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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Reverses Obama's Coal Plant Regulations; Cory Booker Proposes Commission to Study U.S. Reparations for Slavery; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Compares Southern Border Detention to Concentration Camps. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 19, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:03] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right. So this really matters.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes.

HARLOW: This is just in, a big development from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Trump administration, moments ago, revealed it has officially put in place its final rule that will overturn an Obama-era effort to regulate coal-fired power plants.

SCIUTTO: It's about greenhouse emissions. They're being lifted, these limits. Tom Foreman, following the details.

So tell us what was in the rule, and now it's no longer the rule.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, simply put, the Obama administration through the EPA was trying to say we as a nation must move away from coal-fired plants. That's one of the chief causes of the particulate in the environment that is leading to global warming. So they said we have to move away from that, we have to move toward clean power.

Essentially what the Trump administration has said today, is "You know, the EPA overstepped here. The federal government has no right to tell everybody to do all of this. States should handle this on their own and they can come up with their own variety of rules to possibly regulate this to any certain degree."

The bottom line is, if you're an environmentalist out there, for sure. But also a lot of moderate voters out there who are concerned about climate change, this would be a loss for them, a step in the opposite direction, to say, "No, we're going back to coal-fired. That's perfectly fine. We're not worried about that or we're very little worried about this."

And of course, that's in keeping with one of President Trump's campaign promises, when he kept telling people in coal country, "Coal's going to be just fine. We're moving ahead with coal, coal's going to be a great thing going into the future."

SCIUTTO: But, Tom, aren't the economics of this already moving away from coal, right? I mean, isn't this fighting just the reality, right? Beyond --

FOREMAN: Sure.

SCIUTTO: -- any desire to keep the planet from warming.

FOREMAN: Sure. It's fighting the reality of that, and it's fighting the reality of where we're going in the future. I think there are plenty of economic analysts who would say it is a bad bet to keep hanging onto an industry that is on the decline when you could be connected to those that are on the incline. New types of power, new developments in power.

But you've got to bear in mind, a lot of the president's support came from regions of the country that have struggled a good deal in recent years. He wants to say, for political reasons, "You're going to be OK," even if the long-term consequences of that may not be so good for everyone else.

HARLOW: Look, and if your job relies on coal, obviously --

FOREMAN: Sure. Absolutely.

HARLOW: -- you know, you want to keep that job. And we understand that.

FOREMAN: It's a good day for you if you're that person.

HARLOW: I would -- I would just note, Tom Foreman, just to reiterate something that you pointed out, that under President Obama, the EPA's own analysis showed that implementing these Obama-era rules would have prevented 3,600 premature deaths a year --

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

HARLOW: -- and 1,700 heart attacks and 90,000 asthma attacks. And now those are being reversed.

FOREMAN: And those numbers all go the wrong direction now.

HARLOW: Yes. OK.

SCIUTTO: So it's about greenhouse gases, it's also about keeping you alive. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Another American has died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. And this morning, his family is demanding answers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:41] SCIUTTO: A New Jersey man has become the ninth American tourist in 13 months to die suddenly while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.

HARLOW: Yes. This is 55-year-old Joseph Allen. He was found dead last Thursday in his hotel room. His family is left, searching for answers about what could have happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON ALLEN, BROTHER DIED IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: I don't believe it was something that was intentional, per se. But there's something that's off. I have no reason to believe -- my brother was very healthy, just got a clean bill of health from his physician. And I have no reason to believe that he just dropped dead for no reason.

We'd like to get some kind of testing done on American soil by American doctors to help us to understand what could have been the cause of my brother's death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Rosa Flores joins us with the very latest from Santo Domingo.

I mean, Rosa, it was just a week ago, we were talking to you about another American couple --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: -- that had died in the Dominican Republic. What is the government saying?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, you're absolutely right. There are so many questions and we've been pushing for answers on those questions.

In regards to this particular case, we're learning more from the family. As you mentioned, the family, telling CNN that Joseph Allen, the man of 55 years of age from New Jersey, was a regular at this resort in the northern part of this country, so much so that the staff called him by name, they welcomed him by name. And on that ill-fated day on June 13th, it was the staff that found him dead.

Now, the hotel is not commenting and as you mentioned, there are at least nine deaths of Americans here in this country, that we've been following that we know of. And from talking to both Dominican Republic authorities and authorities in the United States, they both believe that the cases are isolated, that they are not related.

Now, in relation to Joseph Allen, we obtained a copy of the preliminary autopsy report. And that report shows that Allen suffered from cardiac arrest, and that his body did not show signs of violence, either internally or externally.

So, Poppy and Jim, we continue to push for answers here. But at the end of the day, what we're hearing from authorities at this point in time is that all of these cases are isolated and that they are not related.

[10:40:00] HARLOW: OK. Rosa Flores, we're glad you're down there reporting on it, though. And our thoughts, of course, are with his family. Thank you very much. Right now on Capitol Hill, Senator Cory Booker is testifying about a

hearing focusing on reparations for descendants of slaves. This as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he opposes the idea. Ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:45:15] HARLOW: All right. Moments ago, 2020 presidential candidate and Senator Cory Booker testified on Capitol Hill about a commission to study and make reparations to descendants of slaves.

Booker introduced a bill to that effect this spring. It is the first of its kind in the Senate. He has 12 co-sponsors. This comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he opposes reparations, when asked about it by a reporter this week. Here's what McConnell said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yes. I don't think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, for whom none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea. It would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: -- talk about this with op-ed columnist for "The New York Times" and CNN political commentator, Charles Blow.

Good morning to you.

CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.

HARLOW: Thanks for being here. So Cory Booker also talked about this on a radio show on Sirius XM this morning. He called McConnell's statement ignorant. He said, "It's ignorant to think that this is somehow about compensation and writing a check to somebody."

TEXT: Booker on McConnell's Remarks: "It's a tremendous amount of ignorance in that statement... one of the big strikes of ignorance he said is that somehow this is about a compensation... writing a check to somebody, and reducing the urgency of this conversation to simply that. That alone is problematic."

HARLOW: Because the issue of -- all that Booker's bill is asking to do is to study this issue.

BLOW: Right, right. Exactly. But look, let's say this up-front though. It's not -- it doesn't preclude writing checks. I mean, I think people get really tied up into knots about, "Oh, we can't do that because, you know, that would be wrong."

What that -- America's done that forever. I mean, we have given away land. At this very same time that slaves are being freed, America by an act of Congress was literally giving away thousands of acres of land in the West and Midwest, to white peasants from Europe. Right? Like, we do this. That -- when we want to give someone an economic floor, we do this. As a country, we do this.

And people have, across the world, paid reparations for horrors. The Jews have gotten it from Germany. South Africa did it for their black population. People wrote checks. That's not -- it doesn't preclude that.

I do believe the idea of studying what best way is to do it, is proper. And maybe checks won't be the right way to do it. But the idea of not studying it --

HARLOW: Right.

BLOW: -- seems insane.

HARLOW: There are many other things that could be done. For example, more scholarships, more job opportunities, more apprenticeship -- I mean, there's a host of things, right? That aren't being considered.

I should note, I'd be remiss not to note what day today is, right?

BLOW: It's Juneteenth, right.

HARLOW: It's Juneteenth, Emancipation Day. Celebrates the freedom, the independence, finally, of African-Americans from slavery. And you look at the polling -- "Fox News" poll recently, this was in April -- showed 32 percent of Americans strongly favor this. It's not a majority, but it's getting a lot more conversation on --

BLOW: Right.

TEXT: Should U.S. Pay Cash Reparations to Descendants of Slaves? Favor, 32 percent; Oppose, 60 percent

HARLOW: -- on the trail, right?

BLOW: Right. Absolutely.

HARLOW: And these Democratic candidates, I bet you they're going to be asked about it in the upcoming debate here --

BLOW: Right, right.

HARLOW: Where do you think this goes?

BLOW: I mean, I hope it -- I hope they do establish some commission just to think it through. And I think -- one thing that McConnell was doing is being intentionally obtuse.

This is very -- personal guilt is separate from societal responsibility. In addition to that, it's not about America's -- only about America's original sin, not only about something that happened 150 years ago. It is also about all the things that America did -- the local, state and federal governments did -- in America, to -- to oppress black people --

HARLOW: Right. BLOW: -- to prevent them from acquiring, accumulating --

HARLOW: Right.

BLOW: -- and transferring intergenerational --

HARLOW: Wealth.

BLOW: -- wealth, I mean, for -- I mean --

HARLOW: Right. Jim Crow, voting rights violations --

BLOW: Jim --

HARLOW: -- have come far later than emancipation of slaves.

BLOW: You name it. I mean, just -- with the last 50 years in Chicago, right? So black people flee the South, go to the Northwest in the Great Migration. People -- white people in Chicago basically say, you know, "We don't want you here."

And they set up what they call covenants, what do you call them. Real estate covenants, which basically says, "I'll sell you this property but you've got to guarantee that you won't ever sell it to a black person."

At the height of that, like, 80 percent of the properties in Chicago were governed by that. That means that the government is complicit --

HARLOW: Yes.

BLOW: -- and when that case when to the Supreme Court, which is part of the government -- people don't think of it as part of the government -- they said, "OK, that's OK."

HARLOW: Take a moment and just listen a little bit more to McConnell here. Because here's what he argues America has done in the wake of slavery. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL: We've, you know, tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a Civil War, by passing landmark Civil Rights legislation. We elected an African-American president. I think we are always a work in progress in this country. But no one currently alive was responsible for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:50:00] HARLOW: It's important to note, McConnell was the one who also said the single-most important thing for Republicans to do was to make President Obama a one-term president.

BLOW: Right, right, right. But everything -- nothing he said there was -- repaired anything, right? The fighting of the Civil War didn't repair anything. In fact, as soon as -- the year that the Civil War ended, the KKK blossomed. It was founded.

And then you had Reconstruction. But liberals in the government basically abandoned the idea of reconstruction, right? In the compromise -- it was in 1877, that settled the election of 1876. They just said, "OK, fine. We'll just pull all the federal troops out of the South." They knew exactly what was going to happen. The federal government knew exactly what was going to happen in the South.

And so those Southern states then rushed to call constitutional conventions. And they were not shy about what they were doing. They said, "We are here" -- I've been reading the minutes of these because I'm writing a new book about it, reading the minutes of these -- "we are here to establish white supremacy in this state."

And Mississippi does it, and then it just spreads through state after state after state. And the federal government sits back and says, "OK, it's happening and we're not going to do anything about it."

HARLOW: And we know where race relations are. Even given the fact that Barack Obama was president. We're going to keep talking about this. I think the candidates will as well, and I appreciate you being here.

BLOW: Certainly.

HARLOW: I think you might write your column on this today, my friend. It sounds like you might. Thank you, Charles. We appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: This is just a fascinating conversation.

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now under fire for comparing ICE detention camps on the U.S. southern border to concentration camps. How she is defending that description, today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:05] HARLOW: All right. So this morning, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is standing by her use of the term "concentration camps" to describe migrant detention centers along the U.S. southern border. Listen to what she told her followers this week on an Instagram Live.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): The United States is running concentration camps on our southern border. And that is exactly what they are. They are concentration camps.

I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not -- and never again -- do ph) something.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Now, some critics have slammed the use of that term, "concentration camps," for invoking the Holocaust. But the New York Democrat says she's actually comparing the situation to internment camps where Japanese-Americans were held during World War II. Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill.

What sort of reaction have you heard from other lawmakers including lawmakers in her own party?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first and foremost, we have seen, Jim, conservatives quickly jump on those comments, up here on Capitol Hill. You saw that notable back-and- forth between her and Congresswoman Liz Cheney last night over Twitter.

And the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, just a few minutes up here on the Hill, he called for the congresswoman to apologize. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I think Congresswoman AOC needs to apologize. Not only to the nation, but to the world. She does not understand history. She does not understand what's going on at the border at the same time.

But there is no comparison. And to actually say that is really embarrassing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: Now, while Republicans continue to drill down on those comments and criticize her for them, the congresswoman is defending herself and standing by what specific words she said and what the meaning of those words, she believes, it meant to encapsulate. Here's what she said to my colleague Manu Raju last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OCASIO-CORTEZ: There is a very clear academic consensus on what constitutes a concentration camp. And that is the mass detention of a community of people without a trial or due process. I think it's pretty universally not controversial to say that the administration is doing exactly that, and meets the academic requirement for what a concentration camp is.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're not comparing this to what happened in World War II?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: No, no. I -- while concentration camps were employed during that time, concentration camps were also utilized in a wide -- all over the world, including in the United States with the Japanese internment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: Now, her comments and the controversy it's created has certainly created a moment with the House Democratic leadership, having to answer questions, again, for something that this freshman congresswoman had said. [10:59:55] And just a few minutes ago, Hakeem Jeffries, the House

Democratic Caucus chairman, he seemed a little out of sorts, answering that question. He said he's unfamiliar with the context in which she made that comment. But he said it's obvious that inhumanity is taking.