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Trump Offered Help; Trump Surveillance Claims; Motive Behind School Massacre; Lava Hits the Ocean. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 21, 2018 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00] REP. GERALD CONNOLLY (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Was not true and he had to retract that statement. So we have no reason to believe his initial denial of the intent and purpose of this meeting is any more accurate than the first denial.

We also know that money exchanged hands. There was a shady $2 million payment for social media assistance with one of the companies involved in the meeting. We need to get to the bottom of that. And I assume Robert Mueller is doing just that. And I assume that's what's got the president so agitated. It's so close to his office and to his family and it may be that Mueller has the goods.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just one more question about the meeting specifically. Eric Prince is one of the people who was part of the meeting. Eric Prince has testified to Congress that he had no formal contact with the Trump campaign. Given that if "The Times" was right he was at this meeting, which was by all appearances a campaign meeting, did he lie to Congress and does he need -- does legal action need to be taken?

CONNOLLY: I believe Eric Prince can be accused of committing perjury before Congress. And, yes, he can be prosecuted for that. And it's very clear he lied when he said he had nothing to do with that meeting. He was there. And, remember, he is Betsy DeVos' brother, the secretary of education. So there are a lot of connections here that, again, are very troubling.

BERMAN: Well, look, he is Betsy DeVos' brother there. Beyond the family relation there, she hasn't been mentioned once in anything having to do with the Russia investigation as far as you've seen, has she?

CONNELLY: No, I'm not --

BERMAN: OK.

CONNELLY: I'm not making that statement, but I am pointing out that there are lots of connections in this Trump orbit that are very troubling.

BERMAN: You did say -- again, this morning, you're saying this is evidence you think this is what drove the president to say what he said over the weekend. You wrote over the weekend the president sent eight tweets in five hours on Hillary and the Mueller investigation. He's unhinged. Explain.

CONNELLY: Yes, I -- when somebody is that obsessive in denying something so frequently, there's no collusion, there's no collusion, this is a witch hunt, this is a witch hunt, it, you know, me thinks he does protest too much. It actually raises the question of whether he's got something to hide. Whether this is something he's really afraid of.

I think he's really afraid of Robert Mueller's investigation. And I think he's afraid of the fact that they're getting closer and closer to the truth. This latest revelation being a very strong indication of that.

BERMAN: Your committee, the Oversight Committee, any signs it will get involved in any of this?

CONNELLY: Sadly our chairman, Trey Gowdy, and the Republicans on the committee literally see, hear and speak no evil when it comes to Trump. They have no interest whatsoever in hearings, in investigations, in the issuance of subpoenas to compel cooperation and testimony. And that's in sharp contrast to the previous eight years when, I mean, if Obama burped we had an investigation. And so it's really a sad state of affairs on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has the constitutional charge for Congress to provide vigorous oversight of the executive branch.

BERMAN: The deputy attorney general last night said that the inspector general in the Justice Department will look into any allegations or any possibilities that the FBI in 2016 improperly surveilled or infiltrated is one of the words that he used, the Trump campaign. Do you think that's the proper outcome here? Do you think this is something the inspector general should be looking into?

CONNELLY: I think it's a -- I think it's a very appropriate referral to the inspector general to look at that, among other things he may be looking at. But I think none of us should lose sight of the fact that this is another distraction. The classic operating style of the Trump White House is, look over there. Don't look over here. And so rather than talk about the fundamentals of the Mueller investigation that ought to trouble every American about foreign interference and possible collusion and cooperation with that foreign interference in the 2016 election, they're talking about maybe there was an FBI plant in the Trump campaign. And that's what we've got to look at. And I think none of us should be distracted by that.

BERMAN: Congressman Gerald Connolly of Virginia. Thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it, sir.

CONNELLY: My pleasure.

BERMAN: We're learning more about how quickly police started firing back at the Texas high school shooter. Next, why a mother says her daughter was targeted by the killer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:38:28] BERMAN: All right, new this morning, Texas will hold a statewide moment of silence to remember the eight students and two teachers killed in Friday's shooting. Schools in Santa Fe will be closed today and tomorrow as the community begins to bury those who were lost. And we are learning new information about what happened that day.

Our Nick Valencia live this morning in Santa Fe.

Good morning, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

According to investigators it took police at least four minutes to arrive on the scene to confront the gunman. They tell us they got into a 25 minute gun fire exchange. What's still unclear, though, is if any of those students that were killed on Friday were caught in that crossfire. Investigators say they won't be able to really clear that up until the autopsies are complete.

One of the other outstanding questions is motive. What would drive somebody to do this? And while police are not saying officially why they think the 17 year old carried out the attack, I spoke to one mother of one of those that was killed on Friday and she says that her daughter was harassed by the gunman for at least four month. He wanted desperately to be her boyfriend. And she says one of those shotgun shells was meant specifically for her daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SADIE BAZE, DAUGHTER MURDERED BY SCHOOL GUNMAN: My daughter was going up to my mother, telling my mom the past four months, and my brother, that he had been making advances on her and that she finally stood up to him because her younger sister was being bullied in school and she was showing her, look, this is what you do. You've got to stand up to them and tell him that, no, it's not right. And this is the outcome.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:40:04] VALENCIA: Just gut-wrenching to hear that mother's pain.

We know that Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called for a roundtable discussion to happen on Tuesday with lawmakers. He says that's his answer to try to figure out how to keep this from happening again. We're also expecting him to call for a moment of silence at 11:00.

John.

BERMAN: All right, Nick Valencia for us in Santa Fe.

That moment of silence is something we will observe here as well.

A lot of people talking about comments by Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. He made an emotional plea on FaceBook. He wrote, I know some have strong feelings about gun rights, but I want you to know I've hit rock bottom. This isn't a time for prayers and study and inaction. It's a time for prayers, action and the asking of God's forgiveness for our inaction, especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner and called for prayers and will once again do absolutely nothing.

Acevedo was on "NEW DAY" this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF ART ACEVEDO, HOUSTON POLICE: We need to have a comprehensive approach to dealing with a public health epidemic we call gun violence in this county, and we need to stop with the really ugly political rhetoric in this county that I really believe what we consider is the new norms is completely contrary to the history of this country. We need to get back to being pragmatic people that speak about issues without demonizing people based on the color of their skin or their religion or nation of origin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Friday's shooting was the third instance in eight days in which a gunman was on a U.S. school campus.

So, President Trump, Jared Kushner and CNN's Van Jones walk into the White House. There's no punch line here. This actually happened. Van Jones tells me what they discussed, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:46:10] BERMAN: All right, we do have breaking news. A big open on Wall Street, up 315 points or so. That's more than 1 percent. Why? Because the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, over the weekend, saying no trade war is imminent with China and, more importantly, suggests to the United States it would hold off on tariffs on Chinese goods while there is a deal worked out.

He says that an agreement with China is imminent. Listen to what he said just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: It is a framework agreement. It is an agreement Secretary Ross has to go over and turn that into a signed piece of paper with companies. As I've described, this is not a government to government purchase order. But we have an agreement with them as to what will be executed, and Secretary Ross is going over there, I believe next week, on the ground to get that done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now it isn't clear whether there is specific dollar targets here, which is something that a lot of people have called for here and the White House initially demanded. It doesn't seem as if they're going to get that. We will see what ultimately comes from this agreement.

In the meantime, the White House is teaming up with an unlikely ally to fight for prison reform. We're talking about CNN political commentator Van Jones. There's Van right there side by side with the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. What was this like? Why was he there? We are joined now by Van Jones.

And, Van, before we get into the serious discussion here, I would like to replay for you the greeting we received by President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to thank Van Jones primarily because he constantly says such nice things about me. He did. He did. Every once in a while, right? Every once in a while. He's a -- he actually has on occasion. Not too often. But I'll tell you what, though, it does feel good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Van, as you yourself have noted, you are left of Pluto. So why is someone left of Pluto sitting next to Jared Kushner, being praised by the president?

VAN JONES, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I'll tell you, it was a surreal moment and it came as a result of real consideration. As you know, and as the president pointed out, I'm tough on this White House. You can give me 100 issues, on 99 issues I've been beating him up hard because I'm for human rights, I'm for immigrant right, I'm for trans rights, I'm for the environment.

But I had to come to a decision. If I'm -- if on 99 issues I'm against you but on one issue someone like Jared Kushner, whose dad went to prison, wants to do something and on that one issue it would help women who are being brutalized in prison, it would give 4,000 federal prisons home, it would give people the opportunity to come home earlier if they earn their way home early. If you could actually do something to help somebody, do you just do nothing because you don't like them on 99 other issues? And I said to myself, I can't sit here and let 2,000 federal prisoners continue to be abused if they're sincere and we can make something happen.

It turns out that Hakeem Jeffries has been working on a bill that would actually make things a lot better for people in prison right now and Jared Kushner supports that bill. And so I went to the White House and said, listen, if you guys are serious and you want to make something happen, progressive like myself on this one issue -- we're going to fight you on 99 -- but on this one issue we're not going to let federal prisons continue to be abused. If you want to get something done, let's get something done.

BERMAN: Prison reform is one thing. Sentencing reform is a completely different thing. Something you also care passionately about. Any sign that there's wiggle room there from this White House?

JONES: Not -- you know, not yet. I think the civil rights community right now is actually a little bit divided. Some people are saying, if we can't get everything -- if we can't get sentencing reform, criminal justice reform, prison reform, if we can't everything, we'll just take nothing.

Well, the problem is, we've been saying that now for eight years. We said everything or nothing under Obama and we wound up with nothing. And so I don't -- I think they continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcomes is the definition of insanity.

If you look at what's happened at the state level, they usually start off with a minor set of reforms, Texas, minor set of reforms, and then over time they closed eight prisons in Texas, eight prisons, because over time you begin to build up a bipartisan coalition and consensus to get more done. Some people say if you do a little bit now you'll do nothing later. What I've seen is, everybody wants to do everything at once and we've gotten nothing done.

[09:50:25] So I support Hakeem Jeffries and Keith Ellison and Tulsi Gabbard and a bunch of good progressives in Congress who say, let's take yes for an answer on prison reform and then keep up the fight for sentencing reform.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, people I've talked to within this movement say that they have a receptive ear in Jared Kushner for sure and they believe the president as well. But they feel that Jeff Sessions, who's the attorney general and holds great weight in all of these discussions is absolutely opposed to these reforms. Is that something that you saw when you were sitting in that White House?

JONES: Look, I think that there's a split in this administration. And, you know, and that happens in administrations. On key issues you'll have, you know, should we go to war or not or should we do this or not. You'll have different camps and different factions.

What I've been impressed by is, as much as I disagree on Jared on issue after issue, on this issue he has been tough, he's been tenacious and he's built up a coalition inside the administration and Hakeem Jeffries has built up a Democratic coalition outside the administration. You might actually get something done.

And wouldn't it be amazing if the one area of bipartisan thought and cooperation in the entire country was to help the least of these, to help people who have nothing, to have people who have been left out, who have been thrown away. People who are being brutalized right now. Women who are being forced to give birth to babies wearing -- while they're shackled, who don't even have the right to tampons. If you could actually do something for the least of these in this situation, I think that would be a very good sign. We can fight about every other issue from now until eternity. But if you could do something to help people come home earlier, job ready, I don't see how you say no.

BERMAN: Very quickly, Van, any other quality time with the president you had in there? Did you get a chance for chitchat? Enjoy some tea? Anything?

JONES: No. You know, the most surreal experience sitting there and here's this guy that I've been beating up on for -- you know, and will continue to, for three years and he's, you know, right there, and he's looking at me and he's teasing me and I'm like, I don't know what's happening here. But I tell you what, he did -- I was afraid in that speech he was going, you know, start saying stuff that I disagreed with. Actually, everything he said about compassion for prisoners, I think the most liberal Democrat would have agreed with.

BERMAN: Good luck on booking him for "The Van Jones Show." We'll be watching for that.

Van, thanks so much. Thanks for being with us.

JONES: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, happening this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi answers your questions in a live CNN town hall. Chris Cuomo will host this Wednesday night at a time that will become very familiar to him, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

All right, this morning, new and deadly danger in Hawaii. Look at this. The lava flow reaching the Pacific Ocean.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:57:30] BERMAN: All right, so new this morning, look at that. If the molten lava and ash blasting thousands of feet into the air were not enough to worry about, the big island of Hawaii now facing a new threat as lava hits the ocean. It would send hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air.

Our Scott McLean, he's out there in the middle of it all.

Scott, give us the latest.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.

Well, seeing something like this is undoubtedly a once in a lifetime experience for most people. But for people who live here on the big island of Hawaii, they are happy that's only once in a lifetime, because this is a never-ending nightmare.

Let me show you what we're seeing from our vantage point. This is where all of the lava is coming from. This is actually five fissures combined. But it doesn't look like cracks in the earth, it looks more like five out of control fire hydrants. Of course, that lava has to go somewhere and so it is cascading down these fast moving lava flows and eventually it is reaching the ocean. And you can actually see it from our vantage point there, that red steam over there in two different places.

Now, from new pictures that we're seeing, that -- those clouds, it may look like simple steam, but it is much more nefarious than that. It is something called lava haze, or laze, and it is a mixture of sulfuric acid and tiny particles of glass. It can be quite dangerous, at worse perhaps even deadly.

I want to show you one other thing, John, and that is right over there. This is a fissure that we've been watching now for the past eight nights in a row. And it may look relatively benign, at least from this standpoint. But I can tell you, it is not. We were at a woman's house maybe a quarter mile, maybe half a mile away from there and the sheer force of that fissure, because there is the odd explosion that happens maybe once every minute or two, it actually blew out two of her windows. So this is really, you know, nothing to think lightly of. It can potentially be quite hazardous.

Now, if it's not the lava that's pushing people out, it might be the gas. That is because geologists say that sulfur dioxide levels, they have actually tripled in recent days, creating a lot of problems for people. And one other thing to point out, John, and that is the explosions that we're hearing, again you can hear those explosions. There are incredibly loud. The explosions that we're seeing at the summit of Kilauea have actually lessened, become less frequent and smaller in recent days. In fact, there was one just about three hours ago that was quite small relatively that may be good news for this time being, but it may also mean that a much bigger explosion could be coming.

[10:00:09] BERMAN: Scott McLean, I assure you nothing about that looks or sounds benign.