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President Trump Downplays North Korea Missile Tests During Japan Visit; 51 Attorneys General Ask Education Secretary To Forgive Student Loan Debts For Disabled Vets; CDC: Measles Cases Near New 25- Year High. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 28, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- to the world. We'll ask the former director of national intelligence, next.


BERMAN: President Trump is on his way back to Washington from his trip to Japan. The headline of the visit, a statement that he made that unnerved his host and put him at odds with members of his own administration. The president downplayed North Korean missile tests despite the fact that his own national security adviser says they clearly violated United Nations resolutions.

Joining me now is the former director of National Intelligence and CNN national security analyst, James Clapper.

Director, let me read you the beginning of one of the statements the president made prior to a news conference form the Japanese prime minister that really did create a problem for the president.

[07:35:05] He said, "North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promises to me."

So, these North Korean missile tests were short-range ballistic missiles, most analysts say. What do you read, first, from Kim's testing?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I think it illustrates that North Korea is going to continue any way they can to enhance their capabilities with respect to ballistic missiles.

And it also illustrates, I think, of course, the president's intentions are to cling to the hope that he's going to have some kind of deal struck with Kim Jong Un which -- to denuclearize, which I think is virtually very unlikely. I just don't think -- I don't think that's going to happen.

And I think it put Prime Minister Abe in a really awkward position because while the missiles weren't a direct threat to the United States, they certainly were a threat to Japan and Korea, not to mention, of course, the thousands of troops and their families that we have in those two countries.

So, again, this is another example of the president kind of being in his own truth bubble -- his own reality bubble when the facts are that the North Koreans tested a ballistic missile.

BERMAN: What message does it send to Kim Jong Un when the president seems to diminish this test, which his own national security adviser says violates United Nations resolutions?

CLAPPER: Well, it shows Kim Jong Un how badly President Trump wants a deal. And it also shows -- encourages Kim Jong Un, I think, to stretch the envelope further because he understands very well what President Trump wants, which is he badly wants a deal of some sort. And, Kim Jong Un is going to play that like a fiddle, I think.

And, ultimately, I don't believe the North Koreans are ever going to denuclearize. Why should they?

BERMAN: So, this was a ballistic missile -- a short-range ballistic missile, most analysts say. The president seems to be drawing a distinction, though he didn't really articulate it or can't, between the short-range ballistic missiles and maybe ICBMs or long-range.

Is there a significant difference if you're, say, Japan?

CLAPPER: Well, if you're in Japan, it's a big deal. I mean, for the United States not so much of a direct threat.

But again, as I said, this puts the Japanese, particularly when they're hosting this major state visit, in a very awkward position, particularly Prime Minister Abe himself, with his own people. And so, I think he handled it as diplomatically as he could.

But it's -- you know, once again, we have an unconventional president doing unconventional things.

BERMAN: What happens inside an administration if you're the national security adviser, John Bolton, who said the test was in violation of U.N. resolution -- if John Bolton said it was a big deal -- then to have your boss, the president, walk out on the world stage and say, nah?

CLAPPER: Well, for this administration it's another day at the office. It's not the first time this has happened and it happened to the previous national security adviser, Gen. McMaster. So, it's not a -- it's not a new thing and, unfortunately, it's become kind of normal.

BERMAN: Former national security director James Clapper, thanks so much for being with us -- appreciate it.

CLAPPER: Thanks, John.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, John, now to this story.

Dozens of states are pushing a plan to wipe out student loan debt for some veterans.

BERMAN: Also coming up, we're going to speak to one of the rescuers who saved a hiker in Hawaii lost for 17 days.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look back -- boom. I mean, as we topped the waterfall she materializes out of the trees, waving us down.



[07:43:21] CAMEROTA: A bipartisan group of attorneys general from 51 states and territories are urging Education Sec. Betsy DeVos to forgive the student loan debt of veterans who become permanently disabled while serving our country.

Joining us now is New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. His signature appears first on that letter. General Grewal, great to have you here.

Why is this so important?

GURBIR GREWAL, ATTORNEY GENERAL, NEW JERSEY: Well, Alisyn, I think as a nation, we have a moral obligation to stand up for our veterans who put their lives on the line for us -- for our safety -- and I think disabled veterans, in particular. And I think it's unconscionable that we're asking them to repay student loans.

They've risked their lives, they're totally and permanently disabled. And by statute, they have a right to have their loans discharged, and the Department of Education is not doing its part here.

CAMEROTA: Aren't there student loans of disabled veterans already forgiven by law?

GREWAL: Well, they should be, but what the Department of Education is doing is shameful. They're putting the onus on the veterans to go through a process where they're filling out applications.

They have to go provide proof of their disabilities when, in fact, we think the burden should be on the Department of Education just to automatically discharge these loans because in some cases, these veterans are so severely disabled they might not be able to complete this process or go through the process.

So, the Department of Education has the data. They have the ability to discharge these loans. And what we're saying -- a bipartisan group of now 52 of us are saying do your job, treat our veterans fairly, and discharge their loans.

CAMEROTA: The number do suggest that there's some disconnect because there are, as I understand it, 42,000 eligible veterans but only 9,000 have applied for the forgiveness. That doesn't make sense. [07:45:02] GREWAL: It makes absolutely no sense and that's why we're saying to the Department of Education you need to do more here. You have 42,000 disabled veterans who are totally and permanently disabled who have student loans who are eligible for forgiveness, and only 9,000 have applied for this forgiveness.

But what's -- the data point that's even more shocking is that you have 25,000 who are in default. These are veterans who should be eligible to have their loans discharged are in default. Their credit reports are getting damaged as a result and collection agencies are going after them. And all they have to do is just be discharged and the Department of Education can do it in on fell swoop here.

CAMEROTA: Are you getting pushback from Education Sec. DeVos?

GREWAL: Well, we haven't heard much. I saw her public statement over the weekend from the Department of Education, saying that listen, it's not as easy as they say it is -- but it is.

They have the data. They have a data-matching program with the Department of Veterans Affairs, which gives them a list of these veterans who qualify. The Department of Education can do this.

And then they're saying well, there's tax consequences. Well, we say you let it be automatic and those who have negative tax consequences -- those small number of veterans can opt out.

And that tax consequence argument is a complete red herring because federal tax law doesn't show -- treat discharge loans as income and 80 percent of the states don't do it either. So, it's a complete red herring of an argument.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it sounds like what they're saying -- what the Department of Education is saying is that there could be these sort of unintended consequences. I'll just read you their statement.


CAMEROTA: "While automatic discharge may seem like a simple solution, there are long-term impacts we want all veterans to have the chance to consider before their loans are discharged."

As you say, they think there could be tax bills or somehow making it harder to borrow for future education.

GREWAL: Again, I think that's just an argument that misses the point. You have 25,000 veterans who are in default already, whose credit ratings are being affected, who could benefit from this program.

The small number who might have negative tax consequences -- let them opt out of the program. Let's take care of the 25,000 who are in default already. Let's take care of the balance of the 42,000.

And those small number of veterans who might have negative tax consequences, let's let them opt out of this program after they have full information and let's make it easier for vets to qualify. And let's give them the respect and treat them as well as we can here.

CAMEROTA: Attorney General Grewal, thanks so much for being here. Please keep us posted --

GREWAL: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: -- with what happens with this letter. Thanks so much.

GREWAL: Thank you.


BERMAN: All right.

The number of measles cases in the United States is now approaching a high that we have not seen in a quarter century. More on where the infections are now spreading. That's next.


[07:51:45] BERMAN: The number of reported measles cases in the United States is now on the verge of hitting a 25-year high. Sixty new cases were confirmed last week, alone.

Joining us now is Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci, thanks so much for being with us.

Let me throw this up on the screen. In 1994, there were 963 cases. Through May 24th of this year, there were 940 cases. You expect that 25-year record to be shattered within days. Why?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, the reason is if you look at the rate that we're now accumulating cases over the last several weeks, it's almost inevitable that we're going to see -- that we're going to go over that 1994 mark. I would be very surprised if we don't do it reasonably soon, unfortunately.

BERMAN: And I could put up another -- unfortunately is right. And I could put up another statistic here we can show you. Twenty-six states now have these infections, some 940. And as you say, it is expected to go up.

And the reasons -- and we keep on having to talk about this -- are very simple, aren't they?

FAUCI: Well, the reasons are simple. This is completely and entirely avoidable. You get vaccinated.

If you vaccinate the community -- if you have a certain rate of vaccination at a certain level in the community you are not going to see these kinds of outbreaks, the most dramatic of which is going in New York City in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, which is really extraordinary. More than 500 individuals have been infected with measles purely because people are not vaccinating their children or keeping up with their own vaccinations.

BERMAN: In Maine, one of the reasons that people aren't being vaccinated is for religious reasons. There are pockets of extremely Orthodox Jewish communities that aren't doing it in these areas, and there are other pockets around the country for other various reasons why they're not doing it.

But in Maine, the governor has just instituted a new regulation -- one of very few states to do so. As governor, she says, "It's my responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Maine people, and it has become clear that our current laws do not adequately protect against the risks posed to Mainers."

She's essentially said you can no longer take a religious exemption from getting the measles vaccine. Is that what it's going to take to eradicate measles once again?

FAUCI: You know, it's going to be certainly a number of ways that we hopefully can do that, mostly be getting correct information to people who are misinformed about measles vaccines, particularly in the area that they cause events such as autism, which is completely not the case.

But with regard to religious exemptions, if you look carefully there are precious few religions that officially do say you shouldn't be vaccinated. In fact, in some of the Jewish communities some of the rabbis, themselves, are saying no, it should not be a religious exemption for this.

So, the people who claim religious exemptions often are just doing it on their own and it really is more of a philosophical than a religious problem.

BERMAN: You said one of the big issues is getting the correct information out there and maybe that will help. Again, I want to say it. Measles was eradicated in the United States but is now not because people have stopped taking the vaccine at the same levels that they were. So, get the correct information out there.

Let me give you 30 seconds here to tell people what they need to know about their perceived risk of getting the measles vaccine.

[07:55:00] FAUCI: Well, they need to get their children vaccinated. When you have about 93 to 95 percent of the community vaccinated you get a shield of what we call herd immunity. It does not give a virus when it enters the community the capability of spreading in an outbreak.

Once you get below a certain level of vaccination like we've seen in certain communities, when someone comes in from the outside who's infected, that's when you get the kinds of outbreaks that we're seeing in New York City, which is totally avoidable.

BERMAN: Totally avoidable and it's worth reminding people you can get very, very sick from getting the measles.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate it.

FAUCI: Good to be with you.

BERMAN: Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: OK, John, now to this.

A law that's been around for a quarter of a century is now a hot topic in the 2020 race. So what effect did the 1994 crime bill have on America and its prisons?

John Avlon has our reality check. Hi, John.


All right. So, look, Donald Trump and Bill de Blasio don't agree on much, but they both took shots at Joe Biden this holiday weekend because of his support for the 1994 crime bill.

On Memorial Day, Trump tweeted that, quote, "Anyone associated with the 1994 crime bill will not have a chance of being elected."

And the day before, de Blasio fired off a similar attack from the left on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That crime bill was one of the foundations of mass incarceration in a very painful era in our nation's history. The vice president and anyone else has to be accountable for every vote they take and what's on their record, and I think that was a huge mistake.


AVLON: Let's cut through the spin and look at the facts.

The '94 crime bill was signature legislation from the Clinton era. And at the time, 37 percent of Americans said crime was the most important problem facing the country, outranking issues like health care, unemployment, and the economy.

And there was reason for concern. Violent crime had been on the rise since at least the 1970s, with a major spike in the late 80s and early 90s, according to the FBI.

And as you can see here, the crime bill accelerated the cut in violent crime significantly and it's a decline that's been sustained, saving thousands upon thousands of lives.

And it was controversial at the time. Liberals said it was too tough on crime and punishment with three strikes you're out and mandatory sentencing. Well, conservatives criticized it for its prevention strategies like midnight basketball. In the end, the bill passed on a narrow bipartisan basis. But given that New York City's the hometown of Trump and de Blasio,

let's take a closer look at Big Apple homicide rates and you can see they steadily rose for decades, hitting an all-time high of 2,245 in 1990 during the Dinkins administration in which de Blasio, incidentally, served.

So, when Mayor de Blasio, today, talks about a very painful era in our city, a city suffering over 2,000 murders a year -- well, that certainly would qualify. But that began to decline, especially after 1994 in New York and it's continued to decline to the point where there have been under 400 murders per year since 2013.

So, if de Blasio sells that he's leading America's safest big city, it's that way in large part because of the crime bill that he now calls a huge mistake.

But what about the core accusation that the bill led to mass incarceration? Well, as this graph shows, incarceration had actually been going up since the 1970s with the biggest jump by far in state prisons thanks to mandatory drug minimums.

So, when Joe Biden says the bill did not generate mass incarceration he's right in the narrow sense that only 10 percent of the people incarcerated in America serve time in federal prisons. But the total number of people in prison did increase overall and impacted a disproportionate number of people from non-white communities.

Look, Donald Trump deserves credit for helping push through criminal justice reform late last year. But he was famously tough on crime in the 1990s, attending a meeting in support of Bill Clinton's bill and even called for the death penalty for the so-called "Central Park Five" who were later found to be innocent.

Now, none of that stopped him in 2016 from running a super predator ad criticizing Hillary Clinton, designed to decrease African-American turnout, a thing which some Russian-back social media ads amplified.

But here's the bottom line. Since the passage of the 1994 crime bill we've seen a dramatic decrease in violent crimes in our country. At the same time, mandatory minimum sentences, particularly for non- violent drug offenses, jailed a generation from communities of culture -- color at a disproportionate rate.

The lesson is that every generation's reforms have unintended consequences and excesses that need to be reformed by the next generation, but that doesn't mean they weren't needed at the time.

And that's your reality check.

BERMAN: All right, John. Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Very helpful, John. Thank you.

BERMAN: We do have breaking news out of Ohio. NEW DAY continues right now.


JOSHUA THOMAS, TORNADO SURVIVOR: The next I know, windows was breaking and I heard a lot of debris flying around and it's really terrible.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Two tornadoes ripping through Ohio overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All 77 counties in Oklahoma now under a state of emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing like when you can see that devastation in person. It's just unbelievable.

RIZZA ALEE, MOUNTAIN CLIMBER: It has become a death race there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The weather this year was the most bizarre weather since 2004.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The two governments that run the mountain really aren't regulating the industry at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Nepalese government is saying that to say that this was because of a backlog is baseless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you run out of oxygen above 26,000 feet, it's a deadly consequence.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome.