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Interview with Rep. Jeff Denham, Speaker Ryan Urges GOP to United Amid Immigration Feud; Arne Duncan: Boycott Schools Until Guns Laws Are Changed"; Royal Newlyweds Make 1st Public Appearance Since Wedding; Hawaiian Volcano Threatens Power Plant. Aired 11:30a-12n ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:19] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Lots of news happening this morning on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Paul Ryan urging his conference Republicans to come together as the party infighting escalates over immigration. This comes as moderates are inching closer to forcing a vote on a package of immigration bills using a procedural maneuver known as a discharge petition. By doing that, it would be a revolt against their leadership.

Ryan has been telling members not to support it. Here is what he said just a short time ago.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Obviously, we have members who backing the discharge petition who are really upset at the other members who brought down the farm bill over this issue. So we clearly have members at opposite ends of our spectrum who are frustrated with one another. That can happen in Congress. That can happen in a big majority party. It is our preference, obviously, to have a process where people get the kind of votes they're looking for, but that maximizes the opportunity and the chance of actually making law. I can guarantee you a discharge petition will not make law. So what is the point?


BOLDUAN: Let's get to the point. Republican Congressman Jeff Denham, of California, is at the center of this effort pushing this petition, pushing this move. He joins me right now live from Capitol Hill.

Congressman, first off, what is the status of the push to force the vote on the DACA program?

REP. JEFF DENHAM, (R), CALIFORNIA: We are at 201 signatures now. We need 218. We have Republicans and Democrats signing on this week. We feel very confident we have the votes we need to push this forward. But ultimately, we believe that this actually empowers the speaker. To actually have a debate on all of these different bills is something that not only empowers the speaker but empowers the American public to have a debate in full transparency. BOLDUAN: The speaker does not see it that way, very clearly. He said

what is the point if it is not going to become law. He says you all should work on -- you all should all try to come together and work for -- work for a broader solution --

DENHAM: Well --

BOLDUAN: -- that could actually become law. Where is he wrong here, though, on the fact that --

DENHAM: Sure, and --

BOLDUAN: -- even if you guys get the vote on the floor, that it is not going to become law?

DENHAM: First of all, I do agree that we should all be working together on one bill. Prior to this discharge petition, we only saw work being done on one bill, that was not bipartisan, that was not going to make it to the Senate. It was basically just an extension of President Obama's executive order. We have got to have a permanent fix here. That means both parties coming together, working together. And in this discharge petition, the four bills, the speaker has a bill of his own where he can put the four pillars, put the president's policy in it. He can put whatever policy he thinks will pass the House and get signed into law. But the bottom line is, we are willing to work together to have one bill that can be supported not only by the majority of the House, but actually one that will pass the Senate. And this is not for political reasons. This is for -- to create law and to create certainty for these DREAMers. We want to make sure that we not only put something on the president's desk, but we want to put something on the president's desk that he will support and sign into law.

BOLDUAN: But do you acknowledge that with the way you're going about it, the Senate is not going to take it up? That seems to just be reality.

DENHAM: I don't think that's reality at all. I think that you put something in the Senate that has broad bipartisan support in the House, I think the Senate -- you know, the media, I'm sure, and the public across the country will pressure the Senate to bring something up that is very bipartisan. But it starts here in the House.


DENHAM: And we're going to demand that debate.

BOLDUAN: If you're able to force this vote, it doesn't end up going anywhere, who do you blame? Do you blame Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump?

DENHAM: First of all, I think it is the job of the House. We not only need to make sure we have a debate, but we that we actually have a plan where Republicans and Democrats can work together on this. So we have done this discharge petition in this way to not only empower the speaker, but to actually have a bill that has Republicans and Democrats working together on right now. That's the only way it is going to make it to a 60-vote Senate, but certainly it is our best pathway to getting it out of the House as well.

BOLDUAN: How many more votes do you think you'll be able to get from Republicans this week? How many more people do you think you can get to sign on?

DENHAM: I am extremely confident we have 218 today. But after last week's showdown on the farm bill, I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't have a lot more than 218.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you real quick, because this just happened, top national security officials were briefing some members of the House on election security today. Coming out of it, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, she was asked by Manu Raju about -- she was asked about the intel assessment of 2017 that said, determined that Russia meddled in the election and tried to do so with a clear preference for Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton. When she was asked by Manu about that, she says, "I do believe that I have seen that conclusion. I'm not aware of that."

Do you believe that conclusion?

[11:35:15] DENHAM: I don't. But I am looking to see all of the evidence pertaining to -- look, we have known that China and Russia have meddled in elections across the globe, including in the U.S. And it is something we ought to continue to investigate. It was something we were investigating under the Obama administration as well.

BOLDUAN: You don't believe the 2017 assessment, though, of the intel community?

DENHAM: I'm looking at -- I want to look at the entire report first.

BOLDUAN: OK. Congressman, thank you so much for coming in. I appreciate it.

DENHAM: You got it. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll track it closely and where the support lands with the discharge petition throughout the week.

Thank you.

Coming up for us, the father of Santa Fe High School -- the father of Santa Fe High School shooter is now speaking out. What he believes caused his son to open fire on his classmates and teachers. That's next.


[11:40:24] BOLDUAN: "He was a good boy" -- that's what the father of the accused Santa Fe High School shooter is saying now about his son. And the father told the "Wall Street Journal" his son did it because he was bullied. Here's the quote: "I think that's what was behind the shooting." On Friday, the 17-year-old allegedly opened fire on his classmates,

killing 10 people. As that community mourns and the nation asks why, a former secretary of education is pushing a radical idea, keep kids out of school until lawmakers take action.

Here is Arne Duncan's tweet: "This is brilliant and tragically necessary. What if no children went to school until gun laws changed to keep them safe? My family is all in, if we can do this at scale. Parents, will you join us?"

Secretary Arne Duncan is joining me now.

Secretary, thank you for coming in.

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: Good morning. Thank you so much for having me.

BOLDUAN: The father of the Santa Fe High School shooter told the "Wall Street Journal" he thinks his sun was bullied and that's what motivated the shooting. Do you think that could be it?

DUNCAN: Honestly, I have no idea. That's sometimes the case, but no specific information on this particular tragedy.

BOLDUAN: A lot of -- this gets to -- this gets to where the conversation has been in last couple of days of what motivates shootings, right? The Texas lieutenant governor, he blames school shootings on what he calls the devaluing of life. He laid it out over the weekend saying that the loss of religion in school, violent video games and even abortion is what is leading to all of this somehow. What do you say to that?

DUNCAN: I think all of that is very disingenuous. And the United States does not have the monopoly on bullying, although I absolutely abhor bullying. The United States doesn't have a monopoly on video games or single parents. What we have in tremendous abundance is the easy availability of guns. That is always, by definition, the common denominator here. Over the last eight or nine years, there have been 288 mass shootings in schools. Relative to other nations, the most they had was five, six, seven. Wildly disproportionate. We lack the political will, we lack the courage to protect our children. Lawmakers are way behind where the young people are themselves, where we, as parents, need to be. And it is time to compel them to change and keep our children safe and allow them to grow up free of fear.

BOLDUAN: Let's get to what you're suggesting now. You're the former head of the Department of education, the former head of Chicago public schools. Why would you suggest it is a good idea to keep kids out of the classroom?

DUNCAN: It is absolutely a radical idea. It is provocative. I know it would be very difficult. It is counter to everything I talked about all my life, trying to get kids to school and to stay in school. But I think as a nation, we're at a breaking point and cannot continue to allow our children and our adults to die due to senseless gun violence. It just simply doesn't happen in other countries. What I'm talking about is an idea for all of the difficulty, for all

the impractical about it, I think it would shock the nation, we create the kind of tension that we lacked, and we need a tension to compel lawmakers to change. If we did something like this, as we go back to school after Labor Day in the fall, early September, if lawmakers made some very significant changes, that would be amazing. If they don't, we're walking behind that into the elections in November. And we would have to hold them accountable in the voting booth for their lack of action.

BOLDUAN: Secretary, from 2009 to 2011, Democrats had control of all of Washington, right, House, Senate and the White House. During that time, by CNN's count, there were five school shootings. No real federal action on guns. Do you regret that?

DUNCAN: I've said repeatedly that the biggest failure I felt in Washington was we got nothing done after the Sandy Hook massacre. That was my worst day in Washington. President Obama who dealt with the hardest issues on the planet talked about that. That was his worst day in Washington. None of this ever imagined that 20 babies, five teachers, and an amazing principal would be slaughtered, and we got zero done. So this is an issue that plagued me all my life. During my time, running the Chicago public schools on average every two weeks, one of my children was killed, not in schools, thankfully, but in the community. Going to those funerals, to classrooms where there was an empty desk, to the children's homes, nothing was ever easy about that. That was the hardest thing I've ever done. And as a nation, it just doesn't have to happen. There's some common-sense things that everyone agrees on, the vast majority of American public, criminal background checks for everyone who wants to purchase a gun, banning weapons of war, assault weapons, you know, making sure that we have research behind the impact of gun violence. We just have to get these things done and it has to happen at the national level.


[11:45:21] BOLDUAN: Even if those things would not have protected against what we saw --


DUNCAN: It can't protect against everything but would lead to an exponential reduction in violence. And the fact that we have refused to take the steps that every other nation, Canada, England, Japan, Australia, down the list, every other nation has chosen to protect life and to save lives.

BOLDUAN: But, Secretary, do you mean it? Do you really want students kept out of school? Do you mean it when you say you'll keep your kids out of school? If we know how long this debate has been going on and how entrenched people are --


BOLDUAN: -- they would be out of school for a very long time, potentially. DUNCAN: Well, we don't have to stay out for ever. Again, what I said

is if we looked at this early in September, did it for -- lots of details to work out and get recognized, recognize -- it is hard, recognize it is difficult, impractical, see if the lawmakers react or not, and either way, we go to the voting booth in November. Kate, let me just push.


DUNCAN: We can continue to do nothing, we can continue to throw up our hands in the air and watch children die. And the fact that just broke my heart, beyond the obvious heart-breaking tragedies, the fact that the young girl who was interviewed there in Texas, the reporter asked, did you ever think this would happen and she said, I did, I thought it was just a matter of time. Think about the psychological toll of our children all over the nation, every single day, thinking it is a matter of time before they get shot. We have to do better for them. We have to protect our children. We as parents, as parents, putting myself -- I parent of two teenagers -- we have failed to keep our children safe and we have to do something different.

BOLDUAN: That young girl's remarks, if it doesn't break your heart --


BOLDUAN: -- and shock you to your core --


DUNCAN: That's real, that's true for millions of kids. That's true for millions of kids. And we have allowed that to happen in the United States. That has to stop. That is untenable.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in. Let's see if what you're proposing gains traction. We'll say in close touch. Appreciate it.

DUNCAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up, we'll take you to Hawaii. Toxic gas, volcanic eruptions. These are live pictures from Hawaii. No end in sight. Officials are issuing new warnings in Hawaii where flaming rivers of molten lava are threatening a power plant now. Stay with us.


[11:51:59] BOLDUAN: The wedding bells have barely stopped ringing across England, but Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping out, honoring Harry's father, Prince Charles, at a charity event for his 70th birthday. This is video of their arrival to the festivities just moments ago. It is the first public appearance for the duke and duchess of Sussex since the big wedding.

CNN anchor and correspondent, Max Foster, has had a front row seat for all of the festivities. Max, no honeymoon for these two. I guess they are getting right to


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that's the message h ere. It's also a message that they wanted to honor Prince Charles as well. Harry is quite close to Charles. They are here celebrating his birthday and all the charities and organizations that Prince Charles has worked with over the year years.

I'll give you a taste of a few of the groups, Kate, that Meghan will be meeting. This is a taste of her future royal career. She'll spend time with the Badger Face Welsh Mountain Sheep Society, the Dry Stone Warning Association, Gloucestershire Roots, Fruits and Grain Society, and the Goon Show Preservation Society. These are all sorts of groups that Prince Charles has worked with over the years, who they will be meeting today. Perhaps we'll hear a few words from them because we expect this to be the last appearance before they jet off on honeymoon. We don't know where or when, but we do know they want to be private. We also know that Meghan is very concerned about her father, so we expect to pull in a trip to Mexico in the near future to check in on him -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That is good to hear.

Great to see you, Max. Thanks so much.

Any moment now, we'll take you live to the White House where President Trump will be welcoming the South Korean president to the White House as U.S. officials are worrying that the big summit, that North Korea could walk away from the planned summit with the United States. So what does the South Korean President Moon have to say right now to convince President Trump that the meeting is still on?


[11:53:01] BOLDUAN: The pictures are just astonishing. Mother Nature at her most primal, honestly, creating and destroying at the same time lava from the Kilauea has now reached a geothermal power plant. This was after two more eruptions yesterdays. And lava is still pouring into the Pacific sending toxic gas and volcano glass into the air threatening people on the island all along the way.

CNN correspondent, Scott McLean, has been following all of this for us.

So, Scott, what are officials telling folks at this point?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really depends on where you live, Kate. And I'll give you an example. We just got confirmation that about two hours ago, there was a smaller explosion at the main Kilauea crater about 20 miles from where we are, sending a dust cloud or ash cloud into the die. That will affect air quality there. Where we are down in the lower-risk zone, lava. It is the main concern, by far, and also the gas coming out of the ground. Not to mention the geothermal plant. Lava has gotten on that property. Authorities are working right now to secure that site with the eye of mitigating any potential explosive mix of chemicals.

And then lastly, there's this other fissure that we've been watching now explode for more than a week. It is the source of the only injury so far that Kilauea has actually caused. A man named Darrel Clinton (ph) was hit by a lava bomb over the weekend. It hit him in his leg. And believe it or not, I spoke to his wife yesterday, and she said that the heat of that lava bomb actually seemed to cauterize the wound on his leg and stop him from bleeding. It also was so hot that it started a fire on his porch. The reason he was there in the first place is because he was trying to protect two homes, one of which was only 100 yards away. And I can report that not only is Darrel Clinton (ph) in the hospital, expected to make a full recovery, but those two homes are still standing.

BOLDUAN: My, god. Regardless, that must have been terrifying for them.

Scott, thank you so much. And no end in sight for everyone there.

Thank you, guys, so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.