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CNN This Morning

Sweet Sixteen Games; Rare Tornado in Los Angeles; Sen. Sharrod Brown is Interviewed about the Fed and Train Regulations. Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired March 23, 2023 - 08:30   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: So, check this out. There's a reason we're putting that jersey up for you. A display of pride in Chicago, right? It's being put on ice because thanks to anti-LGBT laws in Russia. The Chicago Blackhawks will no longer wear rainbow colored pride theme warmup jerseys on Sunday when the team holds its pride night because of safety concerns for its Russian players. That is according to "The Chicago Sun Times." In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law making it illegal for anyone to promote same sex relationships. Some of the players have family in Russia. So, "The Sun Times" reports that the team's front office made the decision, not the players. New York Rangers opted not to wear pride jerseys in January despite previously advertising that they would.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And also as we track that, we are tracking other sports news. This is a much happier note. It has been a historic NCAA tournament so far, with a 16 seed knocking off a number one seed. Only the second time that's ever happened. Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off a stunning 63-58 upset against Purdue in the first round of the tournament. They even got in on a technicality, which is why it made it all the more headline worthy.

Tonight, the madness is marching on as eight of the final Sweet Sixteen teams do their best to survive and advance to the Elite Eight.

So, joining us now to talk about what we're going to be watching, the one and only, Allie LaForce, who covers the tournament for TNT.

LEMON: You didn't say it right, Allie LaForce.

ALLIE LAFORCE, BASKETBALL REPORTER, TNT: I appreciate that. I appreciate that.


LEMON: I'm messing with you.

LAFORCE: It is my real name, by the way, too.

HARLOW: It's such a good name.

LAFORCE: Because people in sports are always like, oh, when did you change your name to be a sports reporter, but -

COLLINS: People say that to Wolf Blitzer, too, and he's like, no, this is my name.

LAFORCE: I love it.

COLLINS: OK, but back to what's happening in the games. We're starting tonight. I feel like we've been like starved of a few days of like getting - to actually see the games.

LAFORCE: We have.

COLLINS: What are you - who are you going to be watching?

LAFORCE: They call it recovery days.

COLLINS: Yes, where you're like, OK, rest, hydrate -

LAFORCE: I mean even just watching that upset and your smile, you just grin ear to ear. And this time of year is so special. I'm reminded of it. I am so excited to be here because just to bring a taste of the energy that you get to feel when you're in these arenas, it's everything that encompasses hope and togetherness and commitment.


And especially in a day and age when players can be one and dones and they want to go to the NBA and there's so much talk about making millions of dollars as professional athletes. But you have these teams where you have fifth year seniors and players that come back just because they promised their teammate they would. I know the NIL has thrown some really interesting conversations into the mix, but when you look at our matchups that are here at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Tom Izzo, Michigan State, I mean, he's become such a staple of March Madness. You like to root for the underdog. He has the most wins in NCAA tournament as the underdog, as the lower seed. That's the case again this year. And his team did not use the transfer portal. And that's, I think, such a fascinating story because it's easy just to grab talent to make your team better, to make a push in March Madness. But the team got together and said, we want to do this on our own. The team they're playing, Kansas State, built their team from the transfer portal. They literally had five guys in July. They don't have one player that is an original Kansas State signee.


LAFORCE: So, it's the clash between the two different ways that you can approach the new portal.

LEMON: Wow, look at Allie bringing the energy and the positivity (INAUDIBLE) the studio.

LAFORCE: I know. I'm ready to go. The game's not till, what, 6:30 at night.

HARLOW: Do you want to - LAFORCE: I better cool (ph) myself.

COLLINS: I know. Yes, like, pace yourself.

HARLOW: What I was actually thinking was, I have no idea what a transfer portal is.

COLLINS: Oh, my gosh.

LAFORCE: That's something you research (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Sorry. But, I mean -

LEMON: It's where they transfer in the portal.


HARLOW: I'm -- but now I'm going to ask you something Kaitlan will like, and that is about Alabama, the favorite to win it all.

LAFORCE: Oh, yes, girl, I'm going to hype you up for this one.

COLLINS: No, that's called - Nick Saban calls that rat poison.

LAFORCE: Oh, reverse - right, rat poison.

COLLINS: We don't like that because we don't want - we don't want you to over hype us. We want to wait and see what actually happens.

LAFORCE: OK, we'll stick to facts of the game, which is the fact that there are so many conferences represented in this tournament. Eleven conferences, which is outstanding. The Big 12 has three. The SEC has three. And so if you can get Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama all to advance.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh.

LAFORCE: And their roads to the Final Four, they're capable of doing that. It's going to make the SEC known for basketball and not just football. As you know, it's become known for football. They've had great basketball teams for four or five years now. But if you -- if they get three teams in the Final Four, that will be just wild.

COLLINS: Yes, I think everyone in my group texts, what everyone's liking about is just the fact that Alabama's football season didn't exactly go the way we wanted and now it's like, we're all like grasping onto the basketball team.

LAFORCE: And it looks like a point guard, Miller, who has been dealing with a groin injury, could be cleared and close to 100 percent for Sweet Sixteen actions. So, you have a lot to look forward to, I think.

COLLINS: Yes, we'll see. Well, yes, we'll see what --

LAFORCE: But I don't want to pour that rat poison in there.

LEMON: The only thing missing from that SEC thing is, as you know -



LAFORCE: I know. I'm sorry.

LEMON: I'm not -- that's all right.

COLLINS: Not this year.

LAFORCE: There's aways next year.

LEMON: Allie LaForce.

COLLINS: You're going to be very busy. So, thanks for taking some time to join us here at the table this morning.

LAFORCE: Yes, of course. Yes, of course. Thanks so much for having me.

HARLOW: Good to have you.

LEMON: Good to see you. Thank you.

COLLINS: We'll be watching.

HARLOW: So, just crazy what is happening in Los Angeles.


HARLOW: This morning, communities are cleaning up after a rare tornado --

LEMON: Look at that. It's crazy.

HARLOW: Actually ripped through L A. We're live with a look of the damage, ahead.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are cardboard boxes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw what looked like a waterspout kind of tornado twister that was about 30 feet wide that just came through and was just bouncing like a top in between picking up debris. The whole sky looked like a dump.


HARLOW: Yes, that happened in LA. That's right, you are looking at video of that rare tornado ripping through an industrial area on Wednesday near Los Angeles. This one in Montebello was the strongest to hit the state in 40 years. Officials say one person did have minor injuries. There was substantial, though, damage to buildings.

Our Stephanie Elam is live in Montebello.

This just doesn't happen in California, and yet it happened.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it - Poppy, it's -- it's very rare for this to happen here in California. I think on average it's like one tornado. But the fact that we've had two in California is a big deal. One in Carpinteria, in Santa Barbara County, and then this one here in Montebello, which is in Los Angeles County.

And you can see, just taking a look at me, how strong this storm was. It uprooted this tree, threw it in the air, and impaled it on this fence.

We also know that there were at least one roof that collapsed. We know cars were damaged, windows were blown out, beams inside of buildings were brought down as well. Very intense.

Overall, when you look at how small this was, it was an EF-1, one it had winds of up to 110 mph. It was only here for two to three minutes, but it did significant damage. The power company just coming through and turning back on the lights here. Luckily, nobody was killed or deeply injured in that.

Then we also have new numbers, if I pivot here a little bit, from the U.S. Drought Monitor taking a look at the drought in California. We've been speaking a lot this week about how much precipitation we've received. And if you take a look at the map comparing this new data from this week to December of 2022, it's a very different map. Just think about it, at this point last year, 100 percent of the state was in drought. And now the same for the fourth week in a row, we have now seen that the drought has continued to diminish. And actually, right now, there's no parts of the state that are in extreme drought.

So, this is all a good sign here. And this doesn't even take into account, Poppy, some of the storms that we saw earlier this week.


ELAM: That last atmospheric river of the 12 or so that we've had so far this season. It doesn't even take into account all of that moisture that we received here in California.

HARLOW: I was just saying in the break, Stephanie has had to cover way too many terrible weather stories in California. I think everyone in the country is saying, what is happening in California, Steph.

So, we appreciate you. It is not an easy job. Thank you.


COLLINS: Yes, always watching her jacket choice given these weather conditions.

HARLOW: That's Stephanie Elam.

COLLINS: OK, also this morning, the Federal Reserve once again raising interest rates. There was a big question of how big they would go. What it would look like. Our next guest was actually hoping it wouldn't even happened at all. We're going to ask him, Senator Sherrod Brown, if he thinks the Fed got it wrong. He's the chair of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. He's joining us live right after this.


Good morning, Senator.


LEMON: There you see it there, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates yet again, a quarter point. The move is meant to curb inflation. But unlike the previous rate hikes, this time the Fed had to consider the recent regional bank failures. Federal Chairman -- Fed Chairman, I should say, Jerome Powell said that they actually considered not raising rates before ultimately going with the quarter point. Still, he did signal that a pause could be near.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR: We no longer state that we anticipate that ongoing rate increases will be appropriate to quell inflation. Instead, we now anticipate that some additional policy affirming may be appropriate.


LEMON: We've got a lot to discuss now with Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat from Ohio, and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, as well as a member of the Senate financial committee -- Finance Committee. The perfect person to discuss this.

Thank you, Senator, for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Thanks, Don. Perfect person to discuss this. Whoa.

LEMON: Yes. You are. You're on all those committees and - and you're -

BROWN: I'm not sure what that means, but go ahead.

All right. All right.

LEMON: Well, we're going to find out in this interview because you told "Bloomberg" last week that you hoped the Fed would pause rate hikes. So, did the Fed get this wrong? BROWN: Well, I don't -- I don't second guess the Fed. It's an independent institution and all that. But what I have said to Federal Reserve members is, they should be speaking out on some of the real cause of inflation.

We saw -- during the pandemic we saw the pharmaceutical industry , the oil companies, the transportation companies and the meatpacking industry raise rates, raise their prices far beyond what their cost inputs were, far beyond what they should have, and taking huge profits, and they used the pandemic to do that. We're paying for a big part of that with inflation. So, I would -- I know -- I know the Fed can't exactly do anything to them and Congress should, but the Fed should be speaking out and pointing the fingers -- pointing their finger at where -- much of the cause of inflation.

So, that was my general unhappiness with this. But I think the Fed, you know, the Fed's got to do what it -- it's going to do what it's going to do, in the end, and I was glad to see Powell suggests this may be the last time he does this.

LEMON: All right, listen, I'm glad you gave us a context, but your quote to "Bloomberg" in March was -- March 14th -


LEMON: I would hope the Fed would not change rates next week. That was your quote to them.

BROWN: Right. Yes, I stand by that.

LEMON: Right. OK. OK.

So, historically, recessions have come after an increase in interest rates. Economists were already worried about the possibility of a recession before this rate increase. Are we headed, in your belief, towards a recession? And we headed for a recession?

BROWN: I don't think so. I mean, I look at - look at the economic growth we've had. Look at the job growth we've had through much of the last year. And I still feel good about that. So it's, you know, it's partly what the Fed does. It's partly will - will the Fed point their fingers at these companies that abuse the public trust? And this is -- this will sound a bit off, but when the -- when I first started seeing on Thursday what was happening in Silicon Valley Bank, the first thing I thought of was something that happened in my state is that, and that's in East Palestine with the train derailment.

And look at the history here, the most powerful corporations in this country, 100 years ago, 150 years ago, were the banks and the railroads. They continue to get their way. The banks do. The railroads do. They - their- their executives lobby Congress and too often get weaker rules to protect the public, both in banking and in train safety. And it's time Congress look at those things in the context of what happens to workers when those companies too often get their ways in Congress and too often get their ways in these federal regulatory agencies. LEMON: Yes, I'm glad you talked about what happened with the train

derailment because I want to move on now and turn to that.

BROWN: Sure.

LEMON: That toxics train derailment in your state.

While testifying before Congress on that East Palestine train derailment, Norfolk Southern's CEO, Alan Shaw, dodged questions about safety regulations and paid sick leave for employees. Let's listen to it, and then I'll get your response.

Here it is.


SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Will your team lobby for safety improvements rather than against them?

ALAN SHAW, CEO, NORFOLK SOUTHERN: Sir, we will continue to follow the science. We will continue to follow data.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Will you make that commitment right now, to guaranteed paid sick days to all of your workers? That's not a radical demand. It really is not.

SHAW: I'm committed to continuing to speak to our employees about quality of life issues that are important to them.


LEMON: So, stock answers there. What do you think needs to happen to prevent another disaster like this, Senator?

BROWN: Well, the railroad should support Senator Vance, a Republican, and my bill, together, a bipartisan bill, should support our bill.

And one of the most astounding things, as the railroads keeps saying that one human being, one engineer on these trains that are getting longer and longer, 150, 200 cars, two and three mile trains, they think it's OK to have one person, one engineer, one human being run these cars. And I asked the CEO of CSX when he came to see me, did you fly in today? He said, yes. I said, did you have one or two pilots on your plane? I mean, it's insane, as these trains get longer and longer, and heavier and heavier, and carry more and more hazardous materials that railroads continue to say, we only want one human being running these trains. I mean that's just emblematic of their arrogance and who they are and what they are and the damage they've done.

The average fine is less than $10,000 for dozens of safety violations for multi-billion dollar companies. They don't disclose when they're carrying hazardous materials into the states so local firefighters know this is coming. All of that.

LEMON: I just have a short - Senator, respectfully, let me jump in here because I only have about 30 seconds left. BROWN: Sure. Sure.

LEMON: So the legislation that you're proposing, how would it fix that?

BROWN: Well, it would -- the same, at least two people running the trains. They'd have to disclose hazardous materials. It would up the fines that these companies pay.


It would pay - it would - it would make safer the wheel bearings that cause most of these accidents. I mean all of these things. And it's got strong bipartisan support. It's going to get through the Senate was 60 votes, 65, or 70 votes. We're calling on the House to do the same. But it would be - it would be good if the railroad executives say, yes, we support this bill. We'll make a couple little changes. But they won't. They've always gotten their way. They've always fought in Congress with their campaign contributions and their political connections.

And, in the past, railroad safety has been compromised. They've laid off a third of their workers in the last 10 years. We're not going to let them get away with this again.

LEMON: So, I was right, the perfect person to talk about this. Thank you.

BROWN: Well, thank you.

LEMON: Thank you, Sherrod Brown. We appreciate it. Come back, please.

BROWN: Thanks, Don. All right, thank you, sir.

LEMON: Thank you.

He was the perfect person.

HARLOW: You were right.


HARLOW: We appreciate the senator's time.

COLLINS: He's like worried about what that meant.

LEMON: Yes, he's like wait a minute, what are you talking about?

HARLOW: We - I here we have to go. So, we'll see you tomorrow.