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House to Vote on Health Care; Health Care Battle in the Senate; Trump Says Mideast Peace Not So Difficult; No Charges for Baton Rouge Officers; Isaiah Thomas Overcomes Grief. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 4, 2017 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:30:00] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN ANCHOR: Obamacare wasn't popular either until people started really living with it and feeling the effects. It's gotten more popular. It's probably at the height of its popularity. But we -- what we know here is that, yes, to your original question, Chris, the "w" is important. That's no small thing. This has been an administration in the first 100 days that has been without a big legislative victory. So to -- if they are able to get it across the finish line today, as certainly the leadership and the White House believe they are, that's a big deal. Now the question I think politically comes, is it a "w" worth having?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There you go. I mean we've also heard that President Trump rolled up his sleeves here and really did try to get the fence sitters on board. And he used, you know, different tactics. So that's been interesting to watch. And it seems as though he might win this one. He will win this one in the House.

CHALIAN: HE --

CAMEROTA: And then what?

CHALIAN: Well, he's going to have to employ those same skills in the Senate. And what he's really going to need to do, this is going to be fascinating thing to watch. As we all know, when the bill goes to the Senate, it got too conservative for the Senate's liking, right, so it's going to change. When it changes, making sure that that House Freedom Caucus stays on board with whatever changes in the bill in the Senate so that when it comes back to the House to get to the president's desk, nothing's falling apart, President Trump is going to be really, really important in that effort to convince those House conservatives that what happened in the Senate should still keep them on board with the bill, that they don't run away from it.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How? I mean that's why the question becomes, is this a Pyrrhic victory? You know, they barely like this now, the Freedom Caucus guys. So how do you get that to happen?

CHALIAN: Well, first of all, it's been happening a little bit behind the scenes already. You remember, Mitch McConnell is keenly aware of what it's going to take to get the bill through the Senate and so there's no doubt that his folks have been in touch with the House side and the conversations have begun in that -- in that way, Chris. But the salesmanship, you say how on the salesmanship, well, I think it's going to be the same way you saw it here, which is that you heard from Billy Long when they came out. The president said, I need you on this. And we'll see where the president's numbers are at the time that he has to press that again. The (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: But he doesn't decide if they win re-election. And they go back to their constituents and they say, yes, hey, I repealed and replace, you know, take care of me now at the polls and they say, yes, but I'm not getting better health care out of this and there's more vulnerability for me now. That's -- who's going to help them then?

CHALIAN: That's -- that's why I -- watch the vote count today when it happens on the House floor because there are members who have told leadership, if you really need me, I'll be there for you. If it's like -- if this is the vote you need to get it across the finish line, I'll be there for you, but I'd rather not. These are the guys that have sort of stayed on the fence.

I think what you're going to experience is that you're going to see a list of names of no votes on the Republican side and it will identify for you the most competitive districts in the land, the people that feel most vulnerable about their job. Are there enough Republicans in a -- in safe districts that, a, are going to vote for it today to get it over the hurdle, but even with the changes in the Senate will still be on board with it?

CAMEROTA: OK, next topic.

CHALIAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Negating Middle East peace. What could go wrong?

CHALIAN: Nothing.

CAMEROTA: All right. Good. All right, this is how -- what the president -- the president feels optimistic. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's a -- something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years, but we need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing. And if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Is this blind optimism or something else as work?

CHALIAN: It's somewhat blind optimism, I guess. I mean we haven't seen an actual plan yet from the parties that would allow President Trump to feel like this is on the cusp of happening. Remember when Netanyahu came to visit and he said that he just wants whatever the parties want on this. I feel like he was kind of repeating that effort here, which is, he wants to be the one that gets labeled the deal maker on it, but I don't sense that that's a person who's rolling up his sleeves to get into the policy of trying to solve Middle East peace. I get that that is a person who wants to convene and try to keep some distance in case, like it has for decades, not worked out (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: I mean -- or maybe that's just his style. You guys get in a room. You two figure it out. Call me when you're finished.

CHALIAN: Yes, that certainly can be his style.

CUOMO: Right. It's also fuel for his critics who say he doesn't have a handle on precedent.

CHALIAN: Well, I think he is certainly aware that nobody has solved this problem. I mean that's clear. So I also think that's probably part of the attraction to him. I think Donald Trump is attracted to problems that other people haven't been able to solve.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, thank you very much.

CHALIAN: Sure.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you here for "The Bottom Line."

CHALIAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, so Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas is playing through unspeakable pain with some incredible results. He said he wanted to quit after his sister died, but somehow he is finding comfort on the court. So we have his remarkable story for you coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:38:51] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things To Know For Your New Day."

Number one, the House vote on a revamped GOP health care bill just hours away. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy confident Republicans have the votes to pass it. How many will it leave uncovered? What happens in the Senate? Those remain significant unknowns.

CAMEROTA: President Trump expected to sign an executive order that could allow religious groups to become more active in politics. This would be part of a meeting with religious leaders at a national prayer -- sorry, National Day of Prayer event.

CUOMO: The FBI director, James Comey, back on Capitol Hill today. He's going to testify before the House Intel Committee this time behind closed doors. That will be a big difference from yesterday. They are restarted their Russian probe.

CAMEROTA: No charges against two Baton Rouge police officers in the shooting death of Alton Sterling. The Justice Department citing insufficient evidence for federal charges Sterling's civil rights were willfully violated. Louisiana State Police, though, will now investigate.

CUOMO: Check out this video. There is a massive raging fire destroying a barbecue restaurant in Houston. Smoke is still pouring out of the ruins at this hour. Unclear of the case.

CAMEROTA: All right, those are the "Five Things to Know." So here are some extra headlines.

[08:40:04] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ON SCREEN TEXT: School honors hero from other team.

NC teen meets heroes thanks to classmates.

"Star Wars" fans celebrate May the 4th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, back to our top stories.

No federal charges against two Baton Rouge police officers in the shooting death of Alton Sterling. But that doesn't mean the case is over, and that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: The Justice Department announcing that no federal charges will be filed against two white police officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge last year. The state police now investigating the case.

Here to discuss, CNN political commentator and BET News host Marc Lamont Hill, and CNN law enforcement analyst and retired NYPD detective Harry Houck.

So here are the details that we know about this case, and I'll just remind everybody of them because this happened last July.

So, he was -- Alton Sterling was approached by two white police officers. He -- they got him on the ground. He was shot while he was on the ground. He was shot six times, three times in the front, three times in the back. He had a gun in his pocket.

Now, according to his family, one of the police officers put a gun to Alton Sterling's head and said, "I'll kill you." So the family is, obviously, Harry, quite upset that there are no federal charges. What do you think's going to happen at the state level? Harry?

[08:45:19] HARRY HOUCK, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Who are you speaking to?

CAMEROTA: Sorry, Harry, you.

HOUCK: Yes, me, OK.

Well, first of all, I think that this investigation at the state level should have been already conducted. There should have been a parallel investigation with the FBI investigation. But I think it's going to end the same way as the FBI investigation, the U.S. attorney's office investigation, is that these officers acted properly. Here are the fact -- I don't know, how does -- how does his -- Alton Sterling's family know that the officer said, you know, "I'm going to kill you"? The fact is that if you --

CAMEROTA: Well, they said that federal prosecutors told them because there is video -- there is cell phone video and there is also other video, including the body camera of the officers, but it hasn't been released to the public. So I mean they're basically saying that investigators --

HOUCK: OK.

CAMEROTA: This is the cell phone video. Then there is other video and audio --

HOUCK: Right.

CAMEROTA: That the officers were wearing that we haven't seen, OK. And they said that some --

HOUCK: But still -- but still that's OK, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That investigators shared it with them.

HOUCK: Yes, no, but, still, it's OK if he says, hey, I'm going to kill you. The fact is that they went on a call where a man was armed with a weapon, OK? They wrestled this man and I watched that video about 12 times. You can see when he's down on the ground, his right arm is trying to move like this, where it looks to me that he was reaching for his weapon. Now, those officers fired because he kept on trying to reach for his weapon. Remember, this man was arrested back in 2009, I believe, for the same exact thing and he went along peaceably.

CAMEROTA: OK.

HOUCK: Apparently he did not want to go along peaceably today.

CAMEROTA: OK, Marc, how do you see it?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A little bit different. I think there's a question of legal guilt or not -- or being -- decided to be not guilty and the question of innocence. The videotape doesn't show that he was reaching for the gun. The videotape doesn't prove that he was trying to shoot the officers. In fact, there's a moment during the shots where we go off camera, so it's very difficult to determine one way or the other. So I'm not comfortable saying that the police were blameless here. I'm not comfortable saying that the police were defending their lives. That, to me, is not a fair claim.

I think there is a claim to be made, though, that there wasn't -- that it didn't meet the legal standard of proof to find them guilty to be charged. The second thing here though is that second round of shots I did find really troublesome. It seemed to me that after being shot multiple times, he didn't need to be shot again. That's an issue for me.

CAMEROTA: Marc, I want to just -- just say that -- that -- HOUCK: Well, the issue here is that --

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Harry, one second because there's a larger issue here.

HOUCK: OK.

CAMEROTA: And the reason that we're revisiting all of this is because it was this case that started this sort of terrible cascading event that we saw last summer.

HILL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: First it was this case, Alton Sterling, and we saw lots of protests and anger about what had happened to him. And then there was the Philando Castile case in Minnesota, where he was shot in the car where his girlfriend was live streaming it on FaceBook --

HILL: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Which was just so shocking to everyone. That caused a lot of outrage and protest. And then there was the terrible ambush in -- on police officers in Dallas. And so that -- we all remember that that -- that's why this one is still so imbedded in our memories.

But what's happening this time around where now that there's no federal charges, you don't see lots of protests and lots of outcry? Has something shifted in sort of the national mood on this?

HILL: Absolutely. And I'm glad you say you don't see a lot of protests.

HOUCK: Maybe because this man was armed, that's why.

CAMEROTA: I mean that's one of the -- that's -- that's --

HOUCK: I'm sorry, who was that question to?

CAMEROTA: Hold on Harry, that -- that's a good point. I mean maybe do you think, Marc, that it's because the circumstances in this one are different?

HILL: No, because I still think there are questions to be raised. One, of course, is, an officer --

HOUCK: They're totally different.

HILL: An officer saying I'm going to kill you is a provocative gesture. Again, I'm not making a case about legal guilt --

HOUCK: He's fighting for his life, Marc --

HILL: Well --

HOUCK: Something you probably never had to do. But the officer is fighting for his life with another man -- and an armed man. HILL: Harry -- Harry, I'm just trying to have a conversation about

Black Lives Matter. If you'd let me finish you'd understand we're not even disagreeing on this point. And so we can agree sometimes.

HOUCK: OK.

HILL: So what I'm saying is that when you look at the response, part of it is that people are frustrated by the initial part of the case. People are questioning the second round of shots. There are questions. But you made the exact observation, you don't see a lot of protests. That doesn't mean that they're not happening. The national conversation has shifted. In 2015, it was really important to talk about black lives and suddenly when the media doesn't put as much attention on it, it doesn't mean that people aren't still protesting this.

CAMEROTA: But what does that mean? But then what does the protests look like?

HILL: It means -- it means they're still organizing. People are --

HOUCK: Do you want to explain the second shots?

HILL: People are --

CAMEROTA: Not yet, Harry. Go ahead.

HILL: People are still organizing. People are still resisting. People are still on the ground. People are still -- black people are still fights for the value of black lives, even if mainstream outlets aren't talking about i.

CAMEROTA: But is it a quieter protest now?

HILL: I don't think it's a quieter protest. I think it's a different kind of protest. You know, two years ago people said, Black Lives Matter only complain, they only march, which was never true. They've always been doing other thing. But now you see Black Lives Matter in the movement for black lives all around the country, changing policy, getting people elected, asking for structural changes.

I was at a drug policy conference two weeks ago in Atlanta with the Drug Policy Alliance where one of the founders of Black Lives Matter was talking about structural change so that we can reduce the risk, so we can reduce these incidents. It's a different conversation.

[08:50:01] CAMEROTA: Harry, I know you wanted to make a point. Last word.

HOUCK: Right. Well, I -- you know, I think level heads are prevailing now. And the fact that the officers had to shoot him a second time was clear that the fact that the officers still did not feel that their -- that the danger was eliminated and they had to fire a second time. And I believe they -- they were correct there. And -- and --

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, you know, and a fifth and a sixth, and a fourth, and a firth and a sixth.

HOUCK: Well, you know, I mean, listen, the guy has got a gun for crying out loud, all right? I mean what have we go to do? I mean Black Lives Matters' got to have a dead cop first before they have a dead perpetrator. So that's -- that's the issue here. And I think it's totally ridiculous. And we're going to see the same thing we've seen with the Baltimore Six. These officers are going to be exonerated and in the end they will never go to jail because they acted properly.

CAMEROTA: OK. We'll see if that prediction holding up.

Harry, Marc, thank you very much for making your points.

Chris.

CUOMO: All right, what a story this is. NBA star Isaiah Thomas overcoming unimaginable grief, but it's inspiring him on the court. It is a story you've just got to watch.

CAMEROTA: But first, we do have a quick programing note. Tonight at CNN -- at 10:00, CNN's original series "Soundtracks" looked at how the Kent State shooting and the Vietnam War inspired politically-driven songs. Here's a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neil and I were at a friend's house. The friend came back with that magazine cover of the girl kneeling over the kid in the pool of blood, that look on her face like, why? And I watched Neil look at it, and I watched it hit him. And I watched him pick up the guitar and write "Ohio."

NEIL YOUNG, MUSICIAN, (singing): Ten soldiers and Nixon come and we're finally on our own. This summer I hear the drum and four dead in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I called Nash and said, get a studio right now.

GRAHAM NASH: I said, David, you sound intense. What's going on? And he goes, well, wait until you heard this song "Ohio" that Neil just wrote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:55:43] CUOMO: What a story about an NBA star taking it to a higher level during one of the lowest moments of his life. We're talking about Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas. He's on an probable run toward a title, even after the loss of his sister. Who's telling us this story? Someone new to the CNN family. Kaylee Hartung joins us now with it.

Welcome and, boy, what a story to start off on.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much, Chris. You know, Isaiah Thomas had led the Celtics to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. He's done that all season long. But for a guy who has played with a chip on his shoulder through his whole career, through this playoff run, he's had an angel on the other.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thomas crosses. (INAUDIBLE). Thomas (INAUDIBLE) a remarkable night for Isaiah Thomas, 53 points.

HARTUNG (voice-over): Isaiah Thomas' basketball career is already remarkable. At 5'9", he's currently the shortest player in the NBA. The last pick in the 2011 draft is now the best player for one of the most historic franchises in NBA history, the Boston Celtics. When he scored 53 points in Tuesday night against the Wizards in a comeback overtime win --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isaiah Thomas has cracked 50.

HARTUNG: It was the latest remarkable achievement in his career. But this most recent success was driven by pain.

ISAIAH THOMAS, POINT GUARD, BOSTON CELTICS: It's my sister. It's her birthday today. Happy birthday. She would have been 23 today. So everything I do is for her and she's watching over me, so that's all her.

HARTUNG: Seventeen days before her birthday, Chyna Thomas died. The car she was driving drifted off a highway in Washington state and struck a pole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join us in a moment of silence in her honor.

HARTUNG: A day after he learned of his little sister's death, Isaiah Thomas found comfort on the basketball court as the Celtics tipped off their first game of the playoffs with "I love you, Chyna" written on his shoes, Thomas scored 33 points that night.

BRAD STEVENS, HEAD COACH, BOSTON CELTICS: He's an amazing, amazing player, amazing person and, you know, days won't get easier for him, but he, you know, somehow plays like that.

HARTUNG: Mentally and emotionally, I'm not here. But being here is what makes me, I guess, sane and makes me feel somewhat normal, I mean, through this -- through this tough time.

HARTUNG: The Celtics went on to win their first round playoff season against the Bulls. A difficult 38 hours followed. Thomas flew home to Washington State to attend his sister's funeral Saturday and got on a red eye a few hours later back to Boston. In Sunday's game against the Wizards, Thomas took an elbow to the face and lost a tooth. He underwent ten hours of dental work before his next game, the one where he scored 53 points on his little sister's birthday.

THOMAS: It just wasn't a good day for me with it being my sister's birthday, me being in the hospital for three or four hours a day and I just didn't have the energy. There's no way I couldn't play on her birthday. I mean, I wanted to win for her. I wanted to play well for her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Celtics! Victorious in overtime. (INAUDIBLE) performance from Isaiah Thomas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARTUNG: Isaiah Thomas says the baseball court is like his safe haven. He says when he's on the court he's at peace. Though it's hard to imagine that other players will be able to find any peace on that court tonight. The Celtics and the Wizards, this has become one of the most intense and physical rivalries in the NBA, as they play game three of the series tonight.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, he is remarkable the way he can -- has compartmentalize and sort of used his grief as almost, you know, an engine.

HARTUNG: A guy who was already motivated has found more motivation to play in her honor.

CUOMO: And, you know, it's an extension of what he has most of all, which is strength, right? I mean he's short, but the guy's a bull and his heart is obviously very strong also and he's playing with it every night.

CAMEROTA: Wow.

HARTUNG: He means so much more to that team than just the numbers he's able to put up.

CAMEROTA: Kaylee, thanks so much and welcome again. Great to have you here.

HARTUNG: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, it is time for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.

We'll see you tomorrow.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you so much. And thank you for running a piece about Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics (INAUDIBLE) more on --

HARLOW: Unreal.

CUOMO: Despite him being on the Celtics, we ran the piece. Despite him being on the Celtics.

BERMAN: They are fierce. Fierce and mighty. People without teeth.

CUOMO: I heard he's been traded to the Knicks. (INAUDIBLE). BERMAN: Even without teeth. He plays defense. He would never fit in there.

CUOMO: Oh.

BERMAN: All right, guys, a lot of news today, let's get started.

CUOMO: Hurts because it's true.

[09:00:08] BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.