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Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan Speaks At White House; SpaceX Launching World's Most Powerful Rocket; Dow Regains After Monday's Record Drop. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 6, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:02] JOHN CRONAN, ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DOJ CRIMINAL DIVISION: These include a 15-year-old Gaithersburg, Maryland, girl, named Damaris Reyes Rivas. who was stabbed 13 times with knives and a wooden stake. The girl's killers filmed her murder so they could show gang leaders back in El Salvador what they had done.

Damaris' body was savagely dumped next to railroad tracks under the same road, the Beltway, that many of us take to work every day.

I briefed the president about the MS-13 members who murdered a fellow gang member they believed to be a snitch and another recruit who violated gang rules. One of those individuals had his severed. MS-13 buried those two victims in shallow graves in a park in Falls Church, Virginia, a park just about 10 miles from here.

I briefed the president Bay Long Island victim, lured into the worlds in Central Islip, New York, by MS-13 members, where they beat him with sticks and fire extinguisher. The gang members ultimately cut his throat with a pocket knife and sadistically stuffed his body into a drainage pipe where it went undiscovered for months.

The Department of Justice, under leadership of Attorney General Sessions the devoting resources to accomplishing the president's directive of reducing violent crime and ensuring that our citizens are no longer held hostage by murderous savages like MS-13 members.

Attorney General Sessions had designated MS-13 a priority for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The Department of Justice will be surging hundreds of federal prosecutors, new federal prosecutors to the field specifically to focus on violent crime and immigration offenses.

The Department has enhanced our relationships with the northern triangle countries, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. This past summer, Attorney General Sessions visited El Salvador where he met with the El Salvadorian Attorney General Douglas Melendez to discuss joint efforts to dismantle MS-13 at its roots. Soon after that meeting 70 gang members were charged in El Salvador.

And in total, our work with our Central American partners has thus far resulted in the arrest or charges against more than 4,000 suspected MS-13 members. The justice department in coordination with our partners on the state and local level will continue to prosecute scores of MS-13 gang members located in the United States. But because MS-13 is based and operates in El Salvador and because MS-13 largely directs its murderous missions from prisons out there in El Salvador, we must do more than enforce our domestic violent crime laws against gang members in the United States.

Our investigations have revealed when that we fail to enforce our immigration and human smuggling laws, when we failed to enforce immigration laws and allow for loopholes to exist, to let future MS-13 gang members into the country, MS-13 can very easily simply replenish its jailed membership by sending more gang members across our borders.

And for that reason as well, the Department of Justice also remains committed to enforcing our immigration laws, and to identifying and targeting MS-13's smuggling networks. To be clear, we will undertake all lawful measures to end this scourge on our communities. Thank you for your attention.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given the threat hat you're discussing here. Why has Attorney General Sessions sort of renewed an increasing enforcement against marijuana, even though a lot of states have tried to decriminalize or make it legal?

[15:35:08] CRONAN: Sure. I'm not able to talk much detail into the marijuana policy. I will say that there are a number of policies that the Department of Justice pursuing on any given day as the assistant attorney general with the criminal division I've certainly seen the harm that marijuana can do.

But more importantly, the priorities here are not at the expense of any resources being addressed with the marijuana policy. With respect to the MS-13, Attorney General made clear that he's devoting sufficient resource and additional resources to ensure that the districts, U.S. Attorney's Office have had the prosecute (ph) necessary to address the scourge in our community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you do have finite resources, correct? So why put a priority again in an area that had been deprioritized and not had been considered nearly the threat that this kind of violence you're talking about is?

CRONAN: We're dealing with multiple priorities any day at the Department of Justice, of allocating resources. There will be sufficient resources targeting MS-13 and we will continue to devote those resources to that threat. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People in this community have been reading about MS-13 since 2006. Is it your position that the previous two administrations, Bush and Obama, simply did not prioritize this or is it much worse now than it was then and, therefore, it is justified to have the focus you're describing here today?

CRONAN: Yes, MS-13, you're correct, it's certainly been around for some time. I do think we've seen a significant uptick in their violence in the past several years. When you're looking at the acts of atrocities they've committed, both in local communities here and really across the country. I think it's a new threat. And unlike one we've really seen from a violent trans-national organized crime operating on United States soil.

MS-13, as I said in my remarks is not only has 10,000 members in the United States, but they are across the country in 40 states and the district. We have MS-13 prosecutions going on in Virginia, New York, L.A., Texas, all around the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the previous two administrations not appreciate this, let this go, let his become a problem?

CRONAN: I can't talk to the priority of the previous administrations but I can talk of the priorities here. And combating and targeting MS-13 the top priority of this administration, of this Department of Justice. But in order to effectively target MS-13 it's not enough that federal and state authorities are enforcing the criminal laws with respect to MS-13 members on U.S. soil.

We also have to make sure that MS-13 it's not in position to replenish its ranks by sending additional members or additional unaccompanied children into the United States who later be recruited by MS-13 to be their murderers in few years down the road. Unless we're able to do that we'll be in a constant situation where MS-13 will be reconstituting its rank to bale to effectively eradicate it from U.S. society.



RYAN: Last year, President Trump talked about MS-13. Now you've given the president an update. What beyond immigration issues will the justice department be doing to break the back of MS-13? That's the first question. You can answer.

CRONAN: Sure. The first question is that the Department of Justice has been and will continue to dedicate considerable resources to ensure that MS-13 is being targeted and I think we're seeing that that's working.

Last year, the Department of Justice secured more convictions against or secured conviction against 1,200 gang members. We charged the most federal firearms offenses in a decade. We brought more cases against violent criminals at least the quarter of a century.

So domestically, that is what we're doing and we're going to continue that. I mentioned additional prosecutors that are going to be sent out to the field, there are additional prosecutors going out to specific areas where MS-13 is a problem and we will enforce our robust criminal statues that allow us to target a variety of conduct, robbery, racketeering, murder, drug-trafficking to get them off our streets.

Another important component too is capacity building. One focus, like I mentioned, is working with our partners in the northern triangle countries, in Central America. We provide trading down there for their law enforcement and their prosecutors and whatever systems to make sure they are able to target MS-13 before -- at the roots in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala before that threat hits United States soil.

So it's a multiple tier (ph) attacked that the Department of Justice is --

RYAN: Second question --


RYAN: Second question on another issue. I'm glad you're here today. Eric (INAUDIBLE) case is still out there. And there are people waiting for an indictment. His mother is looking for justice. He cried out 11 times, I can't breathe. What's new? What's happening? What should we expect on that case?

CRONAN: With respect to that case, I have no update I would be able to share. I think it would be better directed at others thanking the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) office.

RYAN: In the criminal -- we understand -- in the criminal department, the criminal portion of justice. So, I mean, is there any movement at all? Because I'm hearing that there should have been an indictment.

CRONAN: Sure. I apologize. To the extent that an ongoing investigation exists I'm not able to talk beyond that at this point. Yes, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, in the cabinet room where you gave your first presentation, the whole MS-13 issue was wrapped up in the need to increase border enforcement, to change our immigration laws. Did you have any idea how many of the 10,000 gang members of MS-13 in this country are here legally and how many are here illegally?

CRONAN: It's hard to put a statistic on that number. Often they are not caught and they enter the country without us knowing. But I would give one example as kind of a snapshot of what we are seeing. This past November the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security announced the results of Operation Raging Bull.

Operation Raging Bull was our enhanced efforts to target MS-13. And it culminated in the arrest of about 20-0-- 267 arrests both in the United States and in El Salvador. In the United States, there are 214 arrests, 94 of them on criminal charges from federal or state, murder, racketeering, robbery, firearms and many other offenses.

Of the 214 individuals arrested in the United States, 198 were foreign nationals and only five them, five of those 198 had legal status in the United States. And 64 of those had illegally crossed the border as unaccompanied children and many of whom have since become adults.

So I do not have a number to give you, statistic to give you. But I think that snapshot from Operation Raging Bull gives us an extent of the problem.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isn't it true that MS-13 makes up a small fraction of gang members in this country though?

CRONAN: I don't know what percentage of gang members it makes up. But the Department of Justice efforts obviously targeting violent gangs is not limited to MS-13. We have numerous prosecutions go on around the country. Into violent subsets, the Bloods, the group called Nine Trey Gangsters. Not too long ago we announced a charge against Mongols Motorcycle Gang.

There are many gang prosecutions going on around the country. This is not to say that MS-13 is the only threat we face, that's certainly not the case, but MS-13 is a unique threat. It is violence for the sake of violence. It is indiscriminate killing, it is brutality that is terrorizing our communities and also a threat that is very tough to stop because we're in a position where MS-13 is able to replenish its ranks once we-- as we incarcerate its members in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People would certainly argue with that -- that characterization that MS-13 targets communities in this country, but what would you say to critics who say you're using this gang to basically paint a very broad brush stroke against immigrants and scare people here?

CRONAN: I think if we look at the reality of the -- the action of MS- 13 in the D.C. Metropolitan area, in Long Island and around the country, the scare tactics being used are not by the Department of Justice but by MS-13, it is a brutal gang of savages that is engaging in indiscriminate violence in our communities.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We're going to pull away from that and take you to Cape Canaveral. Live pictures here. This is the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. This is SpaceX's Elon Musk. And one of his quotes has been, I would consider it a win if it just clears the pad. It is mere minutes away from takeoff is what the latest guidance I have. So keep your eyes peeled on this rocket here. If it is successful, it will be the most powerful rocket in use. Spacex -- let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The engine tool is complete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is ready for launch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stage two complete.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: T minus 30 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contact on one. This is SpaceX, Falcon Heavy. Go for launch.

[15:45:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Falcon Heavy is completed for flight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: E minus 15. Stand by for turbo (ph) count.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten, nine, eight, six, five, four, three, two, one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: T plus 30 seconds if you can hear me over the cheering. Falcon Heavy heading space on our test flying building on history (INAUDIBLE) Apollo, returning 39 E interplanetary mission. Getting ready to throttle down.

You heard the callout. Vehicle is supersonic. Side boosters are now throttling back up to full power. We are past max Q, period of maximum loads on the vehicle.

Next up we'll be waiting for the side boosters to begin to throttle down prior to booster engine cutoff and separation 2 1/2 minutes into flight. You can see trajectory looks good on the Falcon Heavy.

Reports show that the M1Nd (ph) engine performance is nominal.

Side boosters have begun to throttle down in preparation for the upcoming shutdown in 20 seconds. Major event coming up with side booster shutdown and separation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shutdown. Side boosters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Successful separation. We're coming up on shutdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Side boosters. They got the startup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming up on clearing separation.


BALDWIN: Any David Bowie fans. "Space Odyssey"? I mean, I don't know about you all. I have goose bumps. I'm missing this --space shuttle. This is the rocket. Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at the most powerful rocket in operation in the world today. That is what we are witnessing. Thanks to Elon Musk and SpaceX.

You know, he want to take people up to Mars but this so far in terms of a rocket has been a success. Look at the crowd looking upwards and applauding. There they are. Let's go to Miles O'Brien first of all, who, you know, knows all things space and, I mean, a huge moment obviously for Elon Musk and SpaceX. What's the goal here? [15:50:05] MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The goal right now,

Brooke, is for me to get my composure. I'm a little misty. This is an emotional moment unlike you on this. I missed greatly --


O'BRIEN: -- the launches of the shuttles. I never had the opportunity to see in person the launch of the Saturn 5. I wish I was in Florida today but couldn't get there. You know, looking at that crowd, one of the things that really strikes me is if you think about how the United States got to the moon. It was on the backs and the brains of 20 something's. Really smart young people.

Look at that crowd there in Hawthorne, California, SpaceX team. It's a new generation of space travelers and explorers that are putting this amazing rocket into space. And really, in so many ways, a game changer for ultimately exploring space in a more sustained way. So this is a big moment.

BALDWIN: And Leroy Chiao, I've got you also, retired NASA astronaut. Also I imagine equally misty eyed. Talking about SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket there and the successful launch. What are you thinking as you watch that go up, up and away

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well I tell you what. I am pretty overcome. This is fantastic. The first time in a very long time we've launched a rocket, anyone has launched a rocket that's this powerful. And watching it fly away and it looks like everything is still going phenomenally. Of course (INAUDIBLE) we still got the upper stages continuing to burn and we all watching.

But, you know, the first stages look flawless. Everything looked great. As Miles was saying, you know, the crowd of young people in Hawthorne is just really inspiring. I think this is an important moment for exploration and that's what really unique is you have visionaries like Elon Musk who put their own profits into exploring space and that's why this rocket is being built and flown. It's much -- it's got much, much capacity just to launch a satellite. So, this is a big moment.

BALDWIN: And we should also point out, I mean I think people are being also, you know, this is an incredible moment but more light- hearted, there are no Leroy Chiaos on board, you know, the Falcon Heavy rocket, Miles, this is what they call -- there is a dummy payload on board. You know, there's a hunk of metal. In fact, it's my understanding that Elon Musk actually put up his own Tesla roadster as part of launch in this rocket. Is that right?

O'BRIEN: That is right. That's a used Tesla that Elon Himself drove with a, you know, essentially a crash test dummy. I would certainly never call my friend Leroy a dummy. But this is a substitute astronaut for now. I mean what they do typically on tests like this, what NASA would do is put ballast in there, a hunk of concrete or something just to give it some weight.

BALDWIN: Yes. O'BRIEN: And part of what I appreciate is the enthusiasm and the tweaks and the sense of humor, and frankly, for Elon the cross promotional benefits of putting a Tesla in orbit for a billion years around the sun and near Mars.

BALDWIN: And by the way, I've got one more voice. Rachel Crane who is actually there, lucky, lucky fellow space geek who is there taking it all in. Jumping up and down. I feel your enthusiasm jumping in front of the camera. Rachel, talk to me and tell me also about these boosters.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN SPACE AND SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Brooke, we did just see two boosters coming down moments ago. But the entry burn was shut down. We don't see them anymore. But I do hear people cheering around me. There's a couple of buildings -- oh! There's the sonic boom! Woo! Wow. Brooke, I can't even begin to describe the excitement around me. Everybody is coming out.

BALDWIN: Pan the camera Rachel. Pan the camera over.

CRANE: Can you guys turn the camera over to see it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. There's a building.

CRANE: Sorry, Brooke. There's a building blocking the way.

BALDWIN: Oh, there's a building. No worries.

CRANE: Seeing this, these incredible landings. Unfortunately, I can't see them myself. But to describe the feeling of this launch here at Kennedy Space Center. This historic launch of Falcon Heavy. I mean this is one for the books, Brooke. It was really truly incredible.

Yesterday I spoke with Elon Musk. He was, you know, running through all the things that could possibly go wrong here. He said that he would consider it a success if the rocket just simply cleared Launch Pad 39 A. Of course this is an historic launch pad. This is where, you know, Apollo 11 sent humans to the moon. But had it been destroyed with this launch, it also would have delayed all the further launches. They said that Falcon Heavy could be ready to relaunch in three to six months and of course that would have been delayed if the launch pad was destroyed.

As we saw today, it was successful. It was not destroyed so that will not be a problem. We're waiting to see just how successful it was. You know, as you were speaking with Miles, there is his own personal Tesla roadster on board with that space dummy on there playing David Bowie "Space Odyssey". We don't know exactly how far is gotten at this point. We will keep you updated as we get all this incredibly exciting space information.

[13:55:11] BALDWIN: I love, love, love the enthusiasm. Rachel Crane, my friend, thank you so much. I still have Miles O'Brien and Leroy Chiao with me. And so, Miles, let's go back over to you. Where is exactly is the rocket going? O'BRIEN: It's going in a what they call a highly elliptical orbit.

And it orbits actually around the sun. And it will sort of meet up, you know, kind of race track style merging with Mars on occasion. So it's -- it's about 250,000 miles at its farthest distance from earth so it's a pretty decent stretch of the way to Mars. You know, obviously not entering the orbit or landing on Mars but the Tesla Roadster will just be orbiting there for who knows how long? For the eons with the dummy looking out the window, into the void.

BALDWIN: And Leroy, how -- I mean, I remember standing down there at Cape Canaveral and watching the final space shuttle take off and just being, you know, thrilled to see it. But also, sad and nostalgic. I mean, here, you know, as an astronaut, a former astronaut, what are the next major steps like today? In space exploration?

CHIAO: This is huge. There's a huge deal. It looks like the upper stage has entered a nominal parking orbit. We saw the landing of the two side boosters. We don't know if the third booster has landed yet but everything looks flawless.

And the next steps are to continue flying this vehicle, getting some more pedigree on it, launching other payloads. And as you know, Elon Musk said he's got two paying customers who want to go around the moon Apollo 8 style in a dragon spacecraft and it would be this rocket that would take them on their way. And that would be a huge deal. And of course that would be the first commercial vehicle that leaves earth's orbit with passengers with astronauts on board. You know, geez, ever. Pretty neat stuff.

BALDWIN: Yes. What is the price tag for this kind of thing? Is this all Elon Musk? Or is he hoping for the federal government to help out? What is the scoop, Miles?

O'BRIEN: Well, the first thing to know is the price tag is a fraction of what NASA projects the cost of its comparable rocket, the space launch system will be. And a big part of that is what you just witnessed. The return of those two boosters to the pad, fully reusable and we hope before not too long, the third boost which will land significantly down range on a platform in the sea.

It's about 30% of the cost that NASA is projecting for the space launch system and that's -- that really is a game changer. You know, we used to say what Leroy was find in the shuttle, but it about $10,000 a pound for any pound of anything you put on the shuttle.

Elon Musk is claiming below as $1,000 a pound. So we're talking about an order of magnitude here and that changes everything when you talk about space exploration. So, you know, you have to ask yourself who's going to get to Mars first, NASA or Elon Musk. Right now the smart money would be the guy who puts Teslas in space.

BALDWIN: Apparently so. Miles, thank you so much. And Leroy, thank you. And Rachel Crane down there in front of Launch Pad 39 A. Thanks everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with you. We're going to send this to Washington early. Special coverage continues here on CNN with my colleague, Jake Tapper. JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon and welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to begin with the breaking news, the Dow roaring back today after yesterday's dramatic selloff which was the largest one-day drop in history but there's still volatility in the stock market as the closing bell rings on Wall Street in just a second.

The Dow swinging 1,000 points today. Let's go right to CNNMoney correspondent Christina Alesci at the New York Stock Exchange. Christina, even with the drop, the markets up about 30% since President Trump took office. Is what we saw yesterday, whether you want to call it a panic or a downturn or an adjustment, is it over?

CHRISTINA ALESCI, CNNMONEY CORRESPNDENT: Well it's really too early to tell it, Jake. One thing is clear. Many market participants were calling for what's called the correction, which is a 10% drop from the last high which was just a couple of weeks ago. We got -- we touched that point actually as I was walking the Dow open this morning. We touched the correction point. Now it's all about whether or not we touch that level again or go lower. To your point, it's too early to tell.

One thing is for sure. Volatility is the word of the day. It's back in a big way. Some people would say, this is healthy. But here's what's troubling some investors I spoke to today. It's the way that we got the correction. It was very sharp. It was over two days.

And there you have the closing bell. Right now, another very crazy day on the market, in the market. SO we're going to have to see whether or not they pulled up. What this volatility right now is driven by the fact that we had stability for such a long period of time.

You know, one of the traders told me that --