Return to Transcripts main page
CNN RIGHT NOW
Prosecutors Plan to Move Paul Manafort to Notorious Rikers Island; Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) Discusses Republicans Trying to Stop Trump's Mexico Tariffs, Balanced Budget Legislation, John Brennan's Security Clearance; Sources: "Executed" North Korean Envoy Is Still Alive. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 4, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] LORENZO STEELE JR, FORMER CORRECTIONS OFFICER AT RIKERS ISLAND & AUTHOR: Well, if you can imagine being free one day and you wake up and you have to go serve time. That's means you're going to be away from your loved ones, you friends, the day-to-day operations of going to the store, going to the movies, being able to, you know, go in the refrigerator and get something cold to drink.
Now you'll be confined to a -- to a cell sometimes eight feet-by-six feet and locked there for 24 hours. And that refrigerator that used to have liberties at home, it now because the actual toilet boil.
And those are some of the conditions that, you know, definitely affects you mentally and physically for anyone that serves in solitary confinement.
And I worked in solitary confinement when I was in C-74 on Rikers Island and the conditions and the inhumane treatment among the staff and the detainees was something I'll never forget.
And I talk about that in my book, "Behind These Prison Walls, Inside Rikers Island." It's a place that -- it's the last on earth, you know, that anyone needs to go through.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: He has been, up until now, in a minimum- security facility in Pennsylvania, which I'm assuming is very different from this experience that you describe in Rikers Island.
He's also, Manafort, we've seen him coming from court. He does not seem to be in as good a health as he used to be. When you're talking about deteriorating physically and mentally being in solitary in Rikers for 23 hours a day, what did you witness in inmates who were in that situation?
STEELE: Well, it depends -- it depended on the office that was actually assigned to that unit. There were days I worked inside solitary confinement in Rikers Island. And if you can imagine young inmates, 16, 17, 18 years old banging on their cell phones, sometimes, eight straight hours because they're trying to get out.
A lot of people don't realize the mental effects that solitary confinement has on the mind. If you can imagine the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other side and both are trying to jostle for positions of your soul. Many people are never the same once they are locked in solitary confinement.
KEILAR: And Rikers is known for especially harsh conditions, I should say, fights, prison guards who increasingly, over recent years, have been using more force. A lot of mental illness, almost half of the inmate population.
How important, even though solitary is so physically and mentally taxing, is solitary confinement important to protect Paul Manafort? Can you imagine him being part of the general prison population?
STEELE: That word "protect." Solitary confinement will protect him from the general population, but it won't protect him mentally and physically for, you know, the effects that it has on a detainee's mental, and their soul.
But, you know, what about the other detainees that are on Rikers Island who don't have those privileges to be -- you know, he'll get some extra privileges than the average general population --
KEILAR: Like what?
STEELE: Maybe he might be able to use the phone a little extra. You know, little things like -- he will be taken care of. But, basically, they just want to get him, you know, back and forth to court so he can do his time being the high profile. They don't want nothing happen to him while on Rikers Island.
But solitary confinement will protect him from the other violence and abuse that takes place daily on Rikers Island.
KEILAR: Lorenzo, thank you so much. Lorenzo Steele Jr.
STEELE: Thank you for having me.
KEILAR: He was thought to have been executed, and CNN now believes that this North Korean envoy is, in fact, very much alive.
[13:34:09] Also, a pastor who prayed for President Trump is now explaining himself. Hear why.
KEILAR: President Trump doubled down today on his threat to slap new tariffs on Mexico. Congressional Republicans are trying to figure what, if anything, they can do about it. The president says the tariffs will take effect next week and the Republicans would be foolish to try and block them.
The president is calling for a 5 percent tariff if Mexico doesn't stem the flow of migrants entering the U.S. And these tariffs would increase by 5 percent each month going up to 25 percent in October.
Let's talk to Republican Senator Rand Paul, who is with us from Capitol Hill. Sir, thank you so much for being on with us.
And you said in an earlier interview that tariffs are a tax on American people. That's how you see tariffs generally. And you said this is an abuse of the emergency system. This isn't what it was supposed to be for. What are you looking at in terms of options for blocking the tariffs?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Well, my understanding is that in order to use this emergency power, that there will be a privileged vote. A privileged vote means it can't be blocked and anyone can demand it. I think there will end up being a vote on this. And I really do think that there may be enough numbers of people who think that we shouldn't be allowing one person to make this decision, that we actually may have enough to override a veto on this.
[13:40:06] So I think it sends a bad signal when we're trying to get a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, which the Trump administration has actually been successful with, that then to go back and say, oh, by the way, we'll heap on other tariffs outside. I think this goes a long way towards destroying the trade deal that they were so proud of.
KEILAR: When the president says, if Republicans look for a way to block this, as you just described, he says they would be foolish. What do you say to that?
PAUL: One of the things that I talked a lot about the under President Obama was the separation of powers, that Congress as a check and balance on the president. I believe that equally so for a Republican or a Democrat president.
So, yes, James Madison, our founding fathers, one of the incredible things they set up was that all the power wouldn't be located in one place, that we'd have checks and balances.
And so really, tariffs, laws, have to originate with Congress. And I think you can't just declare emergencies on spending, on tariffs, also on arm sales. They are now saying that they are going to sell arms to Saudi Arabia despite the objections of Congress.
And so I think what you may be finding, if we try to run government by emergency, is it may solidify opposition.
Even people like myself, who are largely supportive of President Trump, largely supportive of his initiatives, I can't be for letting the president have all the power that the Constitution gave to Congress.
KEILAR: You introduced, as you do, from time to time, a plan that would balance the budget. This is a measure that would balance the budget in five years. But it was defeated by the Senate on a procedural vote. It was 22-69. So that is a lot of Republican opposition, in addition to Democratic opposition.
In other times, Republicans, your party has been so animated by tackling spending. Why not now?
PAUL: Well, the interesting thing is the Democrats don't pretend to think that they are going to support reducing spending or anything like that to control deficits.
Republicans actually do profess to care about the deficit. They go home, they campaign for it. So it's disappointing to me that over half of the Republicans will not vote to balance the budget.
Even though most of them actually voted in 2012 for a balanced budget amendment that requires the budget to be balanced in five years. I gave them an opportunity to vote for a budget that balances in five years and less than half the Republicans signed on to it.
So it's this kind of hypocrisy, I think, that alarms people at home and infuriates people at home, particularly when they say the candidate says, oh, I care about the deficit, I'm going to vote to cut spending, and then when push comes to shove, they actually don't.
KEILAR: I want to ask you, because you've been such a -- you've been really a critic of John Brennan, who has been a critic of President Trump. You've not been a big fan of his. You said that. He's the former CIA director under President Obama.
What do you think about this recent "New York Times" story that Brennan still has his security clearance? This was such a big, I guess, promise of the president, demand of the president. He said he was going to pull it, and he still that is.
PAUL: Well, this is what worries me. People talk about the Deep State. Now, the Deep State is actually protecting their own and not listening to the president's orders.
I was sitting in the White House when President Trump said, I want his security clearance taken, and I saw the order given. I saw the chief of staff was there, not current chief of staff, the previous chief of staff.
And if they are working against the odds of the president, that really does disrupt our country, does disrupt a representative democracy where the president makes a decision, and if someone is countermanding that, I think we need to get to the bottom of that. And I hope President Trump will say, who is countermanding my orders. I said get rid of his clearance.
And I do think Brennan has been a partisan. And I think Brennan also abused his office in developing the Trump investigation. I think it was done under false pretenses and done for political reasons.
KEILAR: Senator Rand Paul, thank you so much for talking to us.
PAUL: Thank you.
KEILAR: Still ahead, the royal treatment continues for the president. He'll be hosting a dinner for Prince Charles as we get new details on the royal gift exchanged. [13:44:10] And just in, Vice President Joe Biden has some words for
the other Democratic candidates as they criticize his record and his run for president.
KEILAR: In a CNN exclusive, we're learning that North Korea's special envoy to the U.S., Kim Kyok-Chol, is not dead as previously reported in South Korean media. He's still alive, but he is in custody. He is under investigation for his role in the failed Hanoi summit with President Trump. This is according to several sources who are familiar with the situation.
Chol, a South Korean newspaper reported last week, that the top diplomat had been executed in March from being recruited by imperialists and betraying the Supreme Court leader.
One source said that the news was wrong.
We have Balbina Hwang with us to talk all of this out. She's a former adviser to the U.S. State Department, including Ambassador Christopher Hill, when he was negotiating with North Korea.
[13:50:04] So Kim Jong-Chol is alive. That is significant. And it's also important to point out, Kim Jong-Un is still very unhappy with him. What do you make of this news?
DR. BALBINA HWANG, FORMER ADVISOR, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, we think that Kim Jong-Un is unhappy with him.
KEILAR: We think.
HWANG: That's correct. And this is precisely the problem. We never quite know exactly what is going on in North Korea. Now, of course, North Korea is possibly the single most opaque regime in the world.
But I think fundamentally this gets to the issue of we should be very, very careful when we make all of these assumptions about what the North Korean leader is thinking and what is going on in this regime.
This comes down to what is a very common error that almost all of us, including myself, we all make. And it's called mirror-imaging problem or the mis-attribution problem. And that is very often we assign our very own assumptions to the North Korean regime. And we simply can't do that.
In other words, we --
KEILAR: What assumptions have been assigned here?
HWANG: Well, in other words, because we know very little about North Korea, and North Korea thinks in a way completely different from us, we often think everything that North Korea does is about us. And that we assign all our own motives and how we behave to North Korea. KEILAR: So why would North Korea then want to project an image --
assuming this news did come from North Korea, is that a safe assumption? If your assuming that North Korea wanted there to be some sort of perception, internally or externally, that these envoys got in trouble, what does that tell you.
HWANG: Well, that's the problem. We don't know if that is the message that North Korea wanted us to actually --
KEILAR: What message might they want?
HWANG: Well, first of all, we do know that North Korea wants us to feel threatened. And we do know that North Korea wants us to be confused. We know that for certain.
On the other hand, this news that these top envoys of Kim Jong-Un came from South Korean sources and they came from other Asian sources, as they usually do. And they're often very wrong.
So the lesson is we have to always be very, very careful where the sources come from and not jump to conclusions.
KEILAR: That is a very good point.
And Kim Jong-Un had sent a letter to President Trump. I want to mention this. Another diplomat, Kim Jong-Chol, the man you see delivering this to Trump, he had been sent to a concentration camp, is our understanding. And then we see him pop up in a picture that was released by the North Korean government. And so the same thing we're talking about.
I do want to ask you about something President Trump said, which is that he thinks Kim will honor his promise not to fire any more longer- range rockets. And yet, you look at the rhetoric coming from North Korea, very sharp. Is there any shot here at some sort of progress or are the wheels entirely off?
HWANG: Here is the one thing that is interesting. We have, for the first time, two leaders of North Korea and the United States, who are actually behaving very similarly.
By the way, this is -- neither of these leaders - well, Kim Jong-Un is not the crazy leader that everybody portrays him to be, despite popular culture. And he's actually not that unpredictable.
This is a leader that is very, very brutal. Let's be very clear. However, and he does have a history of purging all of his top advisers and he does not trust anybody.
Now, our U.S. president also apparently does not trust most of his advisers. And in the past two and a half years that he's been in office, most of his top advisers have also left office. These --
KEILAR: Different circumstances. (CROSSTALK)
KEILAR: But I see what you're saying.
HWANG: Yes. And these two leaders are also showing that they do not actually rely on their negotiators, really, that they are only willing to deal with each other person to person.
KEILAR: So are you saying that, if there's -- if there could be movement towards just a one-on-one meeting that would be --
HWANG: Well, and they've already met twice and the two leaders are -- they apparently have a very good relationship and, thus far, since this very, very high rhetoric --.
KEILAR: But, Balbina, look at what is happening. I mean -- just really quickly, before I let you go, what is your status check on where things are?
HWANG: Well, the point is, since the high rhetoric of the Rocket Man and the firing, it is quite true, actually, that we have not had any of the long-range threatening missile launches.
So I say, let's put aside all of the speculation. And what is most important are the actual actions. So until Kim Jong-Un starts firing off the long-range missiles, directed at the United States, and more nuclear tests, I say let's give it a chance. That is all we can do.
[13:55:11] KEILAR: All right, Balbina Hwang, thank you.
HWANG: Thank you.
KEILAR: Just ahead, Joe Biden has a message for his competitors who are criticizing him.
Plus, an American couple vacationing in Fiji die from a mysterious illness and now the CDC is involved.
[14:00:06] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. And you're watching CNN. Thank you for joining me.
President Trump is praising Brexit hardliner, Boris Johnson.