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Protests Planned in Sacramento Over Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Man; New Video Released Showing Alton Sterling's Death by Police Shooting; Interview with Andrew Janz, Democratic Challenger to Congressman Devin Nunes; EPA Head Scott Pruitt Criticized for Taking Gifts from Energy Industry. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired March 31, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:12] RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: Hello and thank you for joining us. I'm Ryan Nobles in today for Fredricka Whitfield.
And right now outrage growing in Sacramento after a newly released independent autopsy contradicts the police department's account of how Stephon Clark died. The results reveal the unarmed black man was shot eight times by officers, primarily in his back in less than an hour. Protesters will gather demanding justice for Clark's death and answers from law enforcement.
Ryan Young joins us now live from Sacramento, and Ryan, what is the atmosphere like in the city right now?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, just like you said, about an hour from now that protest will start once again. If you look behind me, former NBA player Matt Barnes is just over in the distance talking about this rally. He is one of the voices that is going to be here talking about what happened.
And the conversation that has been happening over to last few days in this community, we believe this might be one of the largest rallies they have had over the last few days. And let me tell you this -- Stephon Clark is a 22-year-old father of two, and a lot people in this community have been saying his name over and over. That's because they are upset with how the police responded to that incident a few days ago.
And just show you this, the family hired some attorneys, and they had a pathologist go through what happened that night. This is what they believe. They believe they are directly refuting what the Sacramento Police Department said, which is that he was shot here once on the side and his body turned, and then he received six gunshots to his back and then one in the leg.
While we were there at that press conference, you could hear people screaming "murder, murder, murder!" A lot of folks have been upset. Of course this is one of the several rallies they've had over the last few days. We have seen them block the NBA arena here to stop people from going in to see the Sacramento Kings. Tonight there is a game against the Golden State Warriors. We don't believe there is anything planned protest around that arena, but police have something set up just to make sure no one gets through that. Over the last few nights, though, people have been marching in the streets. It has remained peaceful, loud, but peaceful, and that is what people are hoping will happen again today here, that the people will be loud, but once again it will remain peaceful.
A lot of tensions are high, obviously, because they want to know exactly what happened that night to lead to this young man being shot so many times. Ryan?
NOBLES: Ryan Young live for us in Sacramento with the latest on the protests there. Ryan, thank you.
We are also following stunning new developments in the shooting death of Alton Sterling. Newly released body camera footage reveals that the 37-year-old's black man's final moments before being fatally gunned down by a white officer in the summer of 2016. CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us now live from Baton Rouge. And Kaylee, what did you learn from the body camera footage?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ryan, this new footage gives us a more complete depiction of what happened on July 5th, 2016. Shortly thereafter, cellphone video taken by bystanders became public and it captured the nation's attention. But now with bodycam footage from both officers present as well as surveillance video from that convenience store, there is more context to the night that Alton Sterling was shot by a Baton Rouge police officer.
HARTUNG: Graphic and disturbing new video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did I do? What I did?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't move or I'll shoot you. Put your hands on the car.
HARTUNG: Showing the controversial shooting death of Alton Sterling in 2016. The Baton Rouge chief of police announcing Officer Blane Salamoni who shot Sterling six times during a struggle with him, will be fired over his actions.
CHIEF MURPHY PAUL, BATON ROUGE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The violation of command of temper has been sustained. Officer Blane Salamoni is terminated from the Baton Rouge Police Department effective today.
HARTUNG: This week Salamoni refused to answer any questions during a disciplinary hearing the chief said, while Howie Lake, the other officer involved, answered them all. Lake, who the chief said made mistakes but controlled his temper during the encounter, was given a three-day unpaid suspension.
PAUL: Two different perspectives and one officer did not follow the tactics, training, professionalism, and organizational standards.
HARTUNG: The police chief making it clear, their administrative investigation was separate from the federal criminal charges both officers were already cleared of. The police department released four videos from the night of the shooting, including this surveillance footage from the SSS convenience store. That is Sterling at the front of the store, sitting at a table where he is selling CDs. Minutes into the tape, he is seen conducting a transaction with an unidentified man. Here he removes what appears to be a gun from his front pocket followed by money from the same pocket. Within seconds, Sterling is seen jokingly making a shooting motion towards the man.
That night police were initially called to the SSS convenience store responding to a 911 call from a witness who saw a man with a gun. Watch closely as things escalate quickly. From Salamoni's perspective, you can see a brief struggle and then his gun is trained on Sterling's head.
[14:05:09] BLANE SALAMONI: Don't you move or I'll shoot you in your -- head. Do you hear me? Do you move!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, hold up, hold. You're hurting my arm.
HARTUNG: Sterling then was pinned to the ground and Tased twice.
HOWARD LAKE: Get on the ground. Get on the ground!
SALAMONI: Pop him again, Howie.
HARTUNG: Before being fatally shot.
HARTUNG: Previously released cell phone videos recorded by bystanders show at this point in the encounter, Salamoni believed Sterling was armed. A gun was recovered from Sterling's body. But the federal and state investigations determined that the officers' actions were reasonable and couldn't prove that Sterling wasn't reaching for a gun.
HARTUNG: And Salamoni's attorney tells me they will appeal the police chief's decision to fire him. Salamoni believes that he was acting as he was trained to do that night. They say filing that appeal is as much a matter of principle as anything else.
But while this new video circulates, Ryan, Alton Sterling's family is trying the keep his five children from seeing it. The family's attorney says that is what is most troubling to them about this new video is the way that you hear the officers speaking to Alton Sterling as he lay on the ground dying and bleeding, as they cussed over his body and they called him names. Ryan?
NOBLES: Kaylee Hartung live in Baton Rough. Kaylee, thank you.
And just into CNN, the Defense Department has identified the America soldier killed in Syria by an IED. Thirty-six-year-old Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar of Austin, Texas, died Friday, quote, as a result of a injuries when an improvised explosive device detonated near his patrol. This happened on Thursday. He was assigned to the headquarters of the U.S. army special operations command at Fort Bragg. The Pentagon adds the incident is still under investigation.
Still ahead, could Congressman Devin Nunes' support of President Trump in the Russia investigation cost him his seat at the polls? Why the amount of money his challenger has raised is giving some Democrats new hope.
[14:10:48] NOBLES: Democrats pushing for a blue wave in November are now looking at California's 22nd congressional district. This is the seat currently held by Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. He is facing criticism for his controversial decision to release memos related to the Russia investigation and his unwavering support for President Trump. Hoping to seize on the criticism, his Democratic challenger and the current deputy district attorney for Fresno County, California, Andrew Janz. And Andrew joins me now live via skype. Andrew, this district has been a Republican stronghold for almost 15 years. Devin Nunes won this seat by 35 points two years ago. You're not even listed right now on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's red to blue initiative. Why do you think you can win?
ANDREW JANZ, (D) CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Hi, Ryan, thanks for having me on this weekend. Any time a first-time candidate for Congress raises $1 million in 90 days, that seat is in play.
NOBLES: So you did raise $1 million in this last round of fundraising. What do you attribute that fundraising surge to? Do you think it's because of the role that Devin Nunes has been playing nationally, or is it because of the issues that are happening in your district?
JANZ: Ryan, it is a combination of both. Now more than ever, I think that the America people and the people in this district want good people in government. And while the vast majority of Americans are beginning to question this administration's integrity and competency, now more than ever we need good people to go to Congress to perform Congress' constitutional check on the executive branch. And while my opponent is in Washington fooling around on the House Intelligence Committee, the issues back home are being forgotten and our message I believe is starting to resonate not only in the district but all across the country.
NOBLES: Now, as we mentioned before, the 22nd Congressional district is a Republican district. It has been a Republican district for a long time. The president won that district by 10 points. Isn't there a chance that many of your constituents agree with the work that Congressman Nunes has done on the House Intelligence Committee?
JANZ: I don't think so. I have been crisscrossing this district for the past year. And people are concerned and confused about my opponent's conduct on the House Intelligence Committee. This is a committee that has never been a part committee, and for the first time, we see a sitting member of Congress actually attacking our federal law enforcement agencies, and people are really concerned about that in this district, Republicans included.
NOBLES: Now, you said that, and you have told me earlier in the week that you will not support Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader, perhaps speaker of the House if Democrats end up taking the House. What are your reasons for not supporting Ms. Pelosi in that role? Obviously she has a lot of support among Democrats that are in the House now.
JANZ: Ryan, let me tell you something, the last thought on my mind right now is Nancy Pelosi, and what I am going to do over the next eight or so months is focus on the issues that matter to the people that live here in the district.
With that being said, I have been somebody that has been talking about generational change in Washington, and that includes Democratic leadership and Republican leadership. I've been calling out my opponent for being in Washington for 15 years. He has really become a Washington insider, and he represents everything that is wrong in Washington, somebody that takes money from the special interest groups and the most wealthiest corporations on the planet. I have taken a pledge very early on not to take any corporate money from PACs or anything like that. And so that is a message that people I believe want to have their members of Congress explore. And so I really think that the issue here that we should be talking about is what the congressman has done for the district here.
NOBLES: Well, to that end, he is very close with the president, and as a result that gives him the opportunity to perhaps advocate for issues in the Central Valley. If you get to Congress, Donald Trump will still be president for at least two years and perhaps longer. Will you be able to work with him and his administration?
JANZ: I think that what we are seeing all across the country is a new wave of leaders going to Washington, and I believe strongly that Democrats are going to be in control of Congress, especially the House of Representatives next year.
[14:15:06] And one of the things that I have been talking about in the district is infrastructure. We are just out of a six-year drought and we don't have the water security that we need here to send out to our communities and to irrigate our fields. I have talked to growers who are concerned about their inability to get water. And so traditionally Democrats have been the party that has talked about big project. You go back to FDR, he got us out of the great depression by investing in communities, building bridges, tunnels, and dams. And I think that we need the do the same thing here in the Central Valley, and I am willing to work with the president of the United States on that issue.
NOBLES: OK, Andrew Janz, one of the challengers on the Democratic side to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes. We should point out that Congressman Nunes is also welcome to join us on CNN whenever he'd like. Raised over $1 million this quarter and getting some attention across the country. Andrew, thank you for being here.
JANZ: Happy Easter. NOBLES: All right, ahead, another White House cabinet member coming under fire. New questions about the office that handles the vetting of political appointees. What are the implications for the Trump administration?
[14:20:32] NOBLES: After this week's firing of Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin many are wondering who will be the next person to be fired by President Trump. Also this week, White House communications director Hope Hicks left the West Sing after resigning last month. Hicks was one of the president's closest confidants, and now there's some speculation that White House social media director Dan Scavino could fill that void at least partially.
Joining me now are CNN political analysts Amie Parnes and Julian Zelizer. Amie, let's start with you. What do we know about Scavino and how he fits in?
AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We know that he is often the presidents' go to guy for tweeting, and he knows him very well. He is one of the last remaining people in the president's inner circle and knows his voice really well. So I think a lot of the people in the White House feel that he could fill the void and go right in there and be the president's mouthpiece and plan strategy in the way that you would need to do in the that role, because that role is actually not so much mouthpiece, but it's planning and it's looking ahead and planning big picture strategy for the White House.
NOBLES: Yes, but Julian, it is thought that Hope Hicks was a calming force for the president where Dan Scavino seems to be a second brain. Could he fuel maybe some of the more difficult aspects of the president's personality, and could he be better served with some folks in his inner circle that might challenge him a bit more than Scavino.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He certainly would be better served with any kind of countervailing force in the Oval Office. The problem is we haven't really seen that. No one has been able to tame President Trump. So maybe at this point the best strategy from the perspective of the White House is someone who understands his voice and can channel it in certain directions. But in the end I think President Trump will be the boss of this Oval Office.
NOBLES: He has been from the beginning for sure. Amy, the president's EPA head Scott Pruitt, he is under fire after reports have surfaced that he's been renting a condo in Washington at a discounted rate from a family member of an energy lobbyist. He's not the first cabinet member to come under fire for excessive use of tax payers dollars. Let's take a look at this list. You have former health secretary Tom Price, recently ousted V.A. director David Shulkin along with several others cabinet members that have come under scrutiny. At this point, Amie, is Scott Pruitt's job security in any danger? Is the White House getting nervous about him?
PARNES: I think so. They feel like they can't defend him, and this comes on the heels of all these other people that you mentioned. And so I think it doesn't look good for them. It all about the optics as John Kelly recently put it behind the scenes in a meeting, and so he doesn't want this perception out there that cabinet official are doing all these things. And so I think that is problematic for him going forward. I think that Donald Trump realizes that this is a distraction, and it keeps going from one cabinet official to another.
NOBLES: Yes, and Julian, it seems as though staffing problems have dogged this administration from the very beginning around, and the "Washington Post" is reporting that the office charged with vetting political appointees is understaffed, they're inexperienced. They are even prone the playing drinking games in the office. What are the implications for an administration with such heavy turnover and lot of positions to fill that you have this department who is responsible for getting people into jobs is having all these problems?
ZELIZER: It creates great instability, and when you have a president who doesn't have the strongest history of understanding policy, that leaves him without any kind of expertise. It also suggests this is a president who just hasn't paid much attention to conflict of interests to really understanding everyone has surrounded him. And so this is the natural outgrowth of those original decisions. And I don't think this will change unless in the end the president really changes the way that he looks at personnel and looks at the relation between the private and the public sides of the officials working for him.
NOBLES: Julian, one of the president's big promises during the campaign was that he was going the drain the swamp. I have actually seen some conservatives argue that this round of the cabinet upheaval and administration change is an example of draining the swamp. Can the president make that argument that he is draining the swamp of his own people? Does that make any sense?
ZELIZER: Well, boy, that's stretching it. I think there are certainly Republicans who must be wondering or some of the base that voted for Trump and is passionate are starting to become a little cynical that that swamp is going away. Obviously maybe he is draining the swamp a little bit, but he created it, he filled it, and this is a problem that was created by the president. The buck stops with him.
[14:25:13] NOBLES: Right. And Amie, obviously we're going to have John Bolton inserted very soon as the national security, chief national security adviser. How important are these people that end up surrounding the president? Ultimately, isn't he the decision maker? Does it really matter who fills the roles?
PARNES: It matters, and it typically matters in most administrations, but I think, as Julian said earlier, he is going to make the decisions ultimately, and I think he has proven as much. And when his administration kind of veers off course or when he does, that is -- he is ultimately going to decide where it goes. I think that is what you are seeing, and that's what he will continue to do.
NOBLES: All right, great insight from both of you, Amie Parnes and Julian Zelizer. Thank you so much for joining me.
And thank you for joining me today. I'm Ryan Nobles. CNN's Newsroom continues at the top of the hour. Have a great day and a very happy Easter.