CNN "CNN Newsroom" - TRANSCRIPT Memphis Police Shut Down Scorpion Unit Tied To Deadly Beating; Timeline Of Tyre Nichols' Arrest And Fatal Beating; Interview With Rep. Richie Torres (D-NY); Secretary Blinken Arrives In Middle East; Trump And Biden Document Demands; Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) Are Interviewed On Their History-Making Women Levers Of Government. Aired 4-5p ET


Date: Jan. 29, 2023


ACOSTA: Those are not comments he made over the last several years, they were just yesterday.

Joining me now to talk about this, Democratic Congressman Richie Torres of New York.

Congressman, I guess, what do you make of Trump going out there on the campaign trail, like any other conventional candidate? And I guess some of the remarks that he made yesterday in talking about election integrity, coming from somebody who tried to overturn the election results in 2020.

REP. RICHIE TORRES (D-NY): Look, the fact that a man who likely committed federal crimes is going to be the Republican nominee is an embarrassment to the Republican Party. I mean, he inspired January 6th. Not only should he not be in politics, but he should be criminally held accountable. But again, you know, the Republican Party has become nothing more than a cult of personality around Donald Trump, around the big lie. And you reap what you sow and the Republican Party is reaping what it sows.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you about House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He's planning to meet with President Biden, we're told, this Wednesday on the debt limit. Are you optimistic a deal will get done? We were talking to Adam Kinzinger in the last hour. He said he's very worried about this, given what we've seen so far from the House Republican Conference up until this point.

TORRES: Well, we know that the far right of the Republican Party consists of arsonists, who are willing to burn down everything around them, including the leadership of their own party and the full faith and credit of the United States. My view is that we should not negotiate with arsonists because their

position is illegitimate. We should not be debating whether we should honor our debt obligations. There's nothing fiscally conservative about defaulting on our debt obligations. We should be honoring our debt obligations. If we were to default on our debt, it would actually raise the cost of our debt, causing the United States to become more indebted, not less, which is the opposite of what the conservatives claim that they want.

So as far as I'm concerned, we should not be legitimizing a position that's unworthy of legitimatization.

ACOSTA: Should the president meet with Kevin McCarthy, with the speaker, about this, do you think?

TORRES: I mean, he should meet with him regarding the budget in general, but defaulting on the nation's debt, derailing the full faith and credit of the United States, is a line that should never be crossed. You know, I support raising the debt limit, not because I'm a Democrat, but because I'm an American. Because I want what's best for my country. And there's nothing American about damaging the full faith and credit of the United States, which is the foundation for our power and prosperity in the world.

ACOSTA: And let's talk about Tyre Nichols. There are nationwide calls for reform. The NAACP wrote in a statement, "If anyone needs to see this video, which every single leader of Congress, sit in your comfy leather chair." This statement goes on to say, "Watch the video when it's released. Tell us what else you need to vote "yes" on police reform. By failing to write a piece of legislation, you're writing another obituary," the NAACP's president is saying to Eric Johnson. Your thoughts?

TORRES: Well, as I was watching the video of an anguished Tyre Nichols, you know, I couldn't help but think, that could have been me, that could be any young black man in America. What was done to Tyre was a vicious, violent gang assault camouflaged as policing. I mean, he was brutally beaten to death, he was pepper sprayed, he had a taser fired at him, he was kicked in the head while he was on the ground, he was punched in the face while his hands were behind his back. And then even after he was brutally beaten, he was left to languish next to a police vehicle without receiving the immediate medical care that he needed.

The level of dehumanization captured in that video made me sick to my stomach. And the murder of Tyre Nichols underscores the need in my view to civilianize traffic enforcement. We should ask ourselves a simple question. Where did we get this notion that traffic enforcement should be in the hands of armed police officers?


We know that traffic stops are disproportionate drivers of police brutality. According to an analysis by "The New York Times," police officers killed more than 400 unarmed motorists over a five-year period, and civilianizing traffic enforcement would mean preventing all the police beatings and chokings and shootings that stem from these traffic stops.

ACOSTA: Let me ask you about embattled Republican New York Congressman George Santos. I know you've had some thoughts on him over last several days. You've been pressuring government agencies, talking to government agencies about investigating Santos' campaign finances. So far Santos has been dodging questions, as you know. Let's take a look.

ACOSTA: Congressman, if Republicans who control the House won't hold santos accountable, what do you do about it at this point? Does he just continue to serve and you just have to, I guess, deal with it?

TORRES: Well, George Santos will be gone, it's just a question of when. But George Santos has no shame, he has no limit to his pathological lying and lawbreaking. Every day, we learn about a lie that George Santos has told or a new law that George Santos has broken. The latest revelation is that the Santos campaign had donors whose names and addresses were as fraudulent as the life story George Santos himself. And House Republican leadership, which promised to drain the swamp, refuses to call on George Santos to resign.

And Elise Stefanik, who is the chair of the GOP Conference, not only enthusiastically endorsed but fundraised with George Santos in the tune of the $100,000. She owes the people of New York an apology. She owes the people of New York an apology. So the best hope for holding George Santos accountable is the U.S. attorney, and I suspect Santos, his only reason to remain in public office is to have leverage for a plea bargain in the event of criminal prosecution.

ACOSTA: All right. Congressman Richie Torres, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

TORRES: Of course.