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Wife of Pulse Nightclub Shooter Acquitted; Mueller Looking Hard at Trump-Russia Collusion; President Trump Confuses Own Administration With Syria Comments. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired March 30, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Sources tell CNN we are going to see videos of that shooting that have yet to be released to the public. And we are warned that they are very graphic and disturbing.
Also just in from Sacramento, where protests have erupted over the death of an unarmed black man from police, we're just getting the independent autopsy report on Stephon Clark. The report indicates that Clark was shot a total of eight times, six in his back.
But most telling, the family's attorney says Clark's wounds do not match what Sacramento police say happened to the 22-year-old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF STEPHON CLARK: It contradicts the narrative that has been put forth by the police based on the autopsy findings. She wants to know...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. Where was he facing when the first shot struck him?
DR. BENNET OMALU, CLARK FAMILY FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: He was facing the house with his left to the officers. He was not facing the officers. After he was shot, the first one, he turned around.
Now, these are not my opinions. These are the prevailing scientific evidence, as provided by the second autopsy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Clark was laid to rest yesterday. The California state attorney general says the State Department of Justice will conduct its own investigation into the shooting.
But let's talk about all of this.
I have CNN legal analysts Paul Callan and Joey Jackson with me.
And so that's the news, that this pathologist said he didn't die instantaneously, and it was eight shots, six to the back? Your first reactions on that?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's a shocking shooting. And anybody who has seen the video of it -- I saw it yesterday, the day before. It's been publicized.
It's hard to believe that they would have to shoot this young man five times -- eight times, I think.
BALDWIN: Eight times.
CALLAN: Six times in the back.
BALDWIN: Six in the back.
CALLAN: If that's the case. But we will have to see the whole facts of the case.
BALDWIN: What does that tell you?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's a general reaction, Brooke. And then there's a specific reaction.
The general reaction is, is that it speaks to the divide between law enforcement and the community. It speaks to answering the question of why repeatedly do we have to speak about these shootings year after year, month after month? What is going on?
You had a call here of someone vandalizing cars, apparently. That's significant because it informs the narrative of the police in terms of who they're encountering. It wasn't a murderer. It wasn't a rapist. It's someone who is vandalizing cars.
JACKSON: The other thing obviously problematic is, you are going to give someone a command to raise their hand. Ought you not let them comply before you start shooting? And if tactically you feel that, oh, they're in a police stance -- or if they're in a shooting stance, maybe should you tell them to get to the ground.
You don't provide or render aid. Now we have this report with the multiple shots. Where are they? It's just something is rotten in Denmark here. And so when you see people who are out there who are peacefully protesting and who have strong words, you see the Sacramento Kings, the basketball team, the owner, all they're doing with the community in recognizing and understanding this broad problem, it just -- it's a source of much frustration.
CALLAN: Just to add also to what Joe is saying in terms of this case, what's very suspicious -- I was talking about the video, which looked terrible for the police -- but they turned off the audio.
BALDWIN: Sure. Hit mute.
CALLAN: Right. And that was at the very point where they would be discussing, my God, what are we going to do now? He doesn't have a gun. He has a cell phone in his hand.
Everything looks bad for the police in terms of what we know about this shooting at this point. And of course the community and, I think, in general wants to see that this is handled properly. There's, by the way, a heated district attorney race going on in Sacramento. And that's going to be a big issue, too, because there's been a movement nationwide to get DAs who are more sensitive to the community in these jobs.
JACKSON: Briefly to that point -- absolutely.
But briefly to that point, I think they announced at a news conference that they would be independent in terms of investigating this. Paul and I have had this discussion many times as to whether a local DA should be divorced from the case.
It appears in this case they will be. That's a significant first step, because any findings of an investigation, they have to have inure trust from the community. Otherwise, it's another cover-up, it's another lack of accountability and it's another just shooting where no one will be held accountable. And that's the concern.
BALDWIN: Gentlemen, thank you for that on Sacramento.
Again, there's other video that should be released in the Louisiana Alton Sterling case. We're waiting on that.
Meantime, new reporting into CNN. A source says the president's advisers were caught completely off guard when the president made this unexpected announcement about U.S. troops in Syria.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We will be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon. We're coming out.
TRUMP: We're going to have 100 percent of the caliphate, as they call it, sometimes referred to as land, taking it all back quickly, quickly. But we're going to be coming out of there real soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: A source tells CNN the president's aides are -- quote -- "still trying to figure out what he meant by that" -- end quote.
Confusion well-warranted, because this is a president who has said repeatedly that he will not telegraph military plans publicly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, one of the things I think you have noticed about me is, militarily, I don't like to say where I'm going and what I'm doing.
I don't want to telegraph what I'm doing or what I'm thinking. I'm not like other administrations where they say we're going to do this in four weeks. And it doesn't work that way.
I don't want to be one of these guys that say, yes, here is what we're going to do. I don't have to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: All right, to talk this over with me, I have CNN military analyst retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, former U.S. military attache in Syria, and also Brian Karem, who is the executive editor Sentinel Newspapers.
So, gentlemen, good to have both of you on.
And you know, Colonel, to you first.
Isn't this exactly what he said he would never do, telegraph military moves?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. He's telegraphing, but he's not being as specific as we have in the past. That's not the problem.
Telling our strategy is now to withdraw is not a good thing. We're on the cusp of a relatively solid victory over ISIS once we figure out what's going on with the Turks. We have major issues with the Turkish military in Northern Syria. Now is not the time to be talking about pulling back when they're advancing.
And we also have to get back into the fight against ISIS. Yes, this is very confusing.
BALDWIN: What about just even in terms of our 2,000 troops over there? What are real-life consequences for them, for the U.S. in terms of pulling out?
FRANCONA: If the Turks believe we're not serious about remaining there and re-continuing the fight against ISIS, we're not willing to stand with our Kurdish allies, they will push further and further to the east, which is what they're doing.
Erdogan said yesterday he's going all the way to the Iraqi border and he's contemplating going into Iraq, into the Kurdish area of Iraq. If he knows the United States is thinking about withdrawing, is thinking about giving up the fight and let somebody else do it, one, I don't know who the somebody else is.
This plays right into Erdogan's hands, and of course, when you play into Erdogan's hands, you're also playing into Putin's hands, because you're giving the Assad regime free play in Syria.
BALDWIN: Speaking of Putin, I wanted to ask you quickly, too, on Russia. They have now tested this new nuclear ICBM. What do you make of that?
FRANCONA: Yes, this is very troubling.
If you look at what the Russians have done over, say, the past four or five years, they have introduced numerous classes of very sophisticated weaponry, hypersonic technology, laser technology, air defense weapons, the whole gamut.
You look at the GDP of the country, it's somewhere around Australia or Italy. And they're pouring millions and billions of dollars into this high-tech weaponry. What's it for? Their economy is really not doing well enough to support this.
And it locks like we're entering into another arms race.
BALDWIN: Colonel Francona, thank you very much on that.
Brian, to you on just the president's Syria remarks yesterday in Ohio. A lot of these senior aides are like, what? They're puzzled over what he meant by that. Do you even know what he meant by that?
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Nobody knows what he means by that. And it's not the first time we have seen him pull those types of punches.
They craft a message all day long and get the rug pulled out from under them five minutes later with a tweet. That's not really news. The telling part, Brooke, was when they talked about explaining what he was doing to Russia and they used the analogy of a boxer, so he could decide with a metaphor what to do with Russia. That tells you the decision-making process.
So I have a metaphor. When I was a small child, when I was 16, my first car I bought, I wanted to prove I was on my own. Right? I went to my dad. He wanted me to buy this seemly Oldsmobile. And I said, no, I want to buy this car that I like. So, I bought a '71 yellow Pinto.
BALDWIN: Nice job, Brian.
KAREM: Yes, nice job.
My father came to me afterwards. He says, I know you want to make your own decision. I know you're proud of the fact that you made your own decision. You paid for your own decision. But let's get rid of the Pinto so you don't blow up.
Those were the cars that if you hit them in the rear at five miles an hour, they would blow up. What I would like to say to those who don't understand Trump, we're looking at a '71 yellow Pinto. That's the metaphor you have to look at.
It's going to blow up. And there's nothing scarier than looking at this president dealing with Russia, as they're engaged in a new arms race. I asked that question in the press room to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Isn't it inherently dangerous for the owners of the two largest nuclear stockpiles to be engaged in a new arms race?
He came out three weeks ago, this president, and said, we're giving up disarmament. We're not going to lead the world in that anymore. He said we would follow, not lead. And the response I got was, she's worried about false news more than she is -- and I said this is global thermonuclear war. You don't get to walk away from that.
And they don't understand the seriousness of the issues that they're dealing with. And they're dealing with a president who changes his mind, and flies by the seat of his pants every day.
BALDWIN: I hear you. I hear you on the yellow Pinto analogy. I guess perhaps I just think at least there are some outstanding people who surround him. At end of the day, I realize it's the commander in chief's call.
KAREM: You hope there's someone there.
BALDWIN: I understand it's alarming for a lot of senior people when the president says something about withdrawing from Syria.
KAREM: Who is going to take their place?
BALDWIN: I know. Brian Karem, good to see you.
KAREM: Good to see you.
BALDWIN: Good to see you.
Next, CNN learns new details about the Russia investigation that suggests special counsel Robert Mueller is looking very closely at possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Also, a Democratic congresswoman under serious fire today for keeping her chief of staff, this man accused of abuse and threats against this female aide on her staff. How she is now responding.
And not guilty on all counts, that is the verdict for the wife of that Pulse nightclub shooter. We will get reaction from a former FBI agent who worked on that very case. Stay with us.
BALDWIN: Now to this major development in the Russia investigation.
After indications that the special counsel has been pursuing primarily an obstruction of justice case, CNN has learned a cooperating witness is helping Mueller make the case for collusion? That cooperating witness is this man, Rick Gates, Trump campaign deputy, former, Rick Gates. For months, it seemed Mueller may be using him for information on Paul
Manafort, the campaign's former chairman. But now CNN has learned Mueller's team told Gates, we don't need your help on Manafort, instead asking for cooperation on the central question, did members of the Trump campaign work with Russia in order to win the presidential election?
With me, Joseph Moreno. He's a former Justice Department prosecutor.
Joseph, nice to see you. Happy Friday.
JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Happy Friday, Brooke. Good to be here.
BALDWIN: All right, so this is a big deal, because for months all that really was known from the Mueller probe is that they were looking into this obstruction and that had been a huge focus, and now it's a different story with this collusion and this potential connection between a former Trump campaign member and a Russia intel officer.
MORENO: Absolutely, Brooke.
And critics of the special counsel have pointed to the Manafort and Gates prosecutions and said, look, this has do with Ukrainian transactions and bank fraud and tax fraud and it has nothing to do with the president, had nothing to do with the campaign, and it's an example of overreach by the special counsel.
And the fact that this connection may, in fact, exist now between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates and this third party and possible Russian intelligence just goes to show you that we really don't know what the special counsel had and why it's so important that this process be allowed to play out without interference.
And, Brooke, it goes to a larger point as well. No matter when the special counsel finally wraps up, whatever he brings, a good chunk of the American people will not be happy with, right, whether it's an airtight case against the president or a complete exoneration or something in the middle, right?
MORENO: But the American people will absolutely push back if they feel cheated that this investigation was not allowed to get to where the evidence shows.
People probably don't follow the play by play like we do here in New York and Washington. But they know that they want to get to the bottom of it. And you will see pushback to the point we have not seen in decades if it appears that this investigation was interfered with or stopped in its tracks.
BALDWIN: Sure. They have to carry this thing out to the fullest, either way.
But on Rick Gates, the fact that he's cooperating with the Mueller team, the fact that he has some sort of deal, does that tell you he must have offered up some piece of information that must be mighty significant?
MORENO: Sure, absolutely.
People have been quick to jump to conclusions because we see little snippets from court filings and we hear about certain things and we say, oh, well, collusion is off the table. No, collusion is definitely not off the table.
And the fact that Mr. Gates is cooperating, he absolutely has something that is significant to this special counsel. And, again, it's really important that this be allowed to play out and people don't jump to conclusions, either pro or anti-administration.
BALDWIN: Joseph Moreno, thank you very much.
MORENO: Thanks, Brooke. Happy Easter.
BALDWIN: Thank you. Same to you.
Coming up: The wife of the Pulse nightclub shooter crying in court as she learned a jury acquitted her on terror charges. A former FBI agent worked on the case, he will respond next.
And the home state paper for this Democratic congresswoman now calling on her to resign for keeping her chief of staff, this man, accused of abuse and threats against another aide on his staff, this woman -- details ahead.
BALDWIN: A jury has just decided the fate of Noor Salman. She is the widow of the Pulse nightclub shooter who killed 49 people in 2016.
We are learning she has been cleared of all charges. She was facing life in prison, charged with helping her husband carrying out the terrorist attack in the name of ISIS. Her family speaking after the verdict say she now gets to return home to her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL SALMAN, UNCLE OF NOOR SALMAN: I say that day one that she's innocent. Now we're looking forward to take my niece and hire the best therapist for her. I don't know how she's going to make up for the last two years. That's the only thing she has in her life, her son. That's all she wants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's bring in Josh Campbell, CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI special supervisory agent.
Josh, you were in Orlando with the FBI in the aftermath of the shooting. Your reaction there to this not guilty verdict?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, I can tell you it was a very thorough investigation.
I was down there in Orlando with FBI leadership. The case was actually run by the hardworking FBI agents, analysts down there at the Tampa office. But being there in the aftermath and having the opportunity to talk to some of the family members, the victims, they then and even now, they wanted some sense of justice.
So, it's a tough day in that regard. I think what they can be certain of is that the FBI conducted a very thorough, exhaustive investigation in order to look into the shooter, in order to look into his contacts, his motivations. And they can be certain that that was done exhaustive.
I think the problem rises when the very real human desire for some sense of tangible justice collides with the fact that there may not have been anyone else involved. And I think, in this case, a jury of her peers determined that she was not guilty.
BALDWIN: Does this verdict, Josh, does it conclude the FBI's investigation into that Pulse shooting?
CAMPBELL: I think it does.
If you look back, there were reports that the shooter himself had some type of contacts with individuals. There was one individual, an American suicide bomber, which was there a very tangential contact, which I think washed out.
So, the FBI has done an exhaustive investigation. I think we may never know what caused him to radicalize and declare his support to ISIS. But that was the subject of an investigation. There is this lingering investigation we heard about last week with respect to his father and how his father was a former FBI informant.
CAMPBELL: And now he, himself, is under investigation. That will continue.
I don't think that's so much connected to this case. I think that has wrapped up, but obviously the family not out of the woods yet when it comes to their own involvement with the FBI.
BALDWIN: We will watch it with the father.
Josh Campbell, good to see you. Thank you very much.
BALDWIN: Next, some of President Trump's outside advisers are telling him he doesn't need a chief of staff, he doesn't need a communications director. We will talk to a former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod, on that and his Charles Barkley interview for this weekend.
You will hear part of that interview, why the former FBI (sic) star says he has never been more angry and disgusted with President Trump.