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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview with Representative Hakeem Jeffries; Lava Flows Near Geothermal Power Plant; James Comey Pushes Back on Trump's Unproven Spy Claim; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 23, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: One issue that has brought you all together, and I mean you on Capitol Hill, seemingly over the last several days is prison reform. You co-sponsored the First Step Act which passed overwhelmingly the House yesterday. Explain to me why this effort at bipartisanship works where nothing else has?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Well, we've got tremendous leadership on both sides of the aisle. Congressman Doug Collins, a conservative Republican from rural Georgia, and Cedric Richmond, the chair of Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass from California and many others, all of us are united behind the issue that we have an over criminalization problem in America.

We incarcerate more people in this country than in any other nation in the world and when the failed war on drugs began in the early 1970s, there were less than 350,000 people incarcerated in America. Today there are more than 2.2 million. That's a stain on our democracy and increasingly that has been recognized by people on the left and on the right, by conservatives and progressives, by Democrats and Republicans, and so we were able to come together yesterday and take a meaningful first step toward improving the lives of incarcerated men and women who are in the federal system.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And Congressman, you tweeted this morning that this began in your words dismantling the prison industrial complex. What it doesn't do in any way is address sentencing reform and there are your counterparts in Congress, Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee, says no way this gets to the Senate without addressing sentencing reform.

John Lewis, Cory Booker among others who signed a letter saying this does not go far enough and should not get the support that it did get. The ACLU echoed their sentiment. Do they have a point?

JEFFRIES: Well, approximately 70 percent of House Democrats agreed with the position that the First Step Act was an important step forward in dealing with our mass incarceration problem in America. We've got 180,000 people in the federal system who are currently without hope, without opportunity, without a meaningful pathway forward to transforming themselves, and this piece of legislation will provide them with the education, the vocational training, the mental health counseling, the substance abuse treatment, the re-entry programming that will enable them to transform their lives, will dramatically reduce recidivism, and will save taxpayer dollars. That is an important step in the right direction. Should we do more

to begin to dismantle our mass incarceration epidemic as it relates to sentencing reform? Of course. But s I mentioned, John and Poppy, earlier this mass incarceration epidemic has been with us for almost 50 years. You can't wave a singular legislative magic wand and make it disappear in one shot. It will require sustained effort, sustained intensity, sustained equipment and a meaningful first step.

BERMAN: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Congratulations on something bipartisan.

HARLOW: There you go.

BERMAN: We don't see it very often.

JEFFRIES: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. New volcanic eruptions causing a huge nightmare for residents on the big island of Hawaii. Just more stunning pictures and new dangers. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:18] HARLOW: You're probably used to these images by now, but you shouldn't be. This -- I mean, this is remarkable, but it's been three weeks since the Kilauea volcano first erupted, the lava spouting out and showing no signs of slowing down. You've got dozens of homes, buildings, cars destroyed. People have evacuated.

BERMAN: Yes, several cracks on the ground has sent lava and toxic gas into the air. It's so bad that officials are handing out new masks today to protect residents from the volcanic ash.

Our Scott McLean live on the big island where he's been braving all of this.

Scott, what's the latest?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John and Poppy, there are no shortage of dangers here on the southern part of the big island of Hawaii. You mentioned the ash cloud for people who are near the summit of Kilauea about 20 miles away from we are. There's also the sulfur dioxide continuing to pour out of those fissures. There's also the laze hazard, that nasty gas that happens when lava hits the ocean. That can also be potentially dangerous.

I haven't even mentioned the earthquakes and obviously the lava itself. Well, the latest threat here is this geothermal power plant where lava is encroaching slowly on to the property. Authorities they met with residents here to try to calm some of the concerns that they had. There were dangerous chemicals on that plant but they have been removed now for some time. That plant has been shut now since May 3rd.

But now the issue is those geothermal wells. Ten out of 11 of them have had cold water poured down them that seems to neutralize them. They had issues with the 11th. What they did is plugged it or capped it and authorities are confident at this point that it won't be an issue. They're also telling people that the lava that is slowly creeping in there is still more than a mile away. And the fissures, some of them continue to bubble up. Some of them are dying down including the one that injured Darryl Clinton.

He is the only person to have been injured so far by Kilauea. He was actually protecting two houses, one of which was only about a hundred yard away from a spewing fissure. We spoke to him in the hospital yesterday and he is in remarkably good spirits after being hit with a lava bomb that burned his leg and burned his porch. He's got a rod in his leg. He will be out for six weeks, but it's just amazing to hear how positive he is despite what's happened to him -- John and Poppy.

HARLOW: It is. He's quite a character. I'm glad he's all right after that happened.

Scott, thank you very, very much.

You can go to CNN.com. There's actually this Web camera, and this is a live feed of the volcano, the Kilauea volcano right now, 24/7 on CNN.com.

BERMAN: It's mesmerizing. It is mesmerizing but still dangerous.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: Yet mesmerizing.

HARLOW: It's very, very frightening.

BERMAN: It's like the Yule log.

HARLOW: It's like the what?

[10:40:01] BERMAN: Yule log, but not as festive.

(LAUGHTER)

HARLOW: Your reaction just moments ago from former FBI director James Comey, reacting to the president's claims that a spy was planted in his campaign. Wait until you see what the fired FBI director has to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Just moments ago, fired FBI director James Comey unleashing on President Trump over the president's attacks on the Russia investigation and specifically the president's claim without evidence that the FBI spied on his campaign for political purposes. This is what the fired director wrote. "Dangerous time when our country is led by those who will lie about

anything backed by those who will believe anything based on information from media sources that will say anything. Americans must break out of that bubble and seek truth."

[10:45:09] HARLOW: With us now CNN commentators Tara Setmayer and Joe Trippi.

To you first, Joe, he says Americans must break out of that bubble and seek truth. If they haven't already, will they?

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there are certainly partisans on both sides particularly in this polarized environment. Many of them won't, but I think he makes a point that you have to start looking at some of the sources where this is coming from. For instance, again today with this informant meeting going over those materials, being the Republicans from the House only, Trey Gowdy and Nunes, that's not bipartisan and it's not trying to get to the bottom of this. It's actually trying to polarize people and make them go to their corners and that's something that all Americans need to start thinking about.

BERMAN: You know, the president says or the FBI director says this is a dangerous time with all the attacks that the president is making on the media and on the truth in some cases. And Lesley Stahl, over the last 24 hours, has actually revealed a conversation she had with President Trump when she asked him why he attacks the media and reporting as much as he does. Listen to this exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LESLEY STAHL, REPORTER, "60 MINUTES": He said you know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You know, so, Tara, creating a situation to an extent where there is no truth. If there's no truth you can operate with impunity, correct?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. Those of us who have been paying attention to this from the very beginning have warned that this is what Trump was doing. I mean, he telegraphed this. Unfortunately, you have a large electorate that was willing to hear what they wanted to hear and Donald Trump honed in on that and knew it and he's exploited that.

I mean, this form of propaganda that he employs by attacking the media this way and by having no facts. I've always said it's very Orwellian because if you no longer have trusted, credible sources, what used to be facts, you have what -- what did Kellyanne Conway called them, alternative facts. When you create that then there's no way to hold someone accountable, because people will only believe what they want to hear and it's this really scary tribalism that's going on.

HARLOW: Yes.

SETMAYER: That's been exacerbated in ways that I don't think we have seen in a very long time in this country and it is dangerous. Because then people -- it's similar to the CNN campaign, Right? You know, the apple versus banana thing. That is a genius campaign because that's what we're dealing with, you're extolling hard facts but if you discredit everything that comes from it, everyone can say well, it's the deep state, well, it's this, it's that, and that's what we're seeing right now and I'm not quite sure how we -- how this ends, to be honest.

HARLOW: And you can say Orwellian, 1984, through the looking glass, what have you, but what about action? I mean, we saw something take place, Joe, yesterday that was a direct attack on the freedom of the press. You had the EPA chief Scott Pruitt holding this meeting. Only some reporters were allowed inside. CNN, the AP, other big news publications were not allowed inside.

The EPA said this was because of space limitations. Multiple people said there were dozens of chairs open and there was zero access for media that has been accurately, truthfully reporting on all of the ethical concerns around the EPA chief and all of a sudden they don't even have a seat in the room.

TRIPPI: And those photos don't lie. There are empty chairs. There are -- there's room on platforms for other cameras and that's what I think people need to start to do, citizens on all sides look at -- you know, the picture doesn't lie, although you can fake that, too, these days, but I do think yes, this is something that this administration has done time and time again.

(VIDEO TECHNICAL PROBLEM)

[10:51:43]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:55:35] BERMAN: All right. The Rockets revived their series with defending champion Golden State Warriors in a thrilling road victory.

HARLOW: Lindsay Czarniak has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good morning.

LINDSAY CZARNIAK, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, guys. Finally, right, an unexpected thriller in these playoffs. The last time we saw these two teams, the Rockets were humiliated. They suffered a 41-point loss in game three.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can. But James Harden who's one of the Rockets players who came into this game on a mission not to let his team give up. We've got a play you have to see here. The nasty one-handed dunk and the foul over Draymond Green. He led the way with 30 points for the Houston Rockets. Meanwhile, Steph Curry he caught fire scoring 18 points from the third

quarter doing what Curry does often. And he broke out with that shimmy dance once again, but Chris Paul had a night of his own for the Rockets putting up 27 points. Houston's defense really rose to the occasion to the Warriors were held at just 12 points in the fourth quarter, as the Rockets win. They're on the road to even the series.

Moving now to the NFL, owners have arrived for day two of league meetings in Atlanta. One of the items talked about that could be resolved as early as today is how the league will handle the national anthem. "Sports Illustrated's" Albert Grier reporting one proposal on the table is to allow the home team to decide whether players remain on the field for the anthem. Teams will then be penalized 15 yards if a player chooses to kneel. So that's one of many options discussed.

Several former NFL players have taken to social media criticizing that idea. An NFL spokesperson telling CNN as always that conversations in league meetings are candid, thoughtful and thorough, the club explores every option and idea on and any policy and discuss the merits and draw backs of each approach. We will continue the conversation."

So we'll have to wait and see if there's resolution that comes out today -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Lindsay, thank you so much.

And now time for another kind of highlight reel, my favorite kind of highlight reel, on this show. It has been the joy of my career so far to sit next to this man every morning, John Berman. He is wicked smart, makes me laugh, and is truly generous. Here are some of the best moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Thanks for joining us. You know, this is exactly how Bill Belichick always planned it, even though it looked all but impossible about 10:00 last night. We're talking of course about the debut of our brand new CNN NEWSROOM right now.

HARLOW: I get to sit next to John Berman starting Monday morning so I am a lucky woman.

BERMAN: Obviously if it happened here, it would have to be Poppy's fault.

HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

BERMAN: And I'm Poppy Harlow. You got me a hat?

HARLOW: I got you a hat. A Super Bowl hat.

BERMAN: I got your daughter a Patriots shirt. This is going to turn out OK. John Berman here back in Miami Beach. In Sutherland Springs, Texas.

And we're live in Washington. In Miami live in Parkland, Florida. Where I'm standing right now because I think we've had wind gusts here upwards of 90 miles an hour.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: What can't CNN's John Berman do? He finished the Boston marathon flying down the final stretch.

HARLOW: Did you just smile when you get --

BERMAN: I see Tom Brady's name in the teleprompter and I smile.

I'm John Berman, and Michael Cohen is not my attorney. Welcome to the least chaotic morning in history. Today the White House is juggling tariffs and porn stars just as the framers intended. For more on a gelding and a majority leader walk into a bar. Can you stare into a total eclipse of the heart without glasses? What's your favorite line?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: No one believed me when I said I wanted to book Bonnie Tyler on the day --

HARLOW: It was the best TV moment. It was the best TV moment. You have made every morning as early as we have to get up such a joy.

Thank you, Berman.

BERMAN: It has been a wonderful 15 months or so. I'm not going far. I'm, like, literally --

HARLOW: Seconds away.

BERMAN: Second away.

HARLOW: So for those of you who might not know, Berman is going to join the wonderful Alisyn Camerota.

BERMAN: Yes.

HARLOW: Hosting "NEW DAY" three hours every morning, 6:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Don't go one second over and bleed into my time, OK?

BERMAN: Starting next Tuesday, please tell Alisyn how charming I can be.

HARLOW: We've had those discussions.

BERMAN: That's terrifying.

HARLOW: We've had those discussions.

BERMAN: That's terrifying.

HARLOW: Thank you, John, for everything.

BERMAN: Thank you for everything.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you all for being with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was awesome. Congratulations, guys. Best highlight reel ever. Congratulations, John. Now we get three hours, not just two of JB. We will all be captivated as always.