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TAPS Helps Military Families through Loss; Utah Judge Suspended for Criticizing Trump; Four Climbers Dine on Mount Everest; Quinn's "Red State Blue State". Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 27, 2019 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Taking time on such an important day to be here.

And, Bonnie, I just want to start with you, because you say that, you know, you -- you created TAPS 25 years ago to provide these critical services to other families like yours. Like what? What's missing? What are these families craving?

BONNIE CARROLL, HUSBAND DIED IN MILITARY PLANE CRASH: Well, TAPS is a family of all of us who are grieving the loss of our military loved one. TAPS provides support around the clock. We have a 24/7 help line, grief camps for kids. We have casework assistance.

But the most important thing is connections to others who are going through the same loss that we are. It's an opportunity to find hope and healing, make new friends that last a lifetime.

CAMEROTA: And, Bonnie, was that -- was that not available to you when your husband died?

CARROLL: It wasn't. Back in the early '90s, there was no national organization to connect all of us who were grieving the loss of our military hero. But today, though TAPS, we have -- now have almost 100,000 surviving families who are coming together this Memorial Day weekend to find hope with each other.

CAMEROTA: Kylie, tell us about what this day means for you and tell us about your husband, Army Sergeant Douglas Riney.

KYLIE RINEY, HUSBAND DIED IN AFGHANISTAN: My husband, Sergeant Douglas Riney, 26 years old at the time of his death, was killed in Afghanistan, October of 2016. This day to me means that we have a chance to remember him for more than just his death. We get a chance to remember him for the dash in between the day he was born and the day he died. He's more than just a soldier that was killed.

CAMEROTA: And have you felt alone? I mean before TAPS found you, is this process for the survivors just a really -- can be a really lonely one?

RINEY: For me it was -- at the beginning it felt alone, but now we've gained such an amazing big family that if you feel alone, you just pick up a phone and call and there's somebody there 24/7. There's always going to be somebody somewhere that can be there for you.

CAMEROTA: Bonnie, that must make you feel good.

CARROLL: It does.

CAMEROTA: I mean that's exactly -- you've given help to -- as I understand it, 85,000 families. And that's exactly what you were hoping for, that nobody would have to suffer this alone.

CARROLL: And this Memorial Day --

CAMEROTA: Go ahead.

CARROLL: This Memorial Day, it's our chance to remember our heroes, remember the lives they lived, not just the fact that they died. So today we'll be at Arlington together and we'll also be at the parade, the Memorial Day Parade. And it's -- it's just a fantastic opportunity to honor those who have served and sacrificed for our nation.

CAMEROTA: Kylie, your husband died performing a guardian angel task.


CAMEROTA: What does that mean?

RINEY: So he was tasked out there pretty much like a security guard for a certain -- a person who does not have a weapon of their own to be able to protect them, like their own security detail, to be there to protect them when they're out there doing their job.

CAMEROTA: I mean your husbands obviously gave so much for our country. What can everyday Americans do for families like yours?

RINEY: Just knowing that we are grieving. We will always have moments of -- that we feel down and we're sad. And just to be there to support us, like the TAPS family does. But, unfortunately, I'm one that I don't live near a lot of TAPS family members. So being able to have our own community of people at home, too, that are there for us, just like the community of TAPS family that we have, means a lot because not only do I have people there for me, but there are people there for my children, to help me raise my kids the way that they need to be raised.

CAMEROTA: That is so valuable.

Bonnie, you were honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November of 2015. I believe we have a picture of you receiving it that day.

And so just tell us what this day means for all of the TAPS families and what the rest of us can do for them.

CARROLL: The families of our fallen are the living legacies of American service and sacrifice. On this Memorial Day, we remember the lives lived and the service given in defense of freedom and we honor those families who have also made that sacrifice. CAMEROTA: Yes, it's so important to remember the families today.

And you two are great exemplars of that.

Bonnie Carroll, Kylie Riney, thank you very much for all of your sacrifice as well.

CARROLL: Thank you.

RINEY: Thank you.

CARROLL: Thank you.

[08:35:00] CAMEROTA: John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Now, imagine hiking all the way up Mount Everest and having to wait in a line like this to reach the summit. It's been a deadly week up there. And we've got a live report from Nepal, next.


AVLON: Now, get this, a Utah judge suspended without pay for six months for criticizing President Trump online and inside his courtroom.

CNN's Scott McLean live in Denver with more.

Scott, what's the story?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, as you mentioned, it was a series of comments online and inside of his courtroom that got Judge Michael Kwan into hot water. In his defense, he argued that the First Amendment ought to apply to him as well, especially since he is a low level judge who is not deciding on national issues. But the Utah Supreme Court ruled that judges sometimes have to keep their opinions to themselves so that everyone, including the guy who might walk into court wearing a "make America great again" hat feels like they're getting a fair shake.


MCLEAN (voice over): It's not hard to find harsh criticism aimed at the president. Where you don't expect to find it is inside a courtroom. But a municipal judge in suburban Salt Lake City has been sanctioned for just that, taking public potshots at President Trump.

[08:40:10] Just days after the 2016 election, Judge Michael Kwan wrote on FaceBook, think I'll go to the shelter to adopt a cat before the president-elect grabs them all, an apparent reference to the "Access Hollywood" tape.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (2005): And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH (2005): Whatever you want. TRUMP: (2005): Grab 'em by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

MCLEAN: On Inauguration Day, Kwan wrote about his disdain for President Trump. The next month he wrote, welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover. The jabs even made it into his courtroom. Kwan once suggested a defendant not rely on his tax refund to pay fines because the president was building a wall. So if you think you're going to get taxes back this year, uh, yeah, maybe, maybe not. But, don't worry, there's a tax cut for the wealthy.

Greg Skordas is Kwan's lawyer.

GREG SKORDAS, JUDGE KWAN'S LAWYER: We had argued unsuccessfully that judges are humans too, that judges have opinions, that so long as that opinion doesn't detract from their ability to judge, to handle their cases appropriately, and doesn't detract from their credibility, they should be allowed to do that.

MCLEAN: The Utah Supreme Court disagreed, writing, Judge Kwan's behavior denigrates his reputation as an impartial, independent, dignified and courteous jurist and that his postings continue a pattern of inappropriate political commentary.

In 2005, Kwan made lewd comments in court about President Clinton's affair. In 2015 he was president of an Asian-American political advocacy group. He resigned after a judicial commission found his involvement unethical. He was publically scolded in both cases, but the supreme court felt he hadn't learned his lesson, ordering a six- month suspension without pay, a punishment Skordas called excessive.

SKORDAS: I think he feels like he's been muzzled in a way that's inappropriate, but I think he also recognizes that that's the law and he intends to abide by it.

MCLEAN: Kwan doesn't rule on national or political cases, only small claims and misdemeanors, but the court ruled that doesn't matter.

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Maybe you're a Trump supporter and you appear in front of him. You're going to feel like you weren't treated fairly because this judge had bad feelings about Trump.

And our system works because people have to have confidence in the system.


MCLEAN: Now, Kwan's lawyer says that the city that employs the judge has no obligation to rehire him after his suspension ends. So this potentially could mark the end of his career.

Now, what's interesting is that when this ruling actually came down last week, Kwan was inside of his courtroom presiding over a group of people. He did finish up his schedule for the day because there wasn't specific guidance on when the suspension was supposed to start. At this point, Kwan has no plans to appeal the ruling. He also has no plans to delete his FaceBook account, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Very interesting story. We'll see what happens at the end of this six-month suspension. Thank you very much, Scott.

All right, nine climbers, including four in just the last week, have died trying to scale Mount Everest this year. The tragedies are raising concerns that overcrowding near the summit is making the journey even more treacherous than usual.

CNN's Arwa Damon in live for us in Kathmandu, Nepal, with more.

So what's happening, Arwa?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, those images are really quite striking, especially when one takes into consideration that that enormously long line of climbers is in what's known as the death zone. And it's called that for a reason. Because your body is dying, your body is degrading because of a lack of oxygen. Every breath you take in this area only has about a third of the oxygen that you would have in a breath that you take at sea level.

And it does seems as if some climbers were well aware of the potential risks of being caught in this backlog, as it's being called, for about two to three hours. And one of them is British climber Robin Haynes Fisher, who died while he was on his way down. But prior to that he had posted to his Instagram saying, with a single route to the summit, delays caused by overcrowding could prove fatal. So I am hopeful my decision to go for the 25th will mean fewer people, unless, of course, everyone else plays the same waiting game.

Now, he is among at least nine people who died this year, this climbing season, which only lasts for a few weeks, really. And, on average, there are about five to six people who do lose their lives while they're trying to make it to the summit. But there have been a lot of criticisms about the number of climbers, their level of experience and the number of permits that the Nepalese government issued.

CAMEROTA: Arwa, can't the government issue fewer permits to avoid the overcrowding?

DAMON: I mean that is one of the options that is quite potentially out there. What a government official told us was that they do not necessarily feel that the number of permits that they issued were what contributed to this backlog. And they are saying that they are trying to implement certain regulations where a climber needs to have a certain level of experience. And they say that 600 people did make it to the summit. But unless something really fundamentally changes, experts are saying that every year we could see an even greater death toll.

[08:45:11] CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

Arwa Damon, thank you very much for being live in Kathmandu for us. Thank you.


AVLON: All right, Collin Quinn's "Red State Blue State" going off Broadway to a CNN comedy special. It premieres tonight. And Collin Quinn talks to us about it, next.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A new CNN original series poses a provocative question, is it time for the United States to become un-united and to divide into smaller countries? Comedian Colin Quinn makes the case looking at the vitriolic rhetoric and hypocrisy on both sides of the political debate.

Here's a preview.


COLIN QUINN, COMEDIAN: And I understand it's sad breaking up the United States, but we're already broken up. This would just be acknowledging it. We're already tribal. We've broken into tribes already. It's over. Liberal, conservative, white, black, Latino, Asian, Wall Street, main street, the working poor, the forgotten middle class, feminists, soccer moms, Bernie bros, Dodd (ph) bods, man tips (ph), mom jeans, muffin tops, unibrows, paleo, cardio, keto (ph), intersexual (ph) transvegans (ph). We're more tribal than 18th century Afghanistan.


[08:50:27] CAMEROTA: That's good.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now is Colin Quinn, comedian and creator of "Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State." I believe that is the full title of the special.


BERMAN: And we're going to see that on Memorial Day at 9:00 p.m.

Look, there are people laughing there. I think you raise a very important, serious question. We used to like to say there's more that unites us than divides us. Is that really true?

QUINN: Right. No. I mean I think -- I think that -- I think sometimes you need a wake-up call in this country, obviously. Only -- only the sickest people that love to fight are enjoying this country right now, you know what I mean? Nobody can be -- except if you like tension and fighting, then that's the only way you would enjoy living like in this country.

CAMEROTA: But are we hopelessly divided or is this a moment in time?

QUINN: Well, it looks like a trial separation, like a divorce. Let's trially (ph) separate, and, you know, break it up and see if we can -- if we -- if we're happier alone.

CAMEROTA: You're actually recommending we break up?

QUINN: I'm saying we have brunch with the Balkans and go, how are you guys doing these days? Like, you know what, I have less money but I'm happier. I have more of my freedom. I can be myself for a change. I don't know.

BERMAN: But, again, it gets to the issue, you know, do people in some of these blue states truly have anything in common with --

QUINN: In the red and blue states?


QUINN: Yes. well, like you say, in Cambridge and Plano, I mean, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Plano, Texas, these are different -- these are different societies, do you know what I mean?

CAMEROTA: Yes, but which one should secede? Should New York secede from --

QUINN: Both.

CAMEROTA: Everybody should secede from the union?

QUINN: No, I'm saying break up. Yes, I'm not saying --

CAMEROTA: There's no more union. Every -- you're just state by state from now, that's your --

QUINN: Well, you could do sections, I guess, you know what I mean, like the NCAA has divisions.


QUINN: But even those divisions don't really work. Suddenly you're in the big east but you're in the Midwest, you know.

BERMAN: The Big East doesn't exist anymore. That's the problem.

QUINN: I know.

BERMAN: Once they break up the Big East, it all goes to pot.

QUINN: Yes. Well, so we'll have to figure it out.

BERMAN: So what possessed you to do this?

QUINN: Because this -- you know, the same thing every -- it's what everybody's -- it's what we all feel right now, like, what's going on? Why are we -- because I just hate the way -- I -- I don't like living in a place that annoys me, you know what I mean? I'm annoyed to begin with. So, you know, then when everybody's fighting all the time, I'm like, what is this? Is this just where we're going to go? Like this is -- there's going to be every day, you know?

CAMEROTA: But how did we get so divided? I mean I know that you don't think that President Trump is the cause. He's the symptom. So how --

QUINN: He's the symptom, yes.

CAMEROTA: He's the symptom of the fact that we're all feeling sort of vitriolic and --

QUINN: When he's gone -- this is not cured when he's gone. People want it to be this one person. When he's gone, we're still going to be like this.

CAMEROTA: But how did we get like this?

QUINN: He doesn't enhance things.

CAMEROTA: He doesn't help, you're saying?


CAMEROTA: But how did we get this way? How did we get so divided?

QUINN: I mean we were all like this way from day one, 13 colonies.

CAMEROTA: Were we?

QUINN: Yes, the original Constitution convention, that's when they should have broken up.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but, I mean, obviously there were times of union. I mean there were times that we were all closer.

QUINN: I know but it's just -- you know, we're all like, ah, you know what I mean, it was a great idea and sometimes we can sort of get together, but I feel like social media made everybody realize -- see each other the way they really were. In the old days you didn't have to see everybody. Nobody had to see other people. So like, oh, yes, I heard they do that down there, but that's probably not true. And now you have to look in reality.

BERMAN: So you think it was a bad idea to begin with, this whole America thing?

QUINN: I think that we should have stayed as the confederation. Yes, I don't think -- I think the constitutional convention was a mistake.


QUINN: And I have a whole show on the Constitution, too, I did do.

CAMEROTA: Constitution, friend or foe.

OK, so we have another clip. Let's play another clip from the special.


QUINN: America, two parties still all these years later, two parties. There's 350 million people and there's two parties. There's 15 genders and there's two parties. There's four bathrooms and there's two parties.


CAMEROTA: You make a good point.

QUINN: It's so primitive. The same amount of parties as when we started with 1 million people and now there's 350 million people. And if you don't march in lockstep with one of those two parties, you're kind of a centrist, which is the new bad word. Centrist is the new extremist.

CAMEROTA: That's such a good point. It's not working. I mean I hear it all the time, just anecdotally, that the two-party system isn't working because people are cobbling together their own platform. You know, I like a little bit from here, I like a little bit from here, I like this.

QUINN: Right.

CAMEROTA: And -- but that -- no party reflects that.

QUINN: No. Exactly. And social media I feel like it -- the extremists now influence where everybody running for president or being president is like you have to go along with the most extreme, the most vitriolic, the most aggressive part of your party because social media makes them these ones that stand out.

BERMAN: So -- so your -- you call yourself a centrist more or less.


BERMAN: What's your platform? When you run for president --

QUINN: What's my platform?


QUINN: I -- I mean, that's -- you know, it's -- on what issue? I mean there's a million issues. You name one and I'll tell you.

BERMAN: Who -- after you want to divide America up again and get rid of the Constitution --

QUINN: Right.

CAMEROTA: What's your plan?

BERMAN: What's your plan?

[08:55:00] QUINN: Well, I mean, there's a lot of different parts to a plan. You guys are talking about a complex president -- you can't just say -- look, (INAUDIBLE) one issue.

CAMEROTA: I feel like you're being noncommittal. You're going to break us all up --

QUINN: No, just give me an issue and I'll tell you the platform for that part of it.

CAMEROTA: Immigration.

QUINN: All right, immigration. You take anybody that's here, anybody from a country that's here illegally, they have to trade with somebody here that we don't like that is a citizen has to go to that country.

BERMAN: How about political correctness?

QUINN: Oh, I mean that's -- you know, the comedy killer, number one. Everyone's like, oh, no, it's fine. It's like, yes, it's great, really great. People are afraid -- people are -- I was talking to people who are afraid to (INAUDIBLE) the weather they go, it's a nice sunny day, no that there's -- I'm not heliocentric, I -- there's a western construct to enjoy the sun, is also the rain is very important. Like, you're just afraid to say anything.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my God.

QUINN: Because they get fired.

CAMEROTA: Be sure to watch Colin Quinn on "Red State Blue State" tonight, 9:000 p.m. Eastern.

And we will leave you with this morning shot of the Iwo Jima Memorial, remembering our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day.

"NEWSROOM" after the break.