Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Victim Forgives Former Deputy; Jared Bernstein is Interviewed about Semiconductor Production; Children Exposed to Led in Drinking Water. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 09:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Today, two former deputies who pleaded guilty in the torture and abuse of two black men will be sentenced in Mississippi. Two other members of the self-title "Goon Squad" were sentenced yesterday to 20 and 17 years. And in a surprising moment in the courtroom, one of the victims said he forgave the officer who had apologized.


EDDIE PARKER, VICTIM IN "GOOD SQUAD" TORTURE CASE: I wasn't (INAUDIBLE) for anything to be said. I could - it was a feeling. You know, it was a - (INAUDIBLE). I did it on - on feeling my (INAUDIBLE) what God was giving me. And I - I had to do that for - for myself. I guess not so much for him, but for myself.


BERMAN: CNN's Ryan Young is in Jackson, Mississippi.

Ryan, I know you'll be back in the courtroom today. What are you watching for?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, that was a - such a powerful moment in court. It was unreal when Eddie Parker just stood up and said, I forgive you. I forgive you. And the courtroom sort of stood silent for a moment.

Hunter Elward, one of the officers who was charged and convicted, and now faces 20 years plus one month in prison, actually turn to the two victims and addressed them in court. There wasn't a dry eye at that moment.

But over and over again we heard about the two hours of tortured, the fact that the men were slapped by swords, or that the officers and deputies used tasers to see which taser was more effective to put pain on the men. And then they made them shower off to try to hide the evidence. They even stole parts of the video surveillance system inside the home so there would be no video evidence. And, of course, you can't forget the fact the man who faced all - most

of the charges yesterday, Hunter Elward, was the man who took his service weapon, placed it in the mouth of Michael Jenkins, and fired a shot, severing his tongue. So, you can understand how high the emotions were in court.

But talking to Hunter Elward's father after court yesterday, he told me the reason why he wanted his son to tell the truth is because that's the only way healing could happen.

Take a listen.


EDWARD ELWARD, FATHER OF CONVICTED FORMER DEPUTY: He couldn't live with it anymore himself. You know, I said, well, the only healing starts when you tell the truth.

YOUNG: Why was it important for your son to tell the truth?

ELWARD: Because that's the only way he could heal. He - he was torn apart by what had happened that night.


He knew that wasn't him. What happened to those two gentlemen, he could not live with anymore.


YOUNG: John, it's important to note that a team of us from CNN have been following this story for over a year. And at first the men were not believed. And yesterday after court the lawyer for the two men stood outside and said this will provide them some sort of peace.

Take a listen.


MALIK SHABAZZ, ATTORNEY FOR EDDIE PARKER AND MICHAEL JENKINS: Finally, they could see justice occur. And to see their tormentors, know that they won't be back on the street to terrorize them again and there'll be behind bars for - for at least 20 years


YOUNG: Yes, the pain doesn't stop here as well. Last night we went to an NAACP meeting. They're calling for the sheriff to step down. There happy to see national attention being put on this story even more. And they -- the FBI director even talked about this. But what they want to see is more in terms of the governor maybe talking about this, or the vice president or the president. So, you understand the pain in this community. They said there are more victims out there and they hope to find them soon.

John. BERMAN: All right, Ryan Young, the details in this are just still all so shocking, and it must be so emotional to be in the middle of it.

Thank you very much.

So, just moments ago, the opening bell on Wall Street. We've got a live look at the markets right now after the S&P hit a record high. Investors awaiting the Fed meeting today.

And a disturbing new study says more than 100,000 children in one of the country's largest city were exposed to contaminated water.



BOLDUAN: So, the Federal Reserve meets today, and this afternoon will announce whether or not it will be taking any action on interest rates. It's widely expected that the Fed chair, Jerome Powell, will not be announcing a rate cut today. But no matter what investors are hoping for, any clues about when the rate cuts -- the cut in interest rates will begin.

And this morning, the White House's big announcement announced a new agreement with Intel to build and expand semiconductor facilities in multiple states. You see them there, Arizona, Ohio, New Mexico, and Oregon. And with that expansion, they are promising it will create thousands of jobs.

Joining us right now is the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein, one of Biden's top economic advisors.

It's good to see you, Jared. Thanks for coming in.

So, this announcement today, $20 billion in grants and loans for Intel to expand. Bringing chips, this production manufacturing, back to America has bipartisan support we've seen.


BOLDUAN: It's seen as good for the U.S. economy and good for national security. So, here's my question, what does this do for people living in any of these states who don't have anything to do with the semiconductor industry but are still struggling with high rents and high grocery prices? What does it mean for them?

BERNSTEIN: Well, if they're one of the 20,000 construction workers who are going to help build these fabrication plants, it's going to mean more work for them. And if they're one of the workers who ends up manufacturing chips, standing up this domestic industry in one of the largest public/private partnerships, one of the largest investments in semiconductors in our history, that's going to be good news for them because these jobs will pay somewhere around $100,000, real money, for, in many cases, workers even without a college degree. We've given up so much of this really high-quality production to overseas firms. We're bringing it back home. That's key to the president's economic agenda and to what he's talking about today. Arizona, Ohio, Oregon, New Mexico, a great day for - for, I think, people in those states.

BOLDUAN: And we're going to hear more about that from the president today.

On the broader aspects of the economy and where things are right now, Adam Schiff was just on with John, and he said - they were talking about many things, but he said one of his focuses is to meet voters where they are. And he said they're focused on housing prices and food prices.

And I had the treasury secretary on the show right after the State of the Union Address and I asked her why polling isn't showing that people give Joe Biden credit for good things happening in the economy. And Yellen said essentially, we need to explain what the president is doing to improve people's lives.

I've heard that repeatedly from Democrats and the administration as to why voters say they don't feel good about the Biden economy. Do you think at this point, Jared, the - we just need to promote his accomplishments, more strategy, may be falling flat?

BERNSTEIN: I don't know about that. That all sounds like a very strategic communications kind of question. And it's a valid one.

What I can tell you is that it - what you just prescribed there is exactly what we're doing. In fact, what we're doing as you and I speak.

I understand these poll results. I scrutinize them just as closely as anyone. But let me suggest something because, you know, you've got a great station over there and I suspect you can run polls like this. Ask people what they think about what's going on today. What they think about the largest public/private investment in semiconductors, bringing back domestic production of this key industry, economic security, national security, taking what Sherrod Brown calls burying (ph) that noble (ph) phrase rust belt and a change it into Silicon heartland, OK. I would like - I would recommend that - that - that some - that folks go out there and poll people who are in the area of these investments and see what they think about them.


Because when we get down, we drill down into these granular questions about, what do you think about the components of Bidenomics, lower broadband costs, lower cost of prescription drugs, standing up domestic production, not just in semiconductors but in electric vehicles, electric batteries, these things poll in the 80 to 85 percent range. So, let's ask folks about directly what we're doing before we conclude they're unhappy with the agenda.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about gas prices. They're on the rise once again. AAA says the national average is, I think they said $3.52 is what I'm seeing today. That's up from $3.28 per gallon. That's - we know where that historical national average high hit over $5 in June 20, 2022, so we're not near that.

BERNSTEIN: Right. Right.

BOLDUAN: But this trend, this increasing trend, are you concerned where this is headed?

BERNSTEIN: Well, I watched the gas - one of the first clicks I do when I get up in the morning, which probably isn't a sign of a healthy person, is - is precisely on this gas price. So, I track this very closely. And I think perhaps, more importantly, it CEA, we're always looking at the underlying factors, to get to your question.

So, one - one part of this is seasonality. And this time of the year there's a switch from the winter to the summer blend. That puts some upward pressure on price.

We had a big refinery come offline in Indiana. It's going back online. So that should provide some relief.

And, of course, the conflict in the Middle East has raised the price of a barrel of oil by a bit north of $10 a barrel. And so, all of those factors are coming into play here. And, yes, we track them very closely.

BOLDUAN: You continue to do. I don't think it's a statement of health that you click on gas prices. It's part of your job. I think maybe it's a little comforting. It depends on what you do after that.

BERNSTEIN: Yes, but I'm talking like 6:10 a.m. Yes, good point. Make breakfast.

BOLDUAN: Don't even start talking about wake-up times with me since we started this show, though, Jared.

BERNSTEIN: Yes, fair enough. Fair. I'll -

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Thanks for coming on. It's always good to have you here.

BERNSTEIN: I'll lose that one. Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.


BOLDUAN: Coming up still for us, the new data from the FBI shows a major change and an encouraging trend in violent crime rates across the country. We'll bring that to you.

And a new study finds thousands of children may have been exposed to lead contaminated water in one major American city. We have the details.


[09:52:03] BOLDUAN: The 2024 major league baseball season has officially kicked off. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres in today's season opener in Seoul, South Korea. Japanese baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani made his highly-anticipated season debut, but in the designated hitter spot. Two hits and his first RBI in Dodger blue, helping the team beat the Padres 5-1. That is the extent of my baseball knowledge.

Lawmakers in Alabama passed a controversial bill that would block public schools and universities from maintaining or funding diversity, equity and inclusion programs. The governor is expected to sign it into law. And it would also require public universities to designate restrooms on the basis of biological sex at birth, not gender identity.

New data from the FBI shows that crime in the United States plummeted in 2023. According to the findings, America had one of its lowest rates of violent crime in more than 50 years last year. The data also shows that murder rates dropped 13 percent. The sharpest decrease ever.


BERMAN: Positive trends there.

This morning, concerning news for Chicago parents after a study found a huge number of the city's children could be drinking water contaminated with lead. Scientists studying water samples for more than seven years have found two-thirds - two-thirds of children under the age of six could be getting exposed.

CNN medical correspondent Meg Tirrell joins us now.

That's a bad number.

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a very bad number. They found that 68 percent of kids under six in Chicago are exposed to lead in their drinking water. And about 20 percent of the affected kids relied on tap water as their primary drinking source.

They also found in these numbers that there were a lot of racial inequities and disparities. That blocks that were predominantly Hispanic or black were much more likely not to be tested for lead, but much more likely to be exposed to lead.

And so obviously we know that there's no safe known level of lead exposure. And particularly for little kids, it's really concerning. It can lead to developmental delays, neurological problems. And so this is a huge problem. And these numbers are really eye-popping. This relates to - this is 129,000 kids under the age of six.

BERMAN: I mean how can this be happening? Is it just old pipes? I mean how could it be happening and not having known about it? I mean the one thing you know when you move to a community is to check the lead levels in the water. TIRRELL: Yes. So, Chicago is particularly bad for lead pipes. The federal government banned lead pipes in 1986. But before that they were widely used. Chicago is estimated to have 400,000 lead service lines going to houses and homes. That is the most of any American city. And so the Biden administration has an initiative to try to replace lead service lines. This is taking a long time, particularly in cities with that many. And so, you know, there's advice to get your lead levels tested in your water. The city can provide kits for free. Also, if you're worried about it, you can run the water for a longer period of time if you haven't used it in a while.


Cook with cold water, not hot water.

BERMAN: Oh, that's interesting.

TIRRELL: Because hot water can actually absorb the lead more easily.

BERMAN: And this is something that's part of the infrastructure law, if I remember correctly?


BERMAN: Like, going and correcting this. This is something that over time, in theory, the federal government does know about and is putting some money behind and correcting.

TIRRELL: They are, and cities are working on it, but it's taking a long time.

BERMAN: All right, Meg Tirrell, thank you so much.

TIRRELL: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Important to shed a light on that.


BOLDUAN: It's super important. But as you're talking about it with - even with the infrastructure bill, I mean putting in the new line, I mean that takes a long time and it's like yesterday this needed to be fixed for kids.

BERMAN: A very long time.

BOLDUAN: So wild (ph).

Meg, thank you so much for bringing it to us.

And thank you all so much for joining us today. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Jim Acosta is up next.