, the heavy security, the train itself, it's also timing of this. That's why a lot of people suspect that it may indeed have been Kim Jong-un. This has been an incredibly important moment right here on the peninsula. We have watched tensions really thaw to a dramatic extent in the last few weeks and months. It of course all started with that breakthrough moment when North Korea sent a delegation to the Olympics in South Korea. Then there was the stunning announcement that North and South Korea would hold a summit in April.
And the most shocking announcement, that President Trump had agreed to an invitation to meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as soon potentially as May. If Kim Jong-un was aboard that train, it was his first trip outside of the country since he came to power in 2011.
[10:40:06] It certainly makes sense that he would be taking that trip to China and that he would be meeting with President Xi Jinping in advance of these summits. That is of course because China is the only military ally that North Korea has, it's the biggest economic relationship that North Korea has by a landslide and then some. So it seems that Kim Jong-un would potentially want to shore up his relationship with China before heading into these meetings.
It would be unprecedented to think really that Kim Jong-un would meet with President Trump or President Moon before ever having met President Xi Jinping. And against the backdrop of all this, John, of course is the fact that the relationship between North Korea and China has been strained in recent months and really over the course of the last year since you have seen the acceleration and the testing of missiles from North Korea and that six nuclear tests that they conducted last year.
China was part of this international effort to implement the toughest sanctions on North Korea yet, so the relationship has been strained. This would be an opportunity for the two leaders to talk, to get on the same page, before these potentially historic meetings between North Korea and South Korea and also North Korea and the United States -- John.
BERMAN: Alexandra Field for us. Alexandra, thank you so much. Please keep your eye on that train.
The defense expected to rest today in the trial of the widow of the Pulse Nightclub shooter. The judge denied a motion yesterday by her lawyer to dismiss the case. They claimed the government failed to disclose the shooter's father was an FBI informant. The father under investigation for money transfers to Turkey and Afghanistan in the weeks before the Pulse attack. Closing arguments could begin as early as tomorrow.
Just more than a week after a fatal crash, Arizona has suspended Uber's self-driving program. The state's governor made the decision calling the accident disturbing and alarming. Uber has since pulled all autonomous vehicles from the road.
Arizona has been a main location for autonomous vehicle testing because it doesn't require a state to sit behind the wheel.
A lot of talk that Veterans Affair Secretary David Shulkin could be the next pushed out of the Trump administration. Stay with us.
[10:46:32] BERMAN: New this morning, several veterans organizations are defending Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. This as reports circulate that Shulkin could be the next to lose his job in the Trump administration. Among those organizations asking for him to stay, the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Joining me now is John Rowan, the national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you for your service as well, sir. Why do you want VA Secretary David Shulkin to keep his job?
JOHN ROWAN, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA: Because we think he's been doing a decent job. When he was undersecretary for Health, he started to implement a lot of things that have changed the way the VA has been functioning. When he came in as secretary, he had a lot of issues, no question about it, to deal with. But he's been dealing with it.
It's a huge system. And if anybody -- any of the system out there was scrutinized like the VA was, they would find problems. But we are concerned. What we are also concerned about, however, is the efforts by people to privatize the VA.
BERMAN: Do you think what's going on here? There are other veterans groups, Vote Vets, for instance, who think this is a coordinated effort to destroy and privatize the VA system.
ROWAN: Right. Right. It could be. I mean, certainly people seem to be focusing in that direction, who don't like government, don't like the VA, want to, you know, tear it apart, give it over to the private sector. The problem is, that can't work. It's just impossible. The truth is the veterans cannot be absorbed into the private health care system.
The other thing is people don't understand that the VA right now utilizes the private sector. Every VA hospital is associated with a medical school. I had aortic valve surgery last year, February, and my surgeon was the chief thoracic surgeon out of NYU.
BERMAN: Whatever he did, it clearly worked well. You're sitting here with me right now.
Let me ask you this, because there was an inspector general report on David Shulkin, it found he used taxpayer money so his wife could join him on a trip to Europe last summer.
ROWAN: Yes, stupid. It was dumb. It was a dumb thing to do. And he shouldn't have done it. And I understand that since then he's paid them back. But it was a dumb thing to do, there's no question about it. But I think of all of the things that I've heard going on in this administration that's been the least of it.
BERMAN: There is also another report that he may soon be, you know, accused of misusing his security detail for private reasons.
ROWAN: Yes. I don't know about that. I mean, the thing is with these security guys with secretaries, they follow them everywhere. And they're just with them all the time. And you get friendly with them. You know, they have become friends. So I don't know what happened there. I haven't seen the details on that.
BERMAN: Do you think there are people out to get the VA secretary?
ROWAN: Seems that way.
ROWAN: Because there are people inside the VA who are not his. That he did not put into place. And seem to be coming after him all the time.
BERMAN: Donald Trump ran on being good for the vets. And --
ROWAN: And he was.
BERMAN: And have you seen him fulfill his promises?
ROWAN: To some extent, yes. I mean, the budget has been pretty good. All the other programs have been pretty good. We're used to him here in New York, I'm a New Yorker, I remember when we did the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he gave us a lot of money, he was very supportive. And he's usually been pretty darn supportive of veterans, period. So I'm a little concerned, though, that he's listening to people who are in this whole anti-government, anti-VA program move. It's the wrong idea.
BERMAN: If you want Shulkin, you want him to back off?
ROWAN: Yes, absolutely, I'd like him to back off. If he can't, if he has to go and replace him, I don't want him replaced with somebody who's going to go try to privatize the VA.
[10:50:02] BERMAN: Well, the one name that we see out there repeatedly is FOX News host Pete Hexit. He was a veteran.
BERMAN: Would you approve of that?
BERMAN: Why not?
ROWAN: No experience in running anything. I mean, the guy's a nice guy, apparently. He's a veteran, that's nice, but he has no experience running a mega organization like the VA and the health organization. So I mean I have concern about his qualifications, quite honestly.
BERMAN: Anyone you have in mind for the job?
ROWAN: Not particularly, no.
BERMAN: John Rowan, we appreciate you being with us, speaking your mind right now. This debate goes on based on what the president and the White House says, you might be fighting a losing battle.
ROWAN: Possibly. We'll see.
BERMAN: Appreciate you being with us. Thanks so much.
ROWAN: Thank you.
BERMAN: Nearly two years since Prince died, and now there are new details coming out from his toxicology report. That's next.
[10:55:18] BERMAN: A new report from the Associated Press, the toxicology report from the autopsy of prince shows he had an exceedingly high amount of the drug Fentanyl in his body when he died.
CNN's Nick Watt joins us with the details. Nick, what have you learned?
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Well, good morning, John. I mean, we found out a couple of months after Prince died in 2016 that he died of what they said at the time was an accidental Fentanyl overdose. But this is the first time that we're getting any indication about just how much of that drug was in his body.
As you said, the Associated Press reporting that this toxicology report suggests that there was an exceedingly high amount of the drug in his body.
Now what is Fentanyl? Well, it's a synthetic opioid that the CDC says is sometimes 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and it is usually prescribed for people suffering cancer. It is also manufactured illicitly, trafficked illegally and is one of the drugs that's playing a major role in the opioid crisis that is, of course, you know, sweeping large parts of this country at the time.
Now, Prince died, as I said, April 2016, he was found dead in the elevator at his Paisley Park recording studio in Minnesota. And, you know, he had apparently suffered from chronic pain throughout his life. He had hip issues from performing, wearing those high shoes, that's one report.
You know, I also spoke to his -- one of his ex-wives who said that she never saw him drunk, she never saw him using marijuana, but she was suspicious perhaps at times that there were some prescription drugs that he may have been using and may have been abusing. But, you know, she said he was not a party guy. He was also a very, very private individual. So we are, this morning, getting just one more inkling of how he died -- John.
BERMAN: Nick Watt, thank you very much. Thrilled by the way to have you at CNN. They couldn't keep us apart. Thanks, Nick.
We do have breaking news, an arrest has been made one day after a series of suspicious packages were sent to military and government locations across Washington.
Our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett joins us now with the details.
Laura, give us the details.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, John, the man has not been identified, but a law enforcement official tells us an arrest has been made early this morning in Seattle. Yesterday we reported that a number of locations had received those packages, the scanning equipments at different locations including the National Defense University at Port McNair. Another official told us about location at the naval support facility in Virginia, and all of these devices, we're told, were somewhat crude, they were not set to cause a fatality if they went off. They had black powder. But certainly officials were on high alert given the situation in Austin last week -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Laura Jarrett, thank you very, very much.
We so have some live pictures to show you from Baton Rouge, in Louisiana. We are expecting an announcement very shortly from there. The family of Alton Sterling, who was killed two years ago, by Baton Rouge police officers, the family has been meeting with the attorney general of that state. We are expecting an announcement very, very shortly to see if there were any charges or will be any charges filed against those officers.
I understand from people down at the scene, they have been watching, the family just left that meeting and they were in tears. No word yet on what that means. We have not heard from the family. Again, we are expecting to find out very, very shortly to find out if charges will be filed.
Other news to tell you about, the woman at the center of the Supreme Court case that desegregated America's schools has died.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA BROWN, CENTER OF CASE THAT ENDED SEGREGATION IN SCHOOLS: And when school started, my friends would, in fact, take their books and walk four blocks to the all-white school and I would have to be bussed clear across town. I just didn't understand that. I only knew that I wanted to go to school with the children that I played with on a daily basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That's Linda Brown, the lead plaintiff, her father actually was the lead plaintiff in the historic "Brown versus Board of Education" case. She was 75 years old. She was 9 when her father enrolled her in an all-white elementary school in Topeka, Kansas. After she was denied admission her father sued. The landmark case ended racial segregation in schools, a major milestone.
Our heart goes out to the family of Linda Brown, someone who made a difference.
Thank you all so much for joining us today. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" starts now.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. This morning the U.S. and a growing number of allies are shrugging off threats from Moscow and expelling more Russian diplomats.