Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Complaint Led to "The Hill We Climb" Poem Removed from One Miami-Dade County Public School; Researchers Attempt to Read Minds Using Brain Scan and A.I.; Investigation into Classified Documents, Trump's Lawyers Request a Meeting with DOJ; Following Customers Complaints, Target Removed Some LGBTQ-Themed Products. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 24, 2023 - 10:30   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: A poem written for President Biden's inauguration was moved out of a Florida elementary school library after a parent complained. The powerful inauguration poem called "The Hill We Climb" was written and delivered by Amanda Gorman, the nation's first ever Youth Poet Laureate. It challenges Americans to unify and leave behind a country better than the one we were left. A material review panel though at the school did not remove the poem from the school entirely. Though it did move the poem and other disputed items to the library's middle school section.

CNN Reporter Carlos Suarez is joining us now. Carlos, we're hearing now from the mayor of Miami-Dade County who was responding to this move by this library. What is she saying?


So, Miami Dade mayor Daniella Levine Cava has weighed in on this controversy. She has invited Gorman to read her poem in person here in South Florida. Now, this morning, we're still waiting on the school district to provide CNN with a copy of that review committee's decision. It's unclear what part of Gorman's poem was not age appropriate for elementary students, but was OK for middle school students.


The complaint was obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project. It shows that the parents said that she objected to the material because, "Is not educational and have indirectly hate messages." She's asked what she believes the function of the material to be and the parent wrote, "Caused confusion and indoctrination." She's also asked whether she's aware of professional reviews on the material and the parent wrote, "I don't need it." She incorrectly said that the book was authored by Oprah.

Now, she was able to do this under Florida's parental rights and education law. And in response to this, a committee made up of educators at the school, they agreed to move the book at the K through 8 school. In a statement, Miami-Dade County public schools said, "It was determined at the school that "The Hill We Climb" is better suited for middle school students and it was shelved in the middle school section of the media center. The book remains available in the media center."

Now, a parent with the Freedom to Read Project said, the move is a ban, and she took issue with the reasoning that the vocabulary isn't age appropriate for elementary students.

SIDNER: It sounds like the parent who complained was uneducated at least about who wrote this. It certainly was not Oprah. It was Amanda Gorman. Thank you so much, Carlos Suarez, for your reporting.

John or Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: Scientists in Texas are on the brink of a breakthrough when it comes to artificial intelligence. They're training A.I. to essentially read your mind. Here's how it apparently works, because clearly, I understand it so well. The person's brain is scanned while listening to audio clips, then the A.I. bit of this will translate that scan into something of a transcript of what the person was thinking.

Donie O'Sullivan met with the scientist behind this breakthrough. He is here now. So, it sounds like mind-reading, but I'm sure these scientists --


BOLDUAN: -- that's not what people think it is.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, they don't want to call it that despite this gigantic sign here that says, "Mind-Reading Machines".

BOLDUAN: Don't read the wall!

O'SULLIVAN: Look, it works in very specific circumstances, but we tested it out. I tested it out. I hopped into the scanner for a while and we listened to "The Wizard of Oz" audio book as we had our brain scanned, and then we saw if the A.I. could figure out what we were listening to. Have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, this is one from my brain. This is from "The Wizard of Oz." So, on the left side is the actual words that I heard. When she had finished her meal and was about to go back to the road of Yellow Brick, she was startled to hear a deep groan nearby. And the decoded version of this is on the right, it's -- I was about to head back to school and I hear this strange voice calling out to me.

So, it gets some things right. So, it's like, it was about to go back, was about to head back. It completely misses some things like the road of Yellow Brick versus school. But then it gets this nice, kind of, example. So, she hears something, and then instead of a deep groan nearby, it said a strange voice calling out to me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It mean something related even if it's not exactly the right words.

O'SULLIVAN: Still pretty incredible to think that was about to head back as something that just by scanning your brain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think that's one of the things that's really surprising to us about this. It can get things like that. It can get these entire phrases of exact words, because -- so here's the same segment for you.

O'SULLIVAN: Now, so we expected mine not to be grace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we haven't trained the model on you. The whole day I'd be fine but she wanted me to make it to her place. First, I got a little excited about it.

O'SULLIVAN (voiceover): The reason it wasn't able to decode my brain was because the technology currently needs people to sit in the FMRI machine for more than 16 hours so the A.I. models can train on specific people's brains.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): Are we going to live in a world where, you know, I can walk by somebody on the street and they'll be able hold something over to my head and they'll know what I'm thinking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Currently, we're very far from that. That might also never be possible. We can't completely rule it out, but as far as we know that certainly won't be possible in the next few decades.


O'SULLIVAN: Yes. So, pretty incredible slash creepy --

BOLDUAN: It's remarkable.

O'SULLIVAN: -- stuff there.

BOLDUAN: Also --


BOLDUAN: You were very excited.

O'SULLIVAN: That behind you there is actually my brain. So, we've -- we have confirmed that I have a brain, which is nice.

BOLDUAN: What? But wait -- I mean, you -- neither you nor I --

O'SULLIVAN: Quite a big case.

BOLDUAN: -- know how much gray matter is in there.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, what's going on there. Look -- but I mean, there is -- obviously, this can be very creepy. They say right now that the technology is nowhere near just, you know, picking up our thoughts. But this could have, potentially, life-changing effects for people who have locked in syndrome. People who've had stroke, can't speak. They could -- this can be a new way for them to communicate.

BOLDUAN: For so many things. I mean, it's a marvel.


BOLDUAN: And, you know, we can all go sci-fi on this, but it's truly remarkable what they're working on.


And I, for one, I know you're -- John is looking at me the very same way because I can read your mind, which is no one needs to get in these minds and read what's going on here.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: I just think it's awfully convenient that Donie said it couldn't read his mind. I don't know for sure that it couldn't read his mind.

O'SULLIVAN: You might have to edit that out.

BERMAN: You know, it's not just telling you what they found out.

BOLDUAN: Yes, selective editing, John.

BERMAN: Awfully.

All right. Thank you, Donie, by the way.

Attorneys for Donald Trump have requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland. What this means for the special counsel's investigation into classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

And Target stores are removing merchandise because the company says, some customers find it offensive. What prompted this move?



BERMAN: So, this morning, Donald Trump's attorneys have requested a meeting with Attorney General Merrick Garland. They say, to discuss the investigation into -- well, presumably. We don't know which investigation exactly they want to talk about, but presumably, it's the investigation into the classified documents found in the former president's Mar-a-Lago home.

In a letter, they characterize the special counsel's investigation as unprecedented and unfair. Special Counsel Jack Smith who's looking into the Mar-a-Lago documents as well as situations surrounding the January 6th insurrection has made moves that appear to show the documents investigation could almost be over.

With us now, CNN Legal Analyst and Former Federal Prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers, great to see you, counselor. I'm going to ask you to do something this challenging here. In a vacuum which we're not in, politics aside, how unusual is it for defense lawyers to ask investigators or prosecutors for a meeting late in the game?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Not at all. It happens all the time. In fact, with high-powered and high-paid lawyers like these, you expect it to happen. So, that piece of it is totally normal. Now, they went to Garland instead of Jack Smith --

BERMAN: We'll talk about that because that's actually why I said it's hard to do in a vacuum.


BERMAN: We're not in a vacuum here.


BERMAN: Garland isn't the investigator here so why is that significant?

RODGERS: Well, he's trying to go over his head. It means either he's not going over his head, meaning, they already met with Jack Smith and didn't get the answer they liked, or they're trying to leap frog over Jack Smith, which I think Merrick Garland will not allow to happen.

BERMAN: No. So, let's say they did get a meeting with Jack Smith, not Merrick Garland, because that seems like a loaded thing here. What goes on in these meetings when you're talking to the people who are investigating you?

RODGERS: So, what happens usually is the defense lawyers say, give us a chance at the end of the investigation to come in and convince you not to indict our client. So, prosecutors take those meetings both for courtesy, but also to see what they're going to say, right. Are there any holes in our case? Is there anything we haven't thought of?

So, they'll pitch, basically. They'll hear why you shouldn't indict. Here are the things that maybe you haven't considered, don't indict our client. That's what normally happens. But here, I'm not even sure that's the kind of meeting that they're requesting. I mean, this was a pair of graph -- full of grievances. This wasn't even a, let's have a serious evidence forward talk about this case. It was just, I'm being treated unfairly. I really want to make a complaint more than anything else.

BERMAN: Jack Smith, the special counsel, will make a recommendation presumably whether to bring charges or not. It will be Merrick Garland who makes the ultimate decision. Why does this happen late in the game? And what do you think it is that they're seeing that makes them think, if we're going to do this, we have to do this now?

RODGERS: Well, you know, they know when it's getting towards the end, right? Because they see like everyone else does. Who's going into the grand jury? They know what documents have been collected. So, they know when they get to the end. And prosecutors aren't going to make their decision until the end. So, there's no point in really pitching them until they have all of the facts, just like the prosecutors have all of the facts, so that's why it happens at the end.

BERMAN: Again, more sides could be reaching a critical juncture. Jennifer Rodgers, thanks for helping us understand this. Appreciate it.

RODGERS: Thanks, John.


SIDNER: All right. Target is now pulling some items from its Pride collection off of its website and its shelves. The safety concerns the retail giant says led them to make this decision.



SIDNER: Less than a month after rolling out its Pride collection, Target is pulling some products from its stores. The retail giant says, the decision was made after customer backlash led to concerns over the safety of their employees. This comes on the heels of conservative backlash against Bud Light after Anheuser-Busch promoted the beer on social media last month with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

CNN Business and Economy Reporter Matt Egan joins us now with more. This is an interesting statement that Target is actually worried about the safety of its employees?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS AND ECONOMY REPORTER: That's right, Sara. You know, this is just the latest battle in America's culture wars. Last month it was Bud Light facing this anti-transgender backlash. We had the Disney versus Ron DeSantis fight, which is clearly not going away any time soon. And now, yes, it's Target. Target is saying that they are pulling some of their Pride products, and I think the most interesting thing here is the why.

Target says, they're doing this because the safety of their employees is being threatened. And I think it's important to note that celebrating Pride month is not a new thing at Target. They said they've been actually doing this for over a decade. I think perhaps what has changed though is the environment that they're doing it in.

Let me read you the statement from Target. They said, "Since introducing this year's collection, we've experienced threats impacting our team members' sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we're making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior."

You know Target says they're committed to celebrating Pride month and standing with the community. We don't know the details yet here, including the specific nature of the threats to employees nor where this was happening. We also don't know specifically which products Target is pulling and which ones they're going to continue to sell. But according to Reuters, this -- their Pride collection at Target, you know, it includes more than 2,000 items. Including everything from gender-fluid mugs and queer all-year calendars to some children's books.


Clearly, Target does not want to become the next Bud Light here. But these companies, they're facing a minefield where one wrong step risks, really, alienating half the country, Sara. So, this is not going to be easy for Target and we're going to continue to see these issues pop up.

SIDNER: And not easy for the LGBTQ community either. Thank you so much, Matt Egan. I appreciate your reporting on this.


BOLDUAN: Coming up, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is officially throwing his hat in the ring today. But sources tell CNN, Former President Donald Trump and his allies, they're already looking to spoil his presidential announcement. More details on that ahead.

Plus, this just in to CNN, we have learned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he's going to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill next hour. Obviously, the focus, the debt ceiling. What will he say about the state of affairs? Are they at a standstill? Have they broken down, or are they, yet again, productive? We will see. That's an important press conference we'll bring to you live. We'll be back.