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First-time Jobless Claims Rose; Young Thug's Lyrics as Evidence; Fire Burns Homes in California. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired May 12, 2022 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, first time jobless claims rose last week to 203,000, a slight increase from the week before, plus a key economic indicator released this morning shows that inflation at least grew more slowly in April, by a little bit, boosting investors' hopes that it's possible, given the numbers yesterday, that inflation could have hit a peak. We don't know.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Everybody hoping for just a glimmer of that silver lining, right, in any of these numbers.


HILL: CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joining us live to discuss.

So, you're going to break these numbers down for us and we were talking briefly in the break, you know, that we need to be careful not to focus to much on just a number.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's so many cross currents in a global economy and there's so much chaos in what's happening all around the world. But I think it's really important to look at the trends, right? And the trend here in the labor market, jobless claims still really historically low. And 203,000 jobless claims in the latest week. What does that mean? I mean employers don't want to do layoffs. They're trying to find workers. They don't' think they can replace those people that they -- that they would lay off. So, these are very, very low.

And that translates into what we're seeing in terms of the unemployment rate. You look at that trend. And, again, really important, you can see that spike there at almost 15 percent. That was the worst of the Covid crash. And then, since then, steady hiring and a declining unemployment rate.

Now, that inflation number, we keep talking about, is there a peak, is there not a peak? It will take a few months to know if there is a trend there as well. But what I can tell you is that year over year inflation at the factory floor level, so before it gets to the retailer, before it gets to you, that inflation was up 11 percent. That's a big number. It really is. And the record from the month before was revised up to 11.5 percent. That's an uncomfortable situation for producers, for retailers, and for consumers.


ROMANS: But we're looking in those numbers, it is slowing a little bit. So, I guess one -- one metaphor I keep hearing is that the fire is still burning, it's just not quite as hot.

SCIUTTO: So, why, I guess is the question, right? I mean does that mean some of these issues that have led to this are being resolved? Global supply chain issues, for instance, that some of the money pumped into the economy via Covid relief, that that's wearing out? Do we know why?

ROMANS: It's all of the above. But it's also the trick of the calendar. When you think of where we were last year, we were still in pretty much Covid lockdown in certain ways in terms of consumer behavior, in terms of the ways factories and businesses were operating. You probably only had one vaccine at the time. A year later, we're starting to settle into adapting to this -- to this new normal.

Also, I will say, there have been some supply chain kinks that are slowly getting worn out and also they're finding ways to get around some of these things. So, it's just too early to say, you know, the peak is in, and you know -- you guys know me, I don't like to ring the bell. You know, it's just -- it's a dangerous game to play.


ROMANS: But we're really watching carefully for signs that things could get better.

HILL: Christine Romans, appreciate it, as always. Thank you.

Big day today for the Supreme Court's nine justices. They're set to meet in private for the first time since the leak of that draft opinion that suggests the court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade. An investigation, as you know, is underway to find the source of that leak. The leak itself, though, and that draft sparking protests across the country, even in front of the homes of some conservative justices.

SCIUTTO: Listen, if this decision turns out the way it looks in that draft opinion, this has enormous, enormous consequences for this country. Enormous effects. Regardless of what your opinion is of this.

As we look at this, a woman who graduated Princeton in 1972 with Justice Samuel Alito signed an open letter today expressing their disapproval of the draft opinion he authored.


The letter's organizer spoke to CNN this morning.


SUSAN SQUIER, PRINCETON CLASSMATE OF JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO: Basically, our feminism drew us together and our sense of obligation for the people who cannot speak, who do not get listened to.

It feels like this is the '70s all over again. Here we are, just one year from 50 years since Roe was passed, and why are we still fighting?

It's as if he doesn't believe history actually involves a record of things changing. Instead, it's history as, let's go back to the Salem witch trials. Oh, it makes me so angry.


SCIUTTO: Yesterday, a Democrat-led bill aimed at preserving access to abortion nationwide for women failed in the Senate.

HILL: A Grammy Award winning rapper has now been charged with racketeering, multiple other felonies and prosecutors say his lyrics referenced specific crimes. Those lyrics now being used as evidence against him. We'll have more on the other side of this break.



SCIUTTO: Grammy winning rapper Young Thug's lyrics are now being used against him in a sweeping 56-count gang indictment. The multimillionaire whose legal name is Jeffery Lamar Williams is known for setting trends as a style icon, and a musician, notably winning a Grammy for song of the year for his work on Childish Gambino's hit single "This is America."

HILL: Well, now, prosecutors say when it comes to Williams, that he's actual a founder of the gang YSL, Young Slime Life, and that he, along with 27 associates, are now being charged with racketeering, violating Georgia's version essentially of the Rico Act.

We're also learning that he's facing seven new felony charges in a second case.

CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas joining us now.

So, look, if you're familiar with him, you know what a big deal he is.


HILL: That's not the only reason that this case is getting so much attention. It's because of what is attached to it in terms of these alleged crimes.

MELAS: Right. I mean, first of all, like you said, I mean he is a mainstream rap artist who has had so many number one hits, worked with so many artists, like you said, Childish Gambino, Camilla Cabello. He's had many number one hits and number one albums.

But if you back up here, in this 88-page indictment, it says that not only did he found a gang, that he has been in trouble -- or he is now being facing seven felony charges for the possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, possession of firearm during commission of a felony, possession of a sawed off shotgun, sawed off rifle, machine gun, dangerous weapon, or silencer.

Let's take a listen to what the district attorney in Fulton County had to say.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It does not matter what your notoriety is, what your fame is, if you come to Fulton County, Georgia, and you commit crimes, and certainly if those crimes are in furtherance of a street gang, that you are going to become a target and a focus of this district attorney's office.


MELAS: Now, several of his rap lyrics, Erica, are now being used against him, where he potentially references YSL, this gang that he is alleged to have founded, where he actually references potentially a murder that took place, that perhaps he might have had involvement in, right. So, there are these moments here.

But he's not the first rapper too have his lyrics used against him. We saw that with Takashi 69. But there are also, though, a lot of people in the music industry who feel as though, including Killer Mike in Atlanta, that your lyrics should not be allowed to be used against you. And there was proposed legislation in New York to prevent that from happening. So, you know, some -- in Atlanta, they believe that, no, you know, if you said this, we should be able to use this in court against you.

HILL: It certainly is getting a lot of attention. This will not be the last that we talk about it, that's for sure.

Chloe, thank you.

Well, here to dig in a little deeper too into the legality of some of these issues, criminal defense attorney, CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson.

So, Joey, I actually want to pick up where Chloe left off because the lyrics, I mean, this -- legally this part of it is getting a lot of attention.

So, a couple of the lyrics that are cited here, I just want to show some of those for the folks at home. So, some from a song called "Anybody." I never killed anybody, but I got something to do with that body. I told them to shoot 100 rounds. Another one that is referenced is from Bad Boy with a line -- one of the lines that was highlighted, I shot at his mommy, now he no longer mention me.

So, in all, the indictment references, I believe, nine songs over the span of seven years. The lyrics are very specific. Is that enough, though, to point to lyrics and say, this guy played a role?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It should not be. And when I say that, it's an evidentiary question.

Good morning to you, Erica.

Listen, cases and trials have to be about specific facts. They can't be about art. They can't be about artistic expression. They can't be about whether or not a rap artist uses certain lyrics. And from a defense attorney perspective, we hate this, right? Make your case about witnesses, about corroboration, about the listings, about specific statements that are made by others, about good police work, not about what an artist chooses to say in a specific album or not and whether or not that's artistic expression or whether or not it's fiction is another matter. I think if the case is simply predicated upon this, it goes down.


If there's other corroborating evidence, now there could be problems.

HILL: You know, and in terms of where lyrics have and have not been used, you know, as was just referenced, here in New York, state senators actually introduced a bill, the Rap Music on Trial Bill last year, that would prevent art, including some lyrics, from being used as evidence in criminal cases. So just give us a sense, how rare is it that lyrics would be used in this way?

JACKSON: So, you know what, Erica, it's not so rare. We've seen that and we've seen Chloe Melas referencing, when she was speaking to you about (INAUDIBLE), but we also saw that going back to Snoop Dogg in 1996 and his trial for which he was acquitted. It was used then. There was a case several years ago, Mack Faps (ph), in fact, where it went to the Supreme Court, with respect to whether or not these lyrics should be a part of the equation. Can you, as a prosecutor, be introducing lyrics of someone who's singing, who's expressing and use that to have evidentiary value? The Supreme Court declined to hear that case, but it's not an uncommon thing. And lately it's been a question of fact as to whether or not, from a defense perspective, we say this is pure nonsense, and from a prosecution's perspective we say, this is exactly what their intent was, this is direct evidence of them suggesting it, the jury can make that assessment ultimately.

HILL: Let's talk now about these charges, Joey, because these are really serious. I mean, it's also, when we're talking about, you know, Rico charges, racketeering here. So, he allegedly rented a car that was used in the murder of a rival gang member in 2015. I mean I think you start with that. How do you go from renting this car, which is, you know, allegedly used in this murder, to being charged under Georgia's version of the Rico Act?

JACKSON: Yes. So a few things, Erica.

Number one, we have to keep in mind that an indictment is merely an accusation, right? When you go to a grand jury, the standard is not whether or not you're guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard is whether there's legally sufficient evidence. That's the first issue. The second issue is merely because it's in the indictment doesn't mean that attorneys are not going to attack that indictment, attempting to get it dismissed because they're saying that this is not -- this has no evidentiary value. In the event that that fails, they're going to be -- that is attorneys, going to a judge saying, your honor, we can't admit this to a jury absent any corroboration. And then in the event there's a conviction, there will be an appeal.

So to your question how we get there, we're a long way from getting there, right? The indictment is detailing in the 88 pages what he's alleged to have done. Let's see what specific proof, facts, evidence, surveillance, videos, text messages, emails, anything else they have to corroborate and to really pin him and the other parties to the crime.

Final thing. We know Rico, right, it has been used with great success by the government to go after criminal enterprises. Was this an enterprise? Was there a pattern of criminal activity? All of those facts have to be determined. And I'll tell you this, Erica, they will not be determined simply by lyrics, right?

HILL: Yes.

JACKSON: The prosecution will have to deliver the proof. We'll see what proof that is moving forward.

HILL: Yes, a lot more to come with this one.

Joey, appreciate you breaking it down for us. Thank you.

JACKSON: Always. Thanks, Erica.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, flames scorching hundreds of acres on the West Coast, including several multimillion dollar homes. Just remarkable pictures there. They moved so quickly, those flames. We're live on the scene, next.



HILL: A fast moving fire has now damaged or destroyed at least 20 homes in Orange County, California. Families evacuating their hillside homes in one of the state's most affluent neighborhoods.

SCIUTTO: Just amazing to see how quickly these flames move. Several local fire departments battling the fire, which has so far burned more than 200 acres. So many homes.

CNN national correspondent Natasha Chen is live in Laguna Niguel.

And, you know, watching your reporting, Natasha, it's the speed of this, right? And then people's entire homes, possessions, gone in an instant.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Erica, these are examples of some of the multi-million dollar mansions that went up in flames overnight. This one just a few seconds ago we were still seeing a hot spot, seeing flames, seeing smoke right there.

But this fire behaved rather randomly as well. Sometimes we see that in neighborhoods when embers will fly. They said last night, from palm tree to palm tree, attic to attic. And sometimes skipping over homes.

So, for example, if you look in this direction, the house right next door is perfectly fine, untouched. And yet going across the street we see a lot more destruction, people's homes really burned out there. And we know that fire crews, just beyond this row of houses on the ridge, they've been cutting lines, trying to work defensively here.

The last update we got was within this hour saying that this has burned 199 acres. Something very key that the fire chief talked about last night was how five to ten years ago they would have been able to contain the small fire that started last night rather easily. Instead, climate change is playing a role here.


BRIAN FENNESSY, ORANGE COUNTY FIRE CHIEF: The winds we experienced today are not unusual. Five years ago, ten years ago, a fire like this would have likely been stopped very small. This has become our norm. So, you can expect more of this.


CHEN: And, unfortunately, that norm means in the middle of the night or early last evening a lot of families trying to pack all of their belongings in a hurry to evacuate. Luckily, some neighborhoods evacuation orders were lifted overnight. So, some of those families are really hoping they can come back and at least see whether their homes made it today.


Jim and Erica.

HILL: Oh, so tough.

Natasha Chen, appreciate it. Thank you. And chilling, too, when you think about that this is -- this is the new norm, as we just heard there.


HILL: A horrific video obtained by CNN shows the moment unarmed men in Ukraine are gunned down by Russian fighters. We're going to take you live to Kyiv for that full story.


HILL: Good morning, I'm Erica Hill.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. [10:00:00]

This morning, Vladimir Putin's goal to divide NATO is not going as planned. Just hours ago, the leaders of Finland officially announced their support for joining