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Federal Judge Threatens to Hold A.G. Sessions in Contempt; Virginia Declares State of Emergency Bracing for Protests; Sens Nelson Says Russians "Penetrated" Florida Voter System. Aired 11:30-12n ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I ask because we know President Trump is always one step away from firing him over the Mueller investigation. Now, a judge in D.C. is sounding off about the attorney general as well. Judge Emmet Sullivan has threatened to hold Sessions in contempt of court after learning two asylum seekers who were fighting deportation had been put on plane and sent back to El Salvador. The judge demanded the plane be turned around and the woman and her daughter be brought to the United States while he's weighing their case.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is following this story for us. She's joining me right now.

Dianne, walk us through how this all went down in court.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I think it's important to point out they were deported and her attorney found out that this woman and her daughter had been deported while they were in a hearing about trying to stop her deportation. They found out when they were in a recess. When she came back and informed the judge, that's when the judge went off. That's when the judge threatened to hold Jeff Sessions, Kirstjen Nielsen and other members of DHS in contempt if they were not brought back immediately.

What it looks like this woman, who goes by Carmen -- they're wanting to remain anonymous -- and her child were put on a plane early in the morning of the day of this emergency hearing and they were almost in El Salvador by the time her attorney found out during that recess. The judge called it outrageous. He says, how can you just spirit off these people while still waiting for any sort of ruling. And he told them, you are either going to turn that plane around in the air or, as soon as they land in El Salvador, you're going to fly right back to the United States to Texas, which is what ended up happening. According to DHS, Kate, They never got off the plane when they made it to El Salvador. It turned back around and landed around 6:30 in the evening yesterday in Texas. They were not gone for a full 12 hours at that point. The judge said, look, this is outrageous, it should have never happened, we're going to make sure it doesn't happen again.

BOLDUAN: It's really amazing. What happens now for this family?

GALLAGHER: There's been an emergency order put in place. Not just for those two but the other six part of this ACLU lawsuit against the government. Kate, it focuses on asylum seekers. This particular woman said she had endured two decades worth of sexual abuse from her husband, gang, death threats, and that no longer qualifies for asylum. The ACLU is trying to allow them to claim asylum here in the United States. The judge has put it on hold.

BOLDUAN: Put it on hold. Can only imagine what it was like landing in El Salvador and then getting the news and being flown back here.

Thank so much, Dianne. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, talking about a state of emergency. In Charlottesville, Virginia, nearly a year after violent racially charged protests broke out there, officials are gearing up for new demonstrations. Will this time be different? The Charlottesville mayor joins us next.


[11:37:25] BOLDUAN: Coming up on the one-year anniversary of the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, the Commonwealth of Virginia is under a state of emergency. Plans to close roads, putting hundreds of officers on standby. One year after, where are we? Right now, the city of Charlottesville rejected another similar white supremacist rally from taking place there. But these same organizers at last year's rally are planning another one, this time in Washington, D.C., at Lafayette Park, directly across from the White House.

Joining me now, Nikuyah Walker, the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Zyahna Bryant, a local activist who has petitioned to bring down the statue of Robert E. Lee sparked the chain of events that led to this protest in Charlottesville.

Thank you both so much for joining me today.

Mayor, a year out, is Charlottesville a different place?


NIKUYAH WALKER, (D), CHARLOTTESVILLE MAYOR: Charlottesville is a different place in terms of that the conversation is being forced that wasn't happening before last August. People are being asked to choose sides to make it clear what side of history they want to be on. We're still far away from any goal. The last year has been spent in debate and seeking answers from last year.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, how much of this do you put on the president?

WALKER: Well, you know, when you are comfortable with spewing that kind of hate, as 45 appears to be, then it definitely is causing turmoil within the community and making people feel very comfortable with subjecting others to that level of hate.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, I noticed you call him 45. Why don't you want to say his name?

WALKER: Listen, I was in an interview tired the other day and slipped up and I was disgusted. So I think we all are very aware of what type of person currently occupies our White House and the terrorism that has faced the nation because partly because he's there. I mean, a lot of those people have been in positions of power and at boardroom tables and influenced decisions forever, but the fact they are willing to come to light, that should be alarming to all of us. We have to call it what it is.

BOLDUAN: Zyahna, I want to know what you think on this day. You were a high school freshman when you wrote the petition to remove the statue as part of a school assignment. A year after the protest, the statue of Robert E. Lee is still there. Same question to you, is Charlottesville a different place?

[11:40:10] ZYAHNA BRYANT, CHARLOTTESVILLE ACTIVIST: Charlottesville is not a different place. There's a long history of white supremacy and racism right here in Charlottesville. We continue to fight it every single day. Our fights and our activism and our organizing is not just contained to this weekend or last year or 2017, of August 11 and 12 year. We've been doing this work every day and we are continuing to center and amplify black women who have been on the front line and continue to stay on the front lines by backing them with resources and making sure their voices are heard as we continue to fight for justice.

BOLDUAN: Zyahna, have you had any conversations with anyone from the White House or anyone from the administration on how to continue the conversation. Because you say nothing is different. This became a huge national conversation. Yes, maybe it slips from the headlines but the conversation hasn't gone away. Have you heard anything from anyone in the administration to reach out?


BRYANT: No one has reached out to me directly from the White House. What I would say as far as what they need to do is stop being racist. It's not that hard to not be a racist. I'm not quite sure what I could give them as far as pointers but I think it's pretty easy to not be a white supremacist and racist.


WALKER: I'll say for, you know, for Zy, it's hard to have a conversation with people who are not in a space to be open minded and want change. It's clear that it would probably be nothing that Zyahna could say to the White House that would make them shift. They seem pretty comfortable with their actions and what they are stirring up in our country and have been very comfortable living in a state and benefitting from white privilege before now. Any conversation she would have with them to change, I imagine they would have to be open to it.


BRYANT: Black people are not going to be the ones to dismantle white supremacy. We didn't create it, so we won't dismantle it. It will take the president, 45, and his administration to tear take the initiative and tear down white supremacy within their power and positions. We, as civilians here in Charlottesville, that's not our job.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, I was having a conversation with Van Jones at the top of the show and he was saying it's a tale of two presidents. The words you hear him say, the things you see him tweet, and then, at the same time, he's holding a panel and working with -- Van Jones is working with the administration on criminal justice reforms, which overwhelmingly impacts African-American communities. What do you make of it?

WALKER: Again, I would have to have more information about what they are working on. I know it's hard to produce results that are necessary to dismantle that kind of systemic racism and oppression with someone who goes out and tweets and has news conferences and that's their delivery. Not everybody can be at this table helping to dismantle what has been put in place. It doesn't appear, from what I've seen of the person currently occupying the White House, that he would be the one. But if Van Jones seems to think he is getting a different person behind closed doors, I would be leery of that, but it's something that's need. Hopefully, it's working. I would have a lot of questions. I would need a lot more information.

BOLDUAN: But, Zyahna, do you see signs of hope in the conversations about race relations in community but the broader conversation this has become that you've been part of? Do you see signs of hope?

BRYANT: I see hope from the students, especially from UVA, and in the community, who are leading this fight to tear down white supremacy. The only hope that I have is people will pick the side they want to be on. If you're going to be racist, be openly racist, so we know what we're fighting against. If you're not going to be racist, get on the side of justice and join out fight and stand with us. Charlottesville is fighting by back today, this weekend and every day. Now is not the time to straddle the fence or call for civility and continue to silence people of color. Now is time to support them, put your resources behind them, and call out white supremacy in all its forms.


[11:44:55] BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you so much for being here.

Zyahna, really appreciate your voice in this. Thanks so much.

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: It's one of the most-popular tourist destinations in Vietnam. It's also suffering from extreme poverty. That's where you'll find today's "CNN Hero." He trains at-risk adults for a career in the city's booming culinary and hospitality industry.



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BOLDUAN: Every student in the program has found a job after graduation, helping to break that cycle of poverty for hundreds of families. You can see their stories at


[11:50:50] The Florida secretary of state is demanding more information right now after Democratic Senator Bill Nelson told "The Tampa Bay Times" that Russian operatives have hacked into Florida election systems. Here's the quote: "They have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about," Nelson said.

That understandably set off alarm bells. Making it all the more troubling is that the secretary of state responded with this to "The Tampa Bay Times," "The Florida Department of State has received zero information from Senator Nelson or his staff that support his claims."

Asked to clarify, Senator Nelson said this.


UNIDENTIFID REPORTER (voice-over): Do you mean right now, or were you referring to 2016?

SEN. BILL NELSON, (D), FLORIDA (voice-over): Right now.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you mean, they're in the election records? What do you mean by that?

NELSON: Just exactly what I said. They have already penetrated certain counties in the state, and they now have free rein to move about.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Adam Smith, political editor at "The Tampa Bay Times." This is the paper that spoke with and reported on Nelson's claims.

Adam, great to see you.


BOLDUAN: We've requested more information from Senator Nelson. We haven't heard back. Are you any closer to reconciling the differences here between statements from Senator Nelson and the Florida secretary of state's office?

SMITH: No. I mean, it looks like Nelson has got a little bit of egg on his face, on one hand, because there's no evidence. He's got a lot of supervisors of elections sort of pushing back and asking for some clarification. On the other hand, Senator Marco Rubio has been sounding this alarm for quite some time and pretty seriously.

BOLDUAN: Does your gut tell you that Nelson is mistaken or that Nelson spoke publicly about something that is real but he's not authorized to speak about?

SMITH: It sort of seems like he got ahead of his skis and maybe had gone a little far with classified information that he shouldn't have.

BOLDUAN: Adam, as I'm kind of thinking about it this morning, if he turns out to be wrong, like how much trouble is -- how much trouble is that for Nelson, who's facing a tough re-election? And also, if he's right, what does that mean for the state of Florida?

SMITH: Well, if he's right, it means, potentially, you could have some mayhem where people who think they're registered to vote, who are registered to vote, should be registered to vote somehow have been removed from the rolls, and that creates all kinds of confusion. If he's wrong or if it can't be shown he's right, it certainly gives ammunition to Rick Scott, our governor, and the boss of the secretary of state, who's pushing back on Bill Nelson, giving Bill Nelson a tough challenge for re-election. So that certainly doesn't help.

BOLDUAN: Regardless, what is the state and all 67 counties running the elections, what are they doing now in light of this? Are they doing anything different?

SMITH: You know, they're getting some federal funding to tighten up their systems. I think right now, they're just sort of clamoring for some specific information. And it's one of those things that there seems to be a gap. If there's classified information that can't be shared with those local election supervisors, that's not necessarily constructive. That's just causing concern and doing, presumably, what the Russians would want to do, is raise doubts about the sanctity of our voting system.

BOLDUAN: What are you hearing from folks there? It seems something's got to give in terms of Nelson's -- I mean, I assume Nelson needs to clarify. Nelson at least speak with you guys to clarify a second time of what's going on here. SMITH: Yes, but, there again, if you're dealing with classified

information, he can't clarify potentially. He got himself in trouble. There's no question. Now Republicans are sort of implying that he's a little foggy. He's kind of a doddering old man at age 75. So that's not helping.

But again, Marco Rubio has been sounding this alarm. He didn't quite go as far as Bill Nelson has, but he's been warning election supervisors of this for some time.

[11:55:15] BOLDUAN: In a tough re-election, as you said, everything is important. This is definitely one thing that goes into the important category.

Adam Smith, it's great to see you. Adam, thanks so much.

SMITH: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: We have some breaking news right now from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. A former aide to long-time Trump adviser, Roger Stone, is defying a subpoena and refusing to appear before a grand jury. What's going on here? Details ahead.