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Black Caucus Demands Kelly Apologize To Congresswoman; Steinle Murder Trial Begins Today; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Speaks Out. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 23, 2017 - 07:30   ET

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


[07:30:20] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The women of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling on President Trump's chief of staff to apologize to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for making false claims. General John Kelly recounted a story from 2015 claiming that Wilson patted herself on the back for the funding of an FBI building.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: And the Congresswoman stood up and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building and how she took care of constituents because she got the money. And she just called up President Obama and on that phone call he gave the money -- the $20 million to build the building. And she sat down.

We were stunned -- stunned that she'd done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: OK, but the video of that building dedication ceremony that's been posted by a Florida newspaper captures Wilson talking about getting congressional and presidential approval to name the building for fallen FBI agents, but not he funding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FREDERICA WILSON (D), FLORIDA: Everyone said that's impossible. It takes at least eight months to a year to complete the process through the House, the Senate, and to the president's office. I said -- I'm a school principal and I said, excuse my French, oh hell, no. We're going to -- we're going to get this done.

And guess what? The president signed the bill into law this past Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 with a bang, bang, bang.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right. Joining me now are two members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Alma Adams of North Carolina, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. Nice to -- nice to see both of you ladies.

Congressman Adams, let me start with you. What, specifically, do you want from John Kelly? What do you want him to say?

REP. ALMA ADAMS (D), NORTH CAROLINA, MEMBER, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS, ASSISTANT WHIP, DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: Well, he needs to apologize.

First of all, he was in error. He did not tell the truth. He knows now that he did not tell the truth even if he thought he had told it, so he owes her an apology.

We're talking about a member of Congress who has done not only great work but she serves her constituents. She has served on the local level, on the state level, and now she's in Congress and she's doing a tremendous job. For him to try to demean her character and her integrity in this was is absolutely unacceptable.

CAMEROTA: So, Congresswoman Lee, if chief of staff John Kelly came on and said my memory failed me, sorry, that's enough?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS, MEMBER, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, let me offer -- good morning. Let me offer my sympathy to the families of Sgt. Johnson and Johnson, and Sergeants Wright and Black. They are the most important in this and I think Congresswoman Wilson would agree with me on that.

And frankly, I believe there is room for apologies from all in the administration. From communications director Sanders; from Gen. Kelly, who is a friend who I know, particularly when he led the Southern Command; and from the President of the United States.

The key here is really the first insult of Congresswoman Wilson being accused of listening in to the condolence call from President Trump. She wasn't listening in. She was part of the family in the family car on the way to receive the body. That should be clear.

The second thing is people need to understand what the Africa Command is all about. I understand it because I was in Congress when we, the Congressional Black Caucus and others, advocated for the establishment of the African Command when Charles Taylor was brutalizing and killing his citizens in Liberia. It's a very important command.

CAMEROTA: And so, did you know --

LEE: So it never should have been made light of.

CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, on that note, did you know that there were 1,000 U.S. troops in Niger?

LEE: I didn't know the specifics but I knew since Congresswoman Wilson and myself were the first delegation to go into Nigeria after the girls were taken and Congresswoman Wilson has led that fight to bring back the girls. I knew that Boko Haram had joined ISIL, and in that area of Nigeria, Chad, all in that area, that they were trying to set up another caliphate, if you will. And therefore, the Africa Command was standing up. [07:35:05] But what should be noted is that all of the individuals that unfortunately died, and we need a full investigation, were sergeants. They were obviously doing some different kind of mission. And that's why this ridiculous back-and-forth between the White House is unkindly, unseemly.

And yes, she should be given an apology, first of all, because Gen. Kelly is a Gold Star family member and he has the right to speak about his loss, and he did eloquently and I'm sure he brought many to tears.

But he had to then defend his boss. His boss is President Trump, who has continued to throw whacky insults at Frederica Wilson. As an African-American woman I'm not going to stand for it, period.

The idea that Gen. Kelly had to lower himself and begin to talk about wrong issues dealing with Congresswoman Wilson, which was completely refuted by the tape, puts everyone in the barrel, if you will. And so, Congresswoman Wilson deserves an apology. The president owes her an apology.

The military owes the United States Congress and the House of Representatives a full classified briefing on the actions of the Africa Command --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LEE: -- in that region, and we can't go any longer without knowing what's going on.

But I think she's owed an in-depth apology and one of the reasons is, of course, is that she is part of the family --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LEE: -- and she represented the family in their feeling of an insult of the words of President Trump.

CAMEROTA: So, Congresswoman --

LEE: He was not comforting at all.

CAMEROTA: So, Congresswoman Adams, press secretary Sarah Sanders said that getting into a debate with a four-star Marine general is quote "highly inappropriate." What do you think about those comments?

ADAMS: Well, I think it was highly inappropriate for her to say that. First of all, she should know better. Secondly, he is not above questioning. He is a -- he is a political servant.

He is -- and I certainly appreciate all that he's done in the military. We honor that. We honor his family and all the families who have been affected by this recent attack in Niger. But he is not above questioning.

He stood at the White House podium. I mean, that's what press secretaries do. He's not the press secretary, he is the chief of staff.

That was not his responsibility to do it. And, of course, if he thought that it was and he was going to get out there and put himself out there and make that statement, then he should respond to the questions. You know, when you're a political figure you are responsible and should be responsive to the people.

CAMEROTA: And, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, I want to ask you about the politicization of this entire issue of the phone call to Sgt. Johnson's family. And, you know, obviously, President Trump started this by invoking President Obama, saying that he didn't believe that President Obama had made these phone calls.

But do you think that also Congresswoman Wilson bears some responsibility for politicizing this in that, yes, she was privy to that private phone call but she didn't need to talk about it? She didn't need to publicize the details of that private phone call.

LEE: You know, you don't know how hurt the family was. I think we need to recall the facts, and the facts are that Sgt. Johnson's body was not found for two days. The initial report, I believe, came out of three soldiers that lost their life.

One was still missing. God -- many prayed that he would still be alive but he was found a mile away from the firefight -- vicious firefight. And as I understand it, it was very difficult for the family for that time period, and as well that they were not able to review his remains.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LEE: That's devastating. Many of us who have gone through the Iraq and Afghanistan when so many bodies were coming home. So many Gold Star families in all the other wars understand the pain.

So I think what should be noted is that Congresswoman Wilson was considered a family member.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LEE: And she might have been speaking -- maybe the family could not speak about how hurt they were about the words that President Trump said.

And I really think she wasn't doing it to politicize, she was doing it to convey the pain of the family. And the mother indicated that she felt disrespected by the president -- she and her husband.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LEE: And you will from the mother at some point, meaning the wife at some point --

CAMEROTA: Yes.

LEE: -- and they will share with you what they felt. CAMEROTA: Well --

LEE: So, no, I think that what Congresswoman Wilson did was speak and give the family voice where the family could not, at that time. So broken as they were, they could not speak publicly.

[07:40:05] CAMEROTA: Well, any moment, we actually will hear from Sgt. Johnson's wife -- from his widow. She is speaking out this morning so we will be playing all of that for everyone momentarily.

So, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Alma Adams, thank you very much for your perspective on this, this morning.

ADAMS: Thank you.

LEE: Good to be with you, Alma.

CAMEROTA: Thank you.

LEE: Good to be with you, too.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President -- good to be with you. President Trump spoke about her death on the campaign trail for months. We are finally at the trial stage for the undocumented immigrant accused of murdering Kate Steinle. That happens today.

Will this trial have larger political meaning? The answer has to be yes. What should it mean? We debate it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: President Trump used the murder of Kate Steinle as a rallying cry to rail against sanctuary cities and to push his immigrant policies on the campaign trail.

The trial is set to begin today. An undocumented immigrant is accused of shooting and killing the 32-year-old as she walked with her father on a San Francisco pier.

CNN's Dan Simon has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bullet struck her as she took a summer stroll with her father.

JIM STEINLE, FATHER OF KATE STEINLE: This is evil -- evil personified

[07:45:00] SIMON: It entered her back and pierced Kate Steinle's heart. A 32-year-old with a big smile and contagious laugh.

NICOLE LUDWIG, KATE STEINLE'S BEST FRIEND: Kate was an amazing soul. Everyone that met Kate knew she was very special.

JUAN FRANCISCO LOPEZ-SANCHEZ, CHARGED WITH MURDER OF KATE STEINLE (through translator): I am not guilty. SIMON: More than two years later her alleged killer, who had been deported to Mexico five times, is just now going to trial in a case that helped bring the term 'sanctuary city' to the forefront.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration is launching a nationwide crackdown on sanctuary cities.

SIMON: President Trump and conservatives have used the case as a rallying cry. The bill, known as Kate's Law, passed by the House but hung up in the Senate, would enhance penalties for deported criminals who illegally reenter the U.S.

Kate's father testifying in Congress.

STEINLE: The U.S. has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hand of a person that should have never been on the streets of this country.

SIMON: Fifty-four-year-old Jose Inez Garcia Zarate was a seven-time convicted felon. He would have been deported for a sixth time but San Francisco, a sanctuary city, does not honor federal detention requests and let him go.

Zarate, who was homeless, said he found the gun wrapped in a t-shirt. He admitted to the shooting but claims it was an accident. Defense experts claiming the bullet ricocheted off the ground.

JIM NORRIS, FORMER DIRECTOR, CRIME LAB, SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is the not the way you would try to shot somebody. I mean, you wouldn't -- you can't ricochet bullets off of surfaces and try to hit somebody. You'd aim the gun at the person and shoot them.

SIMON: But the prosecution charging Zarate with second-degree murder contends it was no accident. Now, it's up to a jury to decide in a case that will, once again, reignite the volatile debate over the country's immigration laws and sanctuary cities.

Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: OK, a couple more headlines for you now.

Anxiety is gripping a Tampa, Florida neighborhood with fears about a possible serial killer on the loose. Tampa's interim police chief says three murders over the past two weeks are connected. All three victims shot alone at night within blocks of each other.

Investigators releasing this surveillance video of a person of interest as they look for leads. But right now, they have no suspects and no motive.

CUOMO: Dramatic testimony expected today in the sentencing hearing for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, you'll remember, was held captive by the Taliban for five years. He pleaded guilty to deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009. The sentencing phase is expected to last two weeks. Bergdahl could face life in prison.

CAMEROTA: OK, so it's official. Justin Timberlake will headline the Super bowl LII halftime show. He has been asked back by the NFL for the first time since 2004. That's when he shared the stage, you'll remember, with Janet Jackson during her infamous wardrobe malfunction on live television.

Jackson received most of the backlash and she remains banned from the halftime show. So how does that work?

CUOMO: I don't get it.

CAMEROTA: It doesn't make any sense.

CUOMO: If anything, he would be banned. Has to grab her.

CAMEROTA: That's right because he ripped the -- right, he ripped the shirt.

CUOMO: Right, even though -- so let's assume they're in cahoots.

CAMEROTA: Right.

CUOMO: We're making up facts here, but I'm just saying just to understand this. She can't be banned if he's back.

Maybe it's that she's not available. Maybe they just didn't ask her. But how could there be punitive action for her and not him?

CAMEROTA: I agree it makes no sense. That would be complete injustice so we will make sure that that stands.

CUOMO: Yes. And look, you watch the show. Super Bowl committee, NFL, let us know.

What is this about? Don't cause yourself undue controversy unless you deserve it.

CAMEROTA: Holla.

CUOMO: All right. So, if causa.

In the face of harsh criticism from the White House, nearly two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem.

NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he has become known in recent years for really putting some thought to what surrounds us in the sports zeitgeist. He's going to tell us why he is proud of what's going on, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:53:07] CUOMO: In the face of continuing criticism from President Trump, nearly two dozen NFL players protested during the National Anthem on Sunday. Some kneeling, others remaining seated on the bench, but all of them protesting different things, usually racial inequality in America.

The NBA's all-time leading scorer is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and he believes that a shift has occurred in sports and entertainment. He says never has he been more proud to be part of the athletic community.

And he joins us now, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He's got a new book for young readers called "Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court." It will be released next month.

Big man, always a pleasure to have you.

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, NBA HALL OF FAMER, AUTHOR, "BECOMING KAREEM: GROWING UP ON AND OFF THE COURT": Pleasure, as well.

CUOMO: All right, so let's get after it. You could argue that the president is winning this fight with the NFL. People believe you must respect the flag. Protests -- you have the right -- but do it the right way, and that these guys are doing it the wrong way because they are dishonoring the flag and therefore, the troops, and all the things it stands for.

Your take?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, may take on it is that the players are not dishonoring the flag or their country. They are trying to hold America up to the standards that it has declared to be how we deal with these things. So when they see young kids being shot down in the street this bothers them.

The reason that LeBron James had so much to say about the death of young Tamir Rice is because LeBron is a parent. That could have been his son.

The other members of the Cleveland Browns players stepped forward. They were parents. They weren't doing this in some political fashion. This is something they're concerned about -- their families and the direction that our country is taking and they have to make a statement about it.

I think it's great. Sports has always been a vehicle for protest. We can start with Jackie Robinson.

[07:55:03] CUOMO: Yes.

ABDUL-JABBAR: You know, the fact that he started playing made -- forced people to think well, do these people deserve to be on the field.

CUOMO: But you've been outspoken your entire career.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes.

CUOMO: How you do it matters. ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes.

CUOMO: I will grant you it is unfair to say these guys are rich guys. They have nothing to worry about.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Right.

CUOMO: By and large, and overall, with some exceptions, they come from the same communities where we are witnessing injustices --

ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes.

CUOMO: -- so that's unfair. But, how you do it could be fair criticism.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Exactly.

CUOMO: You didn't do it during the National Anthem at the games.

You went out, you came on shows like this, you wrote very thoughtful things. You did it with your behavior. You held press conferences. They could do that.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, you know, that's what I'm talking about. The change that you mentioned earlier has to do with the fact that the younger athletes now are seeing how these things have worked in the past.

I'm thinking of the University of Missouri football team. And they affected change and they did it in a way it wasn't about their anger. It was about the issue that was a real issue that they wanted to speak about.

So I think the most crucial aspect of this is for anyone who wants to make a statement to make sure it's not about anger and about the issue. And when people see that they'll get over the fact that we're using this moment to make their protest because their protest are valid.

CUOMO: The protest is valid but, again, I'm going to circle back to the how.

The president often watches the show. He says you have no left hand. No, I'm kidding. He never said that.

But he just tweeted about what's happening and he tweeted, "Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our flag and country. No leadership in NFL!"

Your response?

ABDUL-JABBAR: I think that the NFL Players Association and the players who are doing these demonstrations are going out of their way to convey their righteous anger and concern over issues. The fact that --

CUOMO: Do you think they're doing it the right way?

ABDUL-JABBAR: I think they -- I don't think they're doing it in a destructive way and I think people are twisting the issue because they don't want to talk about the fact that young black Americans are being shot down at an alarming rate.

CUOMO: But are you giving them an easy out? Are you giving critics of the protest an easy out because they don't have to discuss the issue because they can discuss how you're protesting?

If you were in the league what would you do during the National Anthem right now?

ABDUL-JABBAR: I -- well, if I was in the league and I wanted to make a statement about that, I'd get my pen and pad out and make that type of statement.

Some of the guys really have -- don't understand how to voice their concern and this is an ongoing process for them.

CUOMO: All right. Two other things I want to talk to you about.

The first is -- actually, they're both positive. The first one is that you're being honored by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation this week.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes, sir.

CUOMO: Why?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Why, because in 1917 was when my grandfather immigrated to New York and they took a boat from Trinidad in the West Indies. They went to Panama City, Belize City, Mobile, Alabama, and took the train from Mobile to New York City. They arrived in Mobile on April 19th, 1917 so my family has been here 100 years.

CUOMO: How does that make you see your history?

ABDUL-JABBAR: I'm very happy and proud to be an American and to be the second generation, you know, from my grandparents' arrival in this country. I'm so proud of it and we're going to have a great time.

I'm also going to be at Gabrielle's Angel Ball.

CUOMO: Yes.

ABDUL-JABBAR: They do -- they raise money for cancer issues.

CUOMO: Now, I want to talk about your connection to that --

ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes.

CUOMO; -- because, you know, to those who have become a student of you, off the court especially, you are a study in contrast. When people look at you, your size, your strength, your grace, and yet, you have been fighting illness yourself -- ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes.

CUOMO: -- in a way most people do not know.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Tell us.

ABDUL-JABBAR: In 2008, I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia and I've been raging a battle for my life ever since then. I'm very fortunate that medical science has given us the opportunity to treat this disease and I'm one of the beneficiaries and I'm very happy about that.

CUOMO: Your message has always been consistent. You talk about difficulties. You do it openly and plainly but you always believe that there is hope for better, whether it's about health, what happens on the court, or what happens in society.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Yes. I mean, we have to go the light. We can't go through the dark side of things. We've got to go to the light and there's so much -- so many good things that are happening.