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Sessions on Presidential Conversations; Sessions on Russia Meddling; Sessions Slammed over Chicago Violence; University of Florida Braces for Speech and Protests; Pesticides on Food; Security Guard's Encounter with Killer; Bleacher Report Headlines. Aired 8:30- 9a ET

Aired October 19, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:33:08] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing a grilling in a Senate hearing. Sessions repeatedly refused to discuss his conversations with President Trump about James Comey's firing or the Russia investigation. Here is just a moment.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I can neither assert executive privilege, nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president.

And that calls for a communication that I've had with the president and I believe it remains confidential.

I do not confirm or deny the existence of any communication between the president that I consider to be confidential.


CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now is Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was part of that Senate Judiciary hearing.

Senator, thank you very much for being here. So was that a satisfying experience of interviewing Attorney General Sessions? Did you get what you wanted?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Of course not. And I thought if Senator Sessions had been sitting there instead of Attorney General Sessions, he would have gone red in the face and been very upset that an attorney general didn't answer basic questions.

I asked the attorney general, did you have any conversation with the attorney general of the state of Texas before you made the decision to repeal the DACA program. That wasn't an executive privilege issue, but he refused to answer. He said that is part of my work product. What in the world is he talking about? Everything we're discussing was part of his work product as attorney general. He really dodged a lot of questions yesterday.

CAMEROTA: So what do you do about that?

DURBIN: There's not much you can do. Let the American people be the judge. If he is concealing information that they think is important to know, then, of course, he pays a price in his own credibility. We have to do our job, under the constitution, oversight of the Department of Justice. He's an infrequent visitor. This was his first visit as attorney general and we've got to call him back to make sure he's held accountable.

CAMEROTA: One of the things that he did disclose, interestingly, was when asked whether the U.S. is doing enough to stop Russian meddling in the future, he did not call it a hoax, as his boss sometimes does. He said, no, he doesn't think that the U.S. has its arms around this problem because it's so complicated. What do you take away from that?

[08:35:15] DURBIN: I take that the evidence that's been accumulated about the involvement of the Russians in the last campaign now makes it a point that no one is debating. There was a moment, I guess, when that certain people, including the president, were in full-fledged denial that the Russians had anything to do with the last election. And, finally, its reaches a point you just can't ignore the evidence. They are actively engaged in trying to undermine our election procedures. What they did in the last campaign may be minor league compared to what they can do in the future. We do not want them to have any impact on our process. Certainly no impact on actual votes cast.

CAMEROTA: Right, but what about the fact that the attorney general doesn't know what to do about it, thinks it's such a complicated issue that doesn't know how to prevent it in the future?

DURBIN: When the number one law enforcement person in America throws his hands up and says, I'm not sure which way to turn, that's a cause of concern. We need to make sure that the agencies of our government, starting with the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice, start coming forward with initiatives that will deal with it.

You know, for example, this is a small but important thing. John McCain has joined Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner, in this effort to try to make sure there's a disclosure when people buy ads online as to the source of those ads. We do this when it comes to radio, TV, print media. Why wouldn't we do it on social media. We should have a disclosure. If the Russians are buying ads, the Americans have a right to know it.

CAMEROTA: You had a confrontation yourself with the attorney general yesterday about these federal funds and whether or not they should go to Chicago, say, to fight crime in Chicago. And, as you know, there's a push by the Trump White House to keep federal funds to going to cities like Chicago that declare themselves sanctuary cities.

Let me play a moment of this for the viewers.


DURBIN: You want to cut off federal funds to that city and come here and criticize the murder rate. You can't have it both ways.

JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have increased the number of ATF agents to prosecute gun crimes in Chicago by 12, which is quite a large number --

DURBIN: Twelve?

SESSIONS: More than any other city, I believe.

DURBIN: Twelve?


I do not want to not have grants go to Chicago. But we need their support. When somebody is arrested in the jail that's due to be deported, we just simply ask that they call us.


CAMEROTA: So what about his argument there, senator? He's saying that when someone is already in jail, an undocumented immigrant, why wouldn't local law enforcement be able to call ICE or the feds to be able to deport the person who's in jail?

DURBIN: There's nothing stopping the immigration authorities from coming forward and working with law enforcement authorities in Chicago with the proper legal approach. The fear we have, and the concern we have, is they're trying to take this responsibility of immigration policing and giving it to the Chicago Police. Our superintendent of police made it clear, and I quoted him, our murder rate, as bad as it is, as troubling as it is, is not the result of undocumented immigrants. This isn't about immigrants.

When it comes to the issue, I'm afraid the attorney general thinks every issue is about undocumented people in this country. This is not. This is an issue where he is cutting off federal funds that we need in Chicago to fight the murders and gun violence that are taking place in our streets. I think it's got to come to an end. We need his cooperation, not his efforts to stop us.

CAMEROTA: But just on the one specific point that he was making about once somebody's in jail for committing a crime of some kind, can the locals turn them over to ICE? On that you're saying you don't -- I mean he seems to be saying that they're not doing that right now, and so you're saying you wouldn't disagree with them, the Chicago locals, being able to do that?

DURBIN: The ICE officers know what the legal options are. They can't just generally say, tell us everyone with a Hispanic surname here so we can run a background check and find out if somebody's here undocumented. If they come forward and they are -- looking for an individual, a certain individual, they have the legal documents to prove it that this individual has violated our immigration laws, so be it. We will comply with it.

But this notion that we're going to turn the Chicago Police Department into a branch of our immigration services, it's not going to happen. And the police leaders in our communities say it will have a reverse effect. People in the Hispanic communities in Chicago will be reluctant to cooperate with the police department in the solution of crime. That's something that we ought to be working on together.

CAMEROTA: So what's going to happen with these federal funds?

DURBIN: Well, I don't know at this point. The attorney general is trying to stop us, but we're in court fighting him. I don't think he has the authority under the law to decide, this city is going to receive (ph), this city will not. We qualify for these funds. We desperately need them to fight gun violence. And this attorney general should not stand in the way.

CAMEROTA: Senator Dick Durbin, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

[08:40:03] DURBIN: Thank you.


CUOMO: All right, another issue this morning. The University of Florida is bracing for protests today ahead of a speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer. A state of emergency has been declared in the county over these security concerns. Spencer, of course, credited with popularizing the term "alt-right," which is another way of saying white supremacist. Here took part in that deadly demonstration in Charlottesville in August.

Here is Richard Spencer in some of his own words.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you love about white privilege?

RICHARD SPENCER: Oh, it looks great. Like, you know, I mean the people are good-looking and, you know, nice suits, great literature. Like, yes, I just want to bathe in white privilege. The greatest, most awesome thing.

We were not meant to beg for moral validation from some of the most despicable creatures to every popular the planet. Hail Trump. Hail our people. Hail victory.

This country does belong to white people, culturally, political, socially, everything. We defined what America is.


CUOMO: Now, there is a good chance, I hope, that you find what this man is saying contemptable and disgusting. However, he does have the right to say it in America. So joining us now is the president of the University of Florida, Ken Fuchs.

Sir, a tough position for you.


CUOMO: Good morning to you, sir.

We see universities, we see institutions in this position from time to time. Take us through the thinking on letting Spencer speak?

FUCHS: Yes. The Constitution and the Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution has been real crystal clear, that public universities are actors of the governor and we cannot sensor speech at public universities. Therefore, he has the legal right to come on our campus and say the horrific things that you just heard on your show, Chris.

CUOMO: Sometimes not as simple as that, though, right? I mean the university, on this particular issue, with this particular man, has gone back and forth. You don't -- that right can be balanced out with other competing rights and interests, such as?

FUCHS: Absolutely. In fact, he was scheduled to come to our campus on September 12th and we stopped it after Charlottesville. Charlottesville changed everything when we saw the violence and we had specific direct threats from his followers on social media about a bloodbath that would occur in Gainesville, and so we put an end to it. But we can't ban him forever, and that is indeed why, after negotiations, we're allowing him to come with now the appropriate security we believe to keep our campus safe, to come and speak, his horrific values and his horrific language that we all now know about.

CUOMO: What do you think the value is to your students?

FUCHS: I think, in reality, his words have absolutely no value. They're not based on education. They're not based on scholarship. And they are contrary to everything this university and all of our great public research universities have at the core, which is that we welcome people from all races, all ethnicities, even, indeed, all nationalities and certainly all religions and all skin color.

The one thing that comes out of this, though, is that it's prompting a great discussion around race and religion and the value of a diversity of that on a university campus. And also we understand now even more clearly what he is about, which is an anti-American message of having the white race be separate from all other races, and his -- have his religion be separate from all other religions.

CUOMO: Universities have come under fire recently. We had Janet Napolitano on, obviously, the former Homeland Security secretary, and now the president of the University of the California. And her university system has been cited for this. Do you think that there is a liberal influence in these university -- well, the answer to that is yes -- but do you think that that influence is chilling speech from the political right?

FUCHS: I really believe that great universities are the place for the marketplace of ideas. Ideas on the right, on the left that should be debated, should be understood, and particularly our students come to an understanding of their perspective of these differing views, including issue around even religion and race religion -- race relations.

However, there's certain things that are just absolutely fundamental, and that is this issue of racism, which our nation has dealt with and now needs to move forward with inclusion and support for all people, from all religions and race. And that is something I don't believe that is worth -- worthy of debating or even worthy of stating, except to understand those that are causing harm to our nation and indeed even harm to our university by him being here.

CUOMO: Do you think you can keep people safe when Spencer comes?

FUCHS: We have invested over $600,000. We're going to have more police on this campus today -- they're already here -- than any time in the history of our university. It's not going to feel like a research university for 50,000 students. And the whole purpose of that is to keep people safe.

[08:45:03] CUOMO: Do you think it's fair that you have to bear the burden of this kind of cost and these kinds of preparations to have somebody come with this kind of speech?

FUCHS: Well, it was in 1992 that the Supreme Court decided and Justice Blackman (ph) actually wrote that, that the speaker is -- cannot bear the burden of the financial costs of security. Therefore, somebody has to bear that burden. And I actually do believe it's unfair for Berkeley, for the University of Virginia, and now the University of Florida to have to spend this number of -- this amount of resources and this kind of a cost to actually subsidize hate speech.

We're taking the equivalent of 1,000 tuitions and investing it in security because of his followers and also those that are going to protest against him. I really don't believe that's fair, that the taxpayer is now subsidizing, through these kinds of events, the security and actually having to subsidize his hate speech.

CUOMO: It is a frustrating but interesting example of how far this society will go to protect speech.

Mr. President, thank you very much for joining us. Good luck with the events down there.

FUCHS: Thank you, Chris. Thank you. Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, we have an update now.

The security guard who encountered the Las Vegas killer is now detailing what he lived through, next.

CUOMO: But first, a little bit off topic for you, but important nonetheless. You rinse off your vegetables?


CUOMO: That means they're pesticide free, right? CAMEROTA: I hope so.

CUOMO: Not necessarily. Nutritionist Lisa Drayer breaks down the dirtiest dozen in today's "Food as Fuel."


LISA DRAYER, CNN NUTRITIONIST: Even after being washed, some vegetables contain high levels of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list every year of the most contaminated produce.

Spinach was the highest ranking veggie on the 2017 Dirty Dozen list, followed by celery, tomatoes, sweat bell peppers, potatoes and cucumbers.

Now, if you eat a lot of hot peppers, kale, or collard greens, the EWG recommends that you buy organic versions of those because they were frequently found to be contaminated with pesticides that are toxic to humans.



[08:51:37] CUOMO: Important new details from the Mandalay Bay Hotel security guard who was shot just before the Las Vegas massacre killer open fire on thousands of concertgoers. The man is now breaking his silence. His name is Jesus Compos and he told his story on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." CNN's Kyung Lah has his harrowing account.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Walking with the help of a cane, Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos recounting to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres how he became the first victim of the Las Vegas gunman.

JESUS CAMPOS, MANDALAY BAY SECURITY GUARD: I heard rapid fire. And at first I -- I took cover. I felt a burning sensation. I went to go lift my pant leg up and I saw the blood. That's when I called it in on my radio that shots had been fired.

LAH: The shots came through the door from the gunman's 32nd floor suite. He gathered dozens of guns, thousands of rounds, executed a plan aimed at killing concertgoers below. But Campos had surprised him, sent to check on a stairwell door that triggered an alarm.

CAMPOS: As that door's closing -- and it's so heavy it will -- it will slam -- I'm' walking down this way and I believe that's what caught the shooter's attention.

LAH: As Campos began walking away, gunfire.

STEVEN SCHUCK, MANDALAY BAY MAINTENANCE ENGINEER: Call the police. Someone's firing a rifle on the 32nd floor, down the hallway. LAH: That voice is Steven Schuck, hotel engineer walking towards the

gunman's suite.

SCHUCK: I wasn't in the hallway yet. And that's when Jesus, he -- he leaned out and he said, take cover, take cover. Yelled at me. And within milliseconds, if he didn't say that, I would have got hit.

LAH: There was a female that came out and I told her to go back inside, it wasn't safe. Shortly after, that's when Steven was approaching and I told him to stay back and get cover, and that's when more rounds were dispersed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here. There are gunshots coming from over there. Go that way.

LAH: Police began running towards the gunfire. The gunman would end his own life about ten minutes after shooting Campos. The hotel engineer and security guard surviving the hail of gunfire, never seeing the man who wanted to murder them. His motive still a mystery, left trying to heal with other victims from this rampage.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


CAMEROTA: Wow, what an incredible story. I mean never having seen him, not laying eyes on him, that the deadly attack coming through a wall and through a door. It's haunting.

CUOMO: And he did amazing things in that moment, and his account is really important in terms of understanding what happened and when.

CAMEROTA: All right, now to sports. The Chicago Cubs avoid elimination, all thanks to an unexpected hero. Coy Wire has more in "The Bleacher Report."

Hi, Coy.


This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

Cubs Javier Baez, in a major post season slump, zero hits in 20 at bats. But the 24-year-old from Puerto Rico broke the slump just in time to save the Cub's season. Two home runs in front of the home crowd, rallying to help his team, as he has rallied to help his home island.

There was a bizarre moment in the eighth inning, though. Cubs up 3-2 and pitcher Wade Davis strikes out a Dodger's batter, so everybody thought. Well, the umpire said the bat touched the ball, ruling it a foul ball, and that gave the Dodger's batter another chance. Cubs' manager Joe Maddon gets ejected. He was furious, arguing that the call could have cost the Cubs the game.

[08:55:13] Thankfully for Chicago, though, the batter would strike out in the very next pitch. The Cubs go on to win 3-2. And after the game, the umpire admitted he blew the call and Joe Maddon admitted he was still furious.


JOE MADDON, CUBS MANAGER: That can't happen. That -- the process was horrible. To have that change and if Granderson (ph) hits the next pitch out, you know, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jock strap. I mean that was like really that bad.


WIRE: All right.

Game five tonight at 8:00 Eastern on our sister channel, TBS. We'll see if Joe Maddon comes out wearing his jock strap.

CUOMO: Yankees won, by the way.

WIRE: One game away to make it to the World Series.

CUOMO: The Yankees won. Just saying.

CAMEROTA: That's all. You just wanted to sneak that in.

CUOMO: Should have been the headline as far as I'm concerned. Everybody thinks so.

CAMEROTA: All right, on that note, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman picks up after this break. Well see you tomorrow.

CUOMO: Yankees are the New York baseball team.