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NEW DAY SATURDAY
Trump Threatens Comey: Better Hope There Aren't Tapes; Trump to SpeaksAt Liberty University Graduation; Hackers Demand Ransom In Major Cyber Attack; Conservatives Conflicted Over Support Of President; Sources: Rosenstein Sees No Need For Special Counsel; Blast Comey Firing, Call For Special Counsel; Federal Lawsuit Filed, Claims Law Enforcement Officers Are Violating The Civil Rights Of African- Americans Living In Mississippi County; Attorney General Jeff Sessions Rolling Back Some Of The Justice Department's Reforms Made During The Obama Administration. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired May 13, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: -- seventy two years later, yes, the letter read "I love you as I love the warm sun as that is what you are for my life. The sun about which everything else revolves for me." The couple's 66-year-old son read the letter to his 96-year-old father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And I won't talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the tapes exist, it would be very disturbing if suddenly they disappeared.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president has nothing further to add on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll focus on what is in my control and that what is what is Congress doing to solve people's problems.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This president needs to be impeached.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one, no one in this country is above the law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone who might be subject to an investigation fire the investigator that certainly looks like an obstruction of justice.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We don't have press conferences and we do --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't mean that.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You know Sean Spicer. He is a wonderful human being. He's a nice man.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, any other questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Saturday day is waiting for you and so are we. We are glad to have you here. I'm Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. President Trump is just hours away from giving his first commencement address since taking office.
PAUL: Speaking to graduates at the Conservative Christian Institution of Liberty University. There's a live shot for you right there as people are already getting into place, about two hours from the time the president will take the stage.
In the meanwhile, it is the first day of interviews for a new FBI director, the most controversial job right now in Washington. Sources tell CNN these four candidates you see here are in the running to replace James Comey. The new hire will be in charge of investigating Russian meddling in the election, possible collusion between President Trump's campaign team and Russia.
BLACKWELL: This is happening as the president's threat to Comey on Twitter is really getting a lot of questions in response. He hinted to having tapes of their private conversations, but the president is not elaborating on that at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the idea that in a tweet you said that there might be tape recordings?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: That I can't talk about. I won't talk about that. All I want us for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be, I am sure he will be, I hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles, in Lynchburg, Virginia ahead of Trump's commencement speech. Ryan, any idea what President Trump's message will be?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, one thing for sure, is we don't expect the president to talk about the tumultuous week that he had in Washington. We don't expect the topic of FBI Director James Comey to come up at all.
Instead this is going to be a message of encouragement to the graduates here at Liberty University. This is a significant place for the president of the United States. It was the endorsement of this school's president, Dr. Jerry Falwell Jr. that really started to allow him to coalesce the support of Evangelical voters in that Republican primary. And he rode that support all the way to the nomination and then eventually to the White House. So in many respects, this is the president saying thank you to this base of voters that supported him.
You know, the last time someone from this administration was here in Lynchburg, it was when Mike Pence, the vice president, visited in October right before the election and that was shortly after that "Access Hollywood" tape came out.
And Mike Pence said to a certain degree attempted to defend the president and ask for forgiveness, he wasn't the president at the time, there was a smattering of boos from the crowd here at Liberty University.
So we don't know exactly how he'll be received, but we expect it to be a warm reception. We've already seen quite a few of those red "Make America Great Again" hats in the crowd.
There will be some protesters but there will be relatively far away from where we are here at this commencement address. So overall, Victor, this is expected to be a warm reception for the president of the United States.
BLACKWELL: All right, Ryan Nobles for us there at Liberty University. Two hours away from the president's commencement address.
PAUL: Errol Louis, CNN political commentator with us now as well as Douglas Brinkley, CNN presidential historian. Thank you, Gentlemen, for being here.
Errol, as we look to what might be said today, we know that George W. Bush and Barack Obama when they spoke there in their terms, they did speak about some things political.
Based on the head spinning that we have seen this week, would it do the president some good -- is there anything he could say, I guess, in this speech coming out that might tamp things down from everything we've seen this week?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. We can always hope for that. I wouldn't expect it though, the president has really used these kinds of settings where he is really addressing his base directly to kind of give himself a morale boost, go back to some of the greatest hits from the campaign trail.
[08:05:02]Frankly, what I'm listening for, Christi, is what if anything he says about his ban on Muslim immigration, which is red meat to this crowd, but has been a great source of controversy and frustration and tied up in the courts now.
I mean, this is the kind of thing that he would hit on again and again when speaking to this sort of crowd on the campaign trail. We will see if he is going to be in campaign mode today.
PAUL: All right, Doug, between the Comey, the investigation, there are calls from at least nine Dems for impeachment. What do you think has been the most jarring this week and could pose to be the biggest obstacle for the president in the coming days?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Without question, the firing of Comey. It just shocked everybody. Here's the head of the FBI that was investigating perhaps collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and suddenly he's nixed from the scene and creates a void at the FBI when the investigation was starting to gather some momentum.
So it's a dirt pile hanging over President Trump. But he is going to get a high today at Liberty University because he seems to thrive getting out of Washington, D.C. He does better when he is in Mar-A- Lago or in front of an arena full of people that like him.
At Liberty, he has a group of students and faculty that will be cheering for him wildly. Most universities and colleges didn't want Donald Trump. He is seen as too polarizing a figure.
The exception of an Evangelical school like Liberty or a military academy, West Point, U.S. Naval academy, it would be very hard this commencement season for this particular president to even give an address.
PAUL: Jack Kingston is with us now. Do we have Jack with us?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
PAUL: Hi, Jack. Thank you for being here. We appreciate you being here.
KINGSTON: Let me say this, we will take him at University of Georgia. We could get him at Georgia Tech, Texas A&M would love him, North Carolina or at least North Carolina state. If the president is looking to give commencement speeches, we could line him up.
PAUL: I don't doubt it.
BRINKLEY: I would doubt it.
PAUL: You would doubt it?
BRINKLEY: Yes, I would.
KINGSTON: We will have a gentleman's bet over that.
BRINKLEY: Why isn't he there? Where are the invites? People are scared to invite him.
PAUL: Because there has been so much that has happened this week, and you're right, we're talking about the commencements, but I want to talk about Sean Spicer here a little bit. Jack, I want to ask you about communication between the president and his communication teams.
We had Spicer come out this week as well as Huckabee, they could give no indication of whether there are indeed taped conversations in the White House. No indication if there will continue to be news briefings. They didn't have a lot of information. If they did have information this week, it seems to contradict what the president said in his NBC interview. Where is the disconnect, Jack?
KINGSTON: I'm not 100 percent certain. I will say this. Donald Trump is an entrepreneur. He is one of these self-made guys who I think in many cases sort operates out of his head. I served under Newt Gingrich when he was speaker. Often the communication wasn't perfect and the reason was because those type leaders are entrepreneurial in thinking and make decisions quickly, sometimes get ahead of their team. So I don't think it is unusual. I think in this case it was unfortunate.
PAUL: All righty. Errol, I want to listen to Senator Mark Warner here, Senate Intel Committee chairman talking about FBI Director James Comey and him testifying or not testifying in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR MARK WARNER (D), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTEL COMMITTEE: We just heard from the director that he is not able to make Tuesday. It is my hope that we'll be able to find a time. I think it's really important that the Congress, more broadly, the American people hear Director Comey's side of the story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Errol, the reporting in "New York Times" this morning, a source close to Comey says he does want to testify but wants to do so publicly. Do you think that will happen?
LOUIS: Well, I certainly hope so, Christi. I mean, that's really the thing that has been missing from a lot of the conversation has been the truth, the truth expressed publicly, freely, and openly with a chance in real time to ask questions, to clarify what is meant.
So if James Comey now unfettered by requirements of leading the FBI wants to speak on the record in public with both helpful and adversarial questions put to him by members of Congress, that's our institutions working.
[08:10:02]So I certainly hope he would take them up. From the clip that you played, Christi, it sounded like it might have been a logistical problem or perhaps he wants to confer with his lawyers, wrap up some loose ends from having been fired as director of the FBI. I hope it is nothing more serious than that, and that he does intend to show up and I hope Congress will take him up on it.
PAUL: All right, remind us of the tweet yesterday when the president tweeted out "James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaks to the press." That started a whirlwind of is the president taping conversations behind closed doors in the White House. It has been characterized as equating to Nixonian era. Do you think that is a fair comparison, Doug? BRINKLEY: Well, any time you say White House tapes or secret tapes, rings people's Watergate bell. Remember Nixon wanted to at all cost hide the fact that he was taping. Nobody knew in '71 and '72 that he was taping. It is only until '73 that it got discovered and it caused him a lot of problems.
Conversely, Donald Trump is right out of the gate in his presidency kind of bragging that I may have tapes. My gut tells me that was a bluff tweet. He tweets all sorts of things. Probably wasn't a tape of that dinner conversation, but who knows?
They're so easy to do. People's phones can pick up conversations, and maybe he had that dinner wired for his reasons that he wanted a transcript of it. We'll have to find out, but it has created a lot of havoc for the White House, the connection that secret tapes are being made of private conversations.
PAUL: Jack, you have the last word. Would it be smart for him to tape conversations?
KINGSTON: I don't know if it would be smart, but it is certainly legal that you can do that in Washington, D.C. I bet you every time I have been interviewed as a member of Congress, the journalists who would be interviewing me record the conversation, and rarely do they tell you.
Often you go back, you say are we recording, on record. So very common. All hearings are recorded. A guy from the FBI should be used to knowing there's no privacy in this town. Certainly they were listening in on many, many conversations, including that of General Flynn.
I don't think there's anything unusual about it. I think it is one of these sort of maybe a White House, not so much a threat as maybe a volley. Just sending a signal.
PAUL: All right, Errol Louis, Doug Brinkley, Jack Kingston, always grateful to have you here with us. Thank you, Gentlemen.
BLACKWELL: Let's take that live shot at Joint Base Andrews, Air Force One on the right of the screen, awaiting President Trump to board the plane. On the left, where he is headed, Lynchburg, Virginia and Liberty University. You see thousands of students and family members, faculty and staff.
The president will be speaking in about two hours, less than two hours at a commencement speech there. We have been gauging the mood among supporters there, and some that are not supporting. Get their reaction to this turbulent week.
WHITFIELD: Also, breaking new details concerning that global cyber threat that demands its victims pay up. What CNN has just learned? Stay close.
PAUL: Breaking news for you here, with some developments this hour in that massive global cyber-attack that's demanded more than 100,000 people worldwide pay up, if they ever want to see their computer files again.
BLACKWELL: CNN tech correspondent, Samuel Burke, joins us now. Samuel, good morning to you. And pretty important development here.
SAMUEL BURKE, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Good morning, Christi. Yes, a very good development here. We are hearing from cyber-security experts that this virus, this piece of ransom-ware had actually been halted. So it will not be spreading anymore.
But if you already had this ransom-ware effect your computer, you're not out of the woods yet. Those people might still have to pay up or decide they might even have to throw out their machines.
Windows is also issuing a security patch, even for systems like XP, which they don't service any more, but because this is so profound and really so different from any hack that we've ever seen before.
This is not the type of hacking where we say passwords were stolen or credit cards, this is actually ransom-ware, taking over people's computers, their files, demanding $300 to $600 for people to regain control, and actually effecting people's lives.
It shut down big companies, hurt individuals. Even shut down multiple hospitals, had to cancel patients, outpatient appointments in United Kingdom. We are seeing how technology can actually affect people's lives with this ransom-ware. So we're not out of the woods just yet.
PAUL: You talk about hospitals, you talk life and death in a situation like that possibly. Help us understand what the threat is at this hour. I remember listening to somebody this morning saying they tell you that you have to pay $300 and that doesn't guarantee you get your information back.
BURKE: It doesn't guarantee you'll get your information back, but many times the way these type of cyber criminals work, they want that money. So they want to get people the incentives. So we've seen people pay that money and get access to their files again.
So people will have to make this decision, if this is happening to you. I think this is fascinating because it is not about clicking on a link and it's a phishing attack.
This is actually been ransom where it's going through the internet looking for vulnerable computers, Window systems that have this problem because people haven't done those seemingly annoying security updates.
So people have to make a decision, if do they want to pay that $300 to get your information back or maybe decide that they don't want those files anymore. It is all about how valuable that data you have on your computer. BLACKWELL: Terrible position to be in. Samuel Burke, thanks so much.
PAUL: So again, we are less than two hours away now from the president delivering a commencement address to the largest Christian university in the world.
[08:20:06]There are some of the graduates on their phones, no less. Mom, look at me! In the meantime, some conservatives are still conflicted over their support of the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want him to be a good representation of America. I love this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Aren't you glad it's the weekend. Take a nice deep breath. Here we go. I am Christi Paul.
BLACKWELL: I am Victor Blackwell. Good morning to you. In about 90 minutes from now, Donald Trump, president of the United States will deliver his first commencement speech as president to Liberty University.
PAUL: He may be bringing with him some of the remnants this week, the cloud of the FBI's investigation into Russia's meddling into the 2016 election.
[08:25:08]The sudden controversial decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. So all of that is lingering, but there's a live picture on the left side of the screen of those graduates as they're getting ready. And on the right side, Joint Base Andrews as the president gets ready to depart for Lynchburg, Virginia.
Now as the president prepares for that speech, we should point out some of those who are waiting to hear from him say they're conflicted over their support of the president. Here's CNN correspondent, Polo Sandoval.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White family tackles everything at the dinner table from their projects to the politics behind the controversial firing of the FBI Director James Comey.
LARRY WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: Those who are -- which is probably the majority here, those who were pro-Trump, voted for Trump. I think something like this isn't going to shake them one bit.
SANDOVAL: Larry White and his wife, Kathy, are raising their family in Lynchburg, in the center of Virginia, but leaning right, more than 50 percent of the city voted for Donald Trump. WHITE: We all basically have the same world view, a Christian world view but when it gets into politics, there's certainly going to be some variation.
SANDOVAL: The Whites are highly conservative, but they are also conflicted when it comes to their views on President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't actually vote for him.
SANDOVAL: The 23-year-old Anna White is one of a few in her family who did not cast a vote for president last November. Recent Trump tweets reassure have only reassured Anna of her decision. For Trump voting family members, however, still stand by their choice.
ABIGAIL WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: I don't think there's one time where I'm like oh, OK, shouldn't have voted for him, he was not the hero I thought he was. He wasn't a hero to begin with.
SANDOVAL (on camera): You didn't vote for him because of thinking he was a hero.
KATHY WHITE, TRUMP VOTER: Yes. I would add I have trust issues with the former president and the president before that. So the idea of trusting this president or not trusting is not new.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): This is the kind of dialogue you'll find at the Whites' dinner table.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Intense. We all get in tense and passionate. Don't get angry but we get very passionate when we're talking.
ABIGAIL WHITE: And there's a lot of us so it's hard to actually talk.
SANDOVAL: This weekend, it is Trump's turn to talk in Lynchburg, a place that welcomed him as a candidate and now as president. This part of Virginia is home to some of Trump's steadfast support says the city's Republican Party Vice Chair Tim Griffin.
TIM GRIFFIN, VICE CHAIR, LYNCHBURG REPUBLICAN PARTY: Jerry Fall Sr. was part of the Reagan revolution and the moral majority. That's why it is important for people to come to Lynchburg, meet voters, meet people and see what's it all about, Liberty is all about.
SANDOVAL: Over 100 days into Trump's presidency, Griffin and fellow Republicans seem unfazed by the cloud of controversy swirling over the White House.
KATHY WHITE: I want to support the role that he plays, the job that he's doing. I want him to be a good representation of America. America. I love this country.
SANDOVAL: The Whites' faith in President Trump is being tested but their faith in the office is unshakeable. A feeling shared by many in this brass buckle of the Bible belt. Polo Sandoval, CNN, Lynchburg, Virginia.
BLACKWELL: Democratic attorneys general from 20 states and municipalities blasted the president's firing of James Comey and called on the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein to appoint an independent special counsel to continue the Russia investigation.
Washington's attorney general who has joined the push says that they perceived no response to their call so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: OK, so there is this response that I just talked about that the Deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, says he sees no need for an independent special investigation or probe right now at least not yet. What do you make of that?
KARL RACINE, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I respectfully disagree as do my colleagues at the Democratic Attorney Generals' Association. It's clear that we're talking about a serious investigation. We're talking about the potential of meddling in a Democratic presidential election with the Russians.
What we need is a thorough investigation that doesn't have anything to do with politics or partisanship. The only way we can do this is to do what Janet Reno did many times during President Clinton's tenure.
And that is go outside of the Department of Justice, hire a special counsel, a special counsel who has not been hired by the president and cannot be fired by the president. It's only that type of special counsel who can restore the public confidence in the justice system.
BLACKWELL: So you say you want this investigation to happen without partisanship. What do you make of the relative silence from Republicans both in Washington and attorney generals like yourself across the country?
RACINE: Well, the Democrats have spoken. There's no doubt about that and my colleague, Moore Helick (ph) from Massachusetts led the charge and got 19 of us to join in a letter.
[08:30:10] I think, the silence on the part of most republicans both on the hill and certainly from my colleagues in the state A.G. world speaks of a level of partisanship, the kind of partisanship that will not get down to the facts and will not reach a full some conclusion. That's why, again, Janet Reno, during President Clinton's tenure, appointed eight independent and special counsel in order to ensure that the public could be confident in the result of an investigation.
And one more point, Victor, Jeff Sessions, when he was United States senator, he called for an independent counsel on several occasions and he's making -- he made the same argument that I'm making today.
Namely, that an independent counsel is necessary when the president is being investigated. Why? Because you need to have a lawyer who is not subject to being replaced by the president of the United States. VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Let me get your reaction to something.
This is from Senator Dick Durbin, he said this on Friday and let's put it up on the screen, this is actually a statement from his office, "To preserve his reputation as a credible prosecutor, Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein must appoint an independent special prosecutor to pursue possible criminal charges or he must resign." Do you go that far -- and we know that Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees now that he cannot do the job if he does not appoint an independent special prosecutor?
RACINE: You know, I frankly associate myself with Senator Durbin's remarks. I think, he's exactly right and if you think about it, just a few days ago, the White House would have all of us believe that the reason why former Director Comey was fired was because of an investigation that the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein made.
We now know that that wasn't the case. We now know that President Trump was going to fire in his words Comey no matter what and that the cause of it was the Russian investigation.
Frankly, the deputy attorney general has a well-earned reputation for honesty and integrity, I think, that in order for him to retain that reputation, he must hire special counsel.
BLACKWELL: One more element here, the president scratched the plan to visit the FBI according to sources that was scheduled to happen on Friday possibly because of ill feelings surrounding Comey's firing. You remember the law enforcement community, how can the president mend this relationship with members of the FBI?
RACINE: Well, it's clear that the only way to mend any kind of relationship in law enforcement is to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Stop obfuscating, stop lying and otherwise allow the FBI to conduct a full investigation under the jurisdiction of an independent counsel.
BLACKWELL: Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.
RACINE: Thank you, Victor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) about this right?
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: A (INAUDIBLE) woman says this blurry cell phone video shows the moment her husband was choked by a sheriff's deputy. We're going to hear the claims of abuse. Checkpoints and road blocks, one community says they've been dealing with for decades.
Also, next in this week's "United Shades of America," W. Kamau Bell travels to an Indian reservation to hear about some of the struggles going on right in our own backyard.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL (voice-over): Welcome back to "New Day." Right side of your screen, that is President Trump and his Chief Political Strategist Steve Bannon. They are -- there you see President Trump headed up the stairs there on to of Air Force One, Joint Base Andrews.
They are headed to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. You see that on the left side of your screen live pictures this morning, 38 minutes after the hour where the president will be delivering the commencement address in fewer than two hours.
This is a very conservative, largest Christian university in the world. The head of that university, the president, Jerry Falwell Jr., endorsed the president during the primary, major supporter of President Trump and we will carry those remarks live here on CNN as they begin in the 10:00 hour Eastern.
PAUL: Meanwhile, there's a federal lawsuit filed this week that claims law enforcement officers are violating the civil rights of African-Americans living in one specific Mississippi County.
BLACKWELL: The plaintiffs in this case say they were targeted for traffic stops and subjected to illegal searches and seizures.
I went to the city of Canton to speak with the people who say they not only witnessed the injustice, they are the victims of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) about this right?
BLACKWELL (voice-over): This cell phone video is a little blurry, but Quinetta Manning says she remembers the day that a Madison County, Mississippi sheriff's deputy choked her husband very clearly.
QUINETTA MANNING: I was hysterical because I couldn't believe it.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): She says it was last June when six deputies demanded that they write witness statements saying they'd watched a man break into a nearby apartment. Manning says they didn't see anything.
MANNING: My husband decided to tell me that he knew his rights. He told the officer that he knew his rights and he didn't have to write the false witness statement but instead he demanded.
So, he beat him, drug him down the stairs. I went along and wrote the statement because I was afraid of what would happen to me or my husband.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): Manning says her husband was so badly beaten and scared that he eventually wrote one too.
PALOMA WU, LEGAL DIRECTOR, ACLU MISSISSIPPI: It really is a permanent state of siege.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): Paloma Wu is the legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi.
WU: These types of stories are everywhere in this community but they are not special. They're simply particularly memorable.
BLACKWELL: Manning says that the sheriff's department does not treat everyone in Madison County equally.
According to ACLU, Canton, which is 75 percent black, but represents just 14 percent of the county's population accounted for nearly half of the arrests between May and September of last year.
Now the ACLU is suing Madison County, Sheriff Randy Tucker and members of his department for violating the civil rights of the black people who live here, citing among other claims, the regular road blocks and checkpoints they're subjected to.
Nick Singleton lives in Canton. He says he's been stopped at road blocks in this small town more than 20 times.
NICK SINGLETON: And it's going to be predominantly in the black neighborhood rather than in the white neighborhood.
WU: Sometimes these are plain clothes deputies and unmarked cars on a side of the road and the only reason you know to pull over is because someone's flashing a flashlight in your face.
SINGLETON: People are treated as if they're guilty before proven innocent.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): And although blacks account for 38 percent of the population county wide, between May and September last year, the ACLU citing documents from the county calculates that blacks represented the vast majority of road block arrests.
During that same time, the ACLU says whites who were stopped were more likely to be charged with DUI or drug crime.
WU: Where black arrestees are 300 percent more likely to be sitting in jail only for a petty traffic related infraction, like not wearing a seat belts or having a broken taillight.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): And there's what the community calls the jump out boys. The ACLU says they're plain clothes deputies who target blacks for unreasonable searches and seizures, including the home of a 62-year-old great grandmother.
WU: These jump out boys pulled up to her backyard, two plainclothes deputies get out, run up the patio to where people are having a celebratory family barbeque. They detain everybody. They search everybody including their pockets. When they can't find drugs, they crawl around on the ground looking for some. When they can't find those, they get back into their unmarked car and they drive away.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): That great-grandmother's claim, and the claims made by the Mannings and Singleton are highlighted in the lawsuit. The Madison County sheriff's office did not return our calls but in a
statement to the Clarion-Ledger, Sheriff Tucker said, "Our deputies are professional law enforcement officials who enforce Mississippi laws. If a law is broken, appropriate action is taken regardless of the race of the one breaking said law. As always, we have fairly and diligently executed the duties for which we are required."
MANNING: Everybody in the area where the black (INAUDIBLE) have a story about Madison County.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): People we spoke with say blacks have been targets for decades. Despite fears of retaliation, Manning says she wants a fairer future for her three sons.
MANNING: I just don't want my kids to grow up afraid. I shouldn't have to go out and be scared every time I see the police.
BLACKWELL: Well, the people we spoke with say that the road blocks are so common, there is a Facebook page with more than 1,700 followers who post and read that Facebook page to get a heads up on where they are around this small town.
Now, as part of the lawsuit, the ACLU is asking the judge to order monitoring of and training for Madison County deputies plus damages for the victims but, above all, they're asking for a community board to give the people of Madison County oversight over the sheriff's department's policies.
PAUL: Please stay with us. How a conservative governor in a conservative state saved money by taking on criminal justice reform. This happening while President Trump and his attorney general appear to be making some major changes to federal guidelines.
BLACKWELL: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rolling back some of the justice department's reforms made during the Obama administration, specifically, directing prosecutors now to charge suspects with the most serious offense they can prove and reviving guidance on mandatory minimums.
In a statement, former Attorney General Eric Holder says the new policy is, quote, "Dumb on crime." He continued with this, "It's an ideologically motivated cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety."
Joining us now to talk about this, Brian Robinson, republican strategist and former assistant chief staff for Georgia's governor and CNN political commentator Jack Kingston, former senior adviser to the Trump campaign and former republican congressman from Georgia.
Jack, first to you -- good morning to both but, Jack, first to you, your assessment of what we're hearing from the former attorney general?
JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think this is just part of Trump's campaign promise to crackdown on law and -- get law and order restored in our country. As you probably know, since these -- the sentencing leniency instructions from Obama came out in 2013, crime rate has gone up, violent crime, and murder rate has gone up, the highest since 1971, as a matter of fact, 15,000 people killed in 2015.
So about an 11 percent spike in murders and what he's saying is we need to have -- prosecutors need to consider the quantity of the drug that they're trying to sell but he also said there should be some discretion and I think that's where there needs to be a big discussion of what kind of discretion do you want to give prosecutors.
BLACKWELL: All right, Brian, how about that point, last year the murder rate in the 30 largest cities across the country climbed by 14 percent? Sessions says that getting tougher on charges will combat that. You'd say what?
BRIAN ROBINSON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO GOV. NATHAN DEAL: Well, getting tougher on violent charges is great. Here's the problem, but when you have a one size fits all solution where you're putting everybody in jail for longer sentences, you have less room in those prisons for the most violent offenders.
In Georgia, we've had significant criminal justice reforms here under a conservative governor and a very conservative legislature that are passed unanimously. Our prison population has gone down over the last five years. That's unheard of and it doubled in the 20 years before that.
So we've gone from having 50-something percent of our prison population here in Georgia as violent offenders to 67 percent of our offenders in prison are violent.
So, we're making more room for the most violent, the most dangerous offenders in Georgia and taking a smarter approach to nonviolent offenders, particularly, those who are suffering from addiction or mental illness and we are putting them in accountability courts, we're giving them the treatment they need, that is expensive but it's much less expensive than a prison bed.
BLACKWELL: Let's talk about that, the cost because I went back and read the president's budget blueprint and let's put it up on the screen. There's a line under the Department of Justice in which they say that their budget, the proposed cuts, achieve a savings of almost a billion dollars in federal prison construction spending due to an approximate 14 percent decrease in the prison population since 2013 which potentially is what Brian's talking about here.
Listen, if you get the most serious charges now, you're going to have longer sentences, fuller prisons, it's going to cost more money. How do you pay for this?
KINGSTON: Well, first of all, let me remind everybody that for the 15,000 people who were killed in 2015 and for their families, the cost is probably not the number one thing on their mind and I don't mean that sarcastically but some of these sentences are hard to put a price on.
As Brian knows, during the 1980s in Georgia, we had this awkward court order that's -- was a metric system where we had to release prisoners because of overcrowding.
Zell Miller, Joe Frank Harris came in with a conservative legislature, they (INAUDIBLE) said, you know what, we're going to have to have mandatory sentences, and two strikes and three strikes and you're out laws and it brought down the crime rate but it did increase the prison population.
But you built more prisons and I think one of the saddest things in there where we got to figure out is what do you do to the actual crime if, you know, we debate sentencing, we debate prison populations but we're not really focusing on how to get the crime rate down.
All we're doing is stopping at making the streets safer, which is important and that's where the balance has to be.
BLACKWELL: Let me get -- Brian, let me get one more to you then I've got to go. Quickly, this -- what about the argument that this is what the attorney general took in oath to do? Execute it, enforce the laws the congress gave him. If you want to change laws, pursue a congressional strategy.
ROBINSON: I agree with that and that's what we've done here in Georgia is we changed the law and we need to take a serious look at that in congress. One of the people who stopped those reforms from moving forward was former Senator Jeff Sessions who's now the attorney general.
Look, we know that if you go to prison, you are significantly more likely to recidivate, to come out and commit another crime. If don't' go, if you're diverted and you get the treatment that you need, your chance of committing another crime drops precipitously.
We have 45,000 people in Georgia in accountability courts and those people when they get out aren't going to go out and re-offense. Those who go to prison, they will, so, a smarter way to keep people safe.
BLACKWELL: Got to wrap it, Brian. I apologize for that but we're up against the clock at the top of the hour. Brian Robinson, Jack Kingston, thanks so much.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
PAUL: All right. So, Melissa McCarthy brings White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer out of the bushes and on to the streets of New York. What we know about her return tonight is spicy on "Saturday Night Live."
PAUL: This week on "Start Small, Think Big" a guitar company making instruments with wood. It's been around for centuries.
JASON BURR, CO-FOUNDER, GEORGIA QUARTER GUITARS: Listen, somebody jam on something that we made, it's nothing but pride. Hi, I'm Jason Burr.
FRANK SCHLEY, CO-FOUNDER, GEORGIA QUARTER GUITARS: And, I'm Frank Schley with Georgia Quarter Guitars, the custom guitar company where we make electric guitars out of historically significant wood, and this wood is special. It was born in 1400s, so, it's older than the country. In 1856, it was cut down to be used in a dam in the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia.
BURR: The materials matter because it makes a connection to help weave the story around that guitar, to make a piece of history come alive and that really gets at the spirit of what we're trying to accomplish here.
Giving this material a second chance at life, really a chance to sing and become something even more beautiful than it was before.
SCHLEY: The burning is a special thing that brings the sap out of the guitar and cooks it and that really adds a lot of character and depth to the wood that you wouldn't normally see.
BURR: One of our main strategies is to really put the guitar in the hands of musicians. It really gives us a chance to shine along with them and the social media piece plays back into it then as well. Absolutely promote them and they promote us.
To be able to be financially successful at doing something that you're passionate about, that's been the real measure of success for us.
BLACKWELL: Well, out of the bushes and into the streets, Melissa McCarthy is getting into character ahead of her return to "Saturday Night Live" as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
PAUL: Yes, look at this. It's not a podium, taking a spin outside our office in New York yesterday. Then you'll see bystanders capturing video of her taping for the show. Yes, I wonder what they're up to. We're going to have all the highlights for you tomorrow morning of course.
BLACKWELL: And, we'll see you back here at 10:00 Eastern for an hour of "CNN Newsroom".
PAUL: Yes. "Smerconish" show is with you now.