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At This Hour

LA City Councilman Under Fire For Racist Comments Speaks To CNN; Federal Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough; Today: Biden To Sign Sam-Sex, Interracial Marriage Into Law. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You -- be without the consent of the council for more than 60 days. Your attendance on Friday to that council meeting was either -- depending on how you count it, either exactly the 60-day mark or just before? Now, you said you wanted to return to get back to work but is that also why you showed up in order to avoid a fight over your seat?

KEVIN DE LEON, CITY COUNCIL, LOS ANGELES: No because -- no because today, for example, we have a council meeting and I'll be attending the council meeting today as well. Let me be very clear. 90 to 95 percent of the work for the City Council in Los Angeles is actually done with city departments and city heads. And that's what I've been exactly doing with me and my staff, who have -- who have been wonderful during this very difficult time.

We've received a tremendous amount of support from the committee and that's why it continued to serve. I continue to serve because you know the stories that you just talked about with regards to inflation and how it's impacted, especially disproportionate communities of color, the district I represented, by far and large, is a Latino immigrant community.

I am the epicenter for homelessness, not just in the city of LA, but nationwide. And that's why I continue to serve because folks have been struggling, especially during the post-pandemic, as well as a threat of being evicted because of the eviction moratorium that will soon be lifted in the City of Los Angeles.

BOLDUAN: And so, just so everyone out there understands, and I know you know this, every leader involved in this scandal, either including the now former council president, they're all -- they've all resigned or are leaving because of the mess that this has created. Why are you not resigning?

I know you say you still have work to do but other members -- the points that the council members are making still today about this whole thing is that they say that the city cannot heal if you are still there, and one member saying that your continued presence on the council is causing severe and ongoing harm.

DE LEON: Well, let me say this, Kate, and let me be very clear about this. In a democracy, the voters make the decision, not folks who are in the peanut gallery or political pundits, or even my own colleagues. You know, tens of millions of Americans go to work every single day with folks that they don't like. But you know what they do every morning? They get up and they go to work. And they don't have the luxury perhaps if some folks to when they want to walk out.

I'm here to do the business of my constituents and that's what I've worked for tirelessly. And that's what I'm going to continue to do. I can you this and I want to underscore and emphasize the following. If you don't think I'm profoundly sorry, you know, for participating in that meeting or for not standing up and shutting that meeting down and shutting down the vitriolic comments from the then-president of the council who did eventually resign, that's something I'm forever will be sorry for. And that's why I'm having the constructive conversations and dialogue with folks outside the community.

BOLDUAN: You're also -- but part of that just -- I totally understand but it wasn't -- you weren't -- it wasn't just that you didn't stand up, you also took part in the conversation. I mean in it, you said you compared the young black child of a fellow Councilman to being an accessory like a luxury handbag.

DE LEON: Well, let me give this some context because one thing I really wished that the media did was to provide context and sort of. It was much more nuanced, just general comments. Now, then council president --

BOLDUAN: I mean I can -- I can play it for them and we don't need to -- I mean --

DE LEON: No, I know. Yes.

BOLDUAN: Let's play -- then, let everybody hear what you said. Hear it. Let me play this.

DE EON: But what I wanted to say -- well.

BOLDUAN: Let's wait.


RON HERRERA, PRESIDENT, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FEDERATION OF LABOR: This kid, the one you investigated for them.


DE LEON: Yes. No, you let me know if you (INAUDIBLE)

MARTINEZ: Speaking in a foreign language.

DE LEON: Speaking in a foreign language.

MARTINEZ: Remember? Well, look like he go -- it's like -- it's an accessory. When we do the MLK parade --

DE LEON: Just like when --

HERRERA: We use to have those statues in the plantation, didn't they?



DE LEON: And when Nurry brings her Goyard bag or Louis Vuitton bag.


BOLDUAN: I mean, you have said in subsequent interviews and you say you're profoundly sorry that you have failed in leadership and accept responsibility.


BOLDUAN: But what exactly was -- is the mis -- what exactly was the mistake that you made that you are apologizing for?

DE LEON: Well, obviously that was a -- it was -- I shouldn't have said what I said because it was actually a comment was -- I was criticizing actually Councilwoman Nurry Martinez for her pension for luxury handbags you know. And it's again, you know, I'm apologetic. I shouldn't have said that you know clearly. And I've apologized to Mike Bonin and as well as his family.

It's something that you know, I shouldn't have said you know and I apologize for that. It was my inartful way of criticizing then council president woman, Nurry Martinez for a pension for luxury handbags.

BOLDUAN: Before we -- before I let you go. I did want to ask you because you're on tape -- you're on tape making fun of my colleague's young black child when there's a racist conversation that's occurring. That colleague is a fellow Democrat. Now, still considers you, in his words, are a vile racist is how he puts it, Councilman.

You've been absent from the committee since October. The council meetings have been shut down multiple times over this scandal due to committee members -- community members protesting and the committee not being able to operate, the council.


And then last week, you got into a physical fight. No matter who started it and I know there is a video that has come out to show how serious the altercation did become. But you got into a fight then on Friday with an activist. If this was anyone else, would you say that the person I just described is serving their community well?

DE LEON: No. Let me say this, Kate. It's -- that's not the person who I am. Let me underscore that. I have a body in the history of progressive, you know, policies that have improved the human condition for all individuals, regardless of who you are and regardless of where you come from, regardless of the color of your skin or your legal status, or who you love, or which God you pray to. That's what I am. I've made California a 100 percent clean energy state. And I was sued by the Department of Justice then under Donald Trump when he made California a sanctuary state. I negotiated the deal to provide driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. That's who I am. And those are my values. And those are my principles.

That's not the person who folks have been describing. And it's unfortunate that you know, then-Councilman Mike Bonin continues, you know, his campaign against me. But I will continue to serve my voters. They will make the ultimate decision.

BOLDUAN: And they will. It'll be some time before voters get to -- get a say once again on that seat. Thank you very much for your time, Councilman. I appreciate your time.

DE LEON: Thank you so much, Kate. Good morning.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

DE LEON: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

BOLDUAN: So, scientists are hailing a major breakthrough as it comes for clean energy. Coming up next, I'm going to speak with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm about the nuclear fusion achievement that promises to revolutionize how we have -- how we power our homes. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Top officials at the Department of Energy just announced a history-making scientific achievement, accomplishing albeit briefly a decades-long quest to harness fusion. The energy that powers the sun, powers the stars. Rene Marsh has much more detail for us on this. It's good to see you, Rene. What did we just hear from the Energy Department on this, and what does it mean for the future of clean energy?

RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, the scientists at this Department of Energy Lab in California, they have effectively figured out how to essentially bottle the sun. They were using 192-lit -- high-powered lasers to fire upon these two hydrogen atoms. The force and the heat from those lasers, fusing those atoms together, unleashing this power that replicates the conditions that we see in the sun and the stars.

But on December 5, that is when the breakthrough happened. For the very first time, this fusion process produced more energy than was used by the lasers to drive it. And that is so critical. In order for anything to be a viable energy source, the output of energy must far outweigh the input of energy used to generate it.

The education -- the Department of Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, saying this is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the century. And this is more than 60 years in the making. Take a listen.


DR. ARATI PRABHAKAR, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: It took not just one generation but generations of people pursuing this goal. And it's a scientific milestone, scientific energy breakeven to achieve this. But of course, as with all of these kinds of complex scientific undertakings, it's also an engineering marvel beyond belief.


MARSH: And, of course, Kate, you know, this is not just a big deal for the scientific community, it really is a big deal for mankind because it will have the ability to change the way, not only we consume, but the way we use energy and the source of our energy for our everyday lives. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Rene, thank you. Joining me now for much more on this is the Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm. Thank you for being here. Secretary, what is the miles --


BOLDUAN: What does this milestone mean for the quest for clean energy sources? How would you describe it now?

GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, the fact that we have been trying -- we as a nation, we as a scientific community across the world, have been trying for over 60 years to achieve what is known as ignition, which as was described means that more energy came out of these reactions, then put into it. A little bit more. This is just a -- this is one experiment, but it had never been achieved before. And that means that it's possible. It essentially unlocks a whole new source of clean energy.

Now, you know, fusion is where two particles come together -- atomic particles. These are isotopes of hydrogen. Fusion is where you split an atom. And so, the splitting of the atom creates nuclear waste. This, the fusion of the atom, which is why fusion has been such an important quest, creates no nuclear waste. And so, if we can get this to scale, this will be an amazing endeavor for us in achieving our goal of zero-carbon emission power.

BOLDUAN: We know it's definitely not tomorrow, but how long until you think nuclear fusion can and will power homes, power businesses?

GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, the really interesting part of this, Kate, is that there's a huge amount of private sector interest in this. So, there's obviously been very significant public investments. We've got 17 national labs, a good number of them are working on these solutions.


But now that we are -- have gotten closer and closer, the private sector is also very interested in this. And so, the president has a 10-year goal of getting to a commercial fusion reactor. And he announced that goal this past summer. So, we're hopeful that with -- you know, in a decade, we might be there. Of course, we have a goal of getting to net zero economy -- energy by 2050, so that would be within that timeframe.

And -- but now that this breakthrough has happened, the scientists can go to work on improving the process on making, in this particular type of fusion, it was with lasers. So, they would work on making the lasers more powerful. They'd work on other aspects of the actual reaction that makes it more powerful, more output.

But you know, there's a -- there's a lot more progress that's even being made in a different kind of fusion with magnets. And so, it's really exciting to see that both of these types of fusion are being looked at by the private sector, and they have every incentive to move quickly.

BOLDUAN: Whenever this is accomplished, to scale, you know, making it commercially viable, that's fantastic, of course. But here's also why time does matter. Because if nations and the oil industry continue on the path with Iran, by the time fusion is commercially viable, all of the worst tipping points when it comes to the climate crisis could very well already be crossed.

We could already be to the point of no return. At the same time, the president spent a good part of this past year telling oil producers like OPEC to produce more because of the other crises that we're facing around the world. So, what do you do about that?

GRANHOLM: Yes. I mean, first of all, it's clear that we need to have enough power to get people to -- in -- to put gas in their cars and heat their homes. That is the now and the reality. But we are accelerating this transition to a clean energy future.

Fusion could be one of those pieces but it's certainly not the only piece. It has huge promise. But we do have a lot of work to do. This is why accelerating all these other forms of clean energy, whether it's wind or solar or clean hydrogen, there -- and electrifying transportation, all of those things that were passed in the president's agenda through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, those are all proceeding with the pedal to the metal. So, we're very excited about all of those two.

Clearly, we have figured out how to make sure that we deploy enough clean energy through these incentives to cut our emissions as a nation in half by 50 percent and get to net zero by 2050. But we have a lot more work to make sure it's not just the United States, it's other countries as well.

BOLDUAN: That's the point.

GRANHOLM: And so, our example both in the fusion example, as well as in all of these other technologies and policies are being looked at very seriously by other countries who also want to do their part. BOLDUAN: Let's -- before we go, I do want to ask you about the energy assistance that's been promised by the administration to Ukraine to help prepare its energy infrastructure, I believe it was $53 million announced and was promised. Where are you in getting that assistance over to Ukraine?

GRANHOLM: Yes. The assistance is really in the form of equipment to repair their electric grid, which is -- you know, is being bombed on a regular basis by Russia. And so, in partnering with our utilities across the nation, we've identified equipment that is actually right now as we speak in transit to Ukraine as the first tranche, if you will, of equipment that we are sending as a nation to help -- to help Ukraine.

The deputy Energy Secretary, Dave Turk, is in France right now. There's a big conference that is convening all of these countries to see what they can also do to help donate equipment -- get equipment over to Ukraine so that they can turn on their lights and power their homes during the winter.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Zelenskyy is saying today that 800 million plus is going to be needed in order to reverse the damage done by this extensive bombing to protect them and their energy infrastructure through the winter. So much needed, and it's heading over there now. Secretary, thanks for your time.

GRANHOLM: You bet. Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So, in just a few hours, President Biden is going to be signing a landmark bill into law ensuring federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. Details next.



BOLDUAN: A historic day at the White House today. This afternoon, President Biden will be signing the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act into law. This provides federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.

Let's go over to M.J. Lee. She's live at the White House for us this hour. MJ, this is a bit of a full circle moment for the president as he publicly supported same-sex marriage, you know, a decade ago, right?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. You know, a lot of people now see President Biden as sort of an icon and hero within the LGBTQ community, but some people might not remember that as Senator, he had voted to block federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and for years had said that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Well, all of that changed if you might remember this moment from May of 2012 when he said this on a Sunday show. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're comfortable with same-sex marriage now?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I -- look. I am the Vice President United States of America. The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men, married men, women, married women, and heterosexual men or women that are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.



LEE: And this ended up being such a huge moment 10 years ago. First of all, it was the first time that as vice president, Joe Biden was expressing public support for same-sex marriage. And he also got ahead of then-President Barack Obama and sort of forced him to hasten his own timeline. A few days later, he took the same position publicly.

And also, this was just generally seen as this watershed moment in modern American politics. So, we do expect this moment to be a big one for the president himself, of course for the country, with thousands of guests invited to celebrate this moment, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And a rare bipartisan achievement that Congress can tout. It's good to see you, M.J., thank you so much. And thank you all so much for watching us at this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this.