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Kanye West Slammed for Calling Slavery A Choice; EPA Chief Now Facing 11 Investigations; Cosby Jury Says #Me-Too Movement Played No Role in Verdict. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 2, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: You know Dr. Jackson has been caught up in another little controversy over releasing information about the vice president's wife's condition. Her physician complained that this is a violation of medical ethics and rules and so you see this tendency toward corruption in the people around president and that includes those who really should be beyond corruption.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Michael D'Antonio, a pleasure, thank you for your opinion. Coming up next even more trouble today for Scott Pruitt including new ethics concerns. The embattled EPA chief now facing at least 11 separate investigations. Hear the allegations now. And backlash erupts after Kanye West makes explosive comments about slavery during his interview with "TMZ." What he said, how he's defending himself. Don Lemon joins me live.


BALDWIN: New troubles for EPA chief Scott Pruitt, already facing inquiries about his spending, his management decision. Now congressional Democrats say he tried to open an EPA office in his hometown before he even had a job. And there is more some questionable activities are popping up regarding a very expensive trip to Morocco. To Rene Marsh we go our CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent with more reporting. My goodness, he has many lives.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: He certainly does. Now even more ethical issues that we're talking about here today for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. We learned his trip to Morocco last year cost two times more than originally thought and was arranged in part by a lobbyist. The latest news adds to Pruitt's problems. He's already facing at least 11 federal probes into his behavior and management at the agency, including travel expenses, security costs and ethical concerns.

Let's just look at the last 24 hours alone. We have learned that Pruitt wanted a home office, an EPA office in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Two key aides resigned from the agency. That happened yesterday. One was his head of security, who, Brooke, if you remember was at the center of several Pruitt controversies, like his travel and first-class flights. Not only did a lobbyist help plan that pricey trip to Morocco, we also now know that lobbyist was involved in meetings on that trip and just for context it is very unusual for a lobbyist to be so involved in planning a trip for a head of a federal agency.

And then there's also this report about a different lobbyist who essentially sent an e-mail and that e-mail shows that he was asking for something from Pruitt. He wanted specific people to be assigned to an advisory board, a scientific advisory board. But, Brooke, despite all the mounting problems and ethical questions, it appears that Pruitt the still has Republicans and more importantly the president's confidence. Look at the list of controversies when you compare Scott Pruitt to others in the Trump cabinet.

These are all the list of controversies that came up regarding Scott Pruitt. Take a look over here, Tom Price. You remember him, he was the former Secretary at Health and Human Services. His one controversy there was pricey travel. Then you hop on over to the VA, former VA Secretary David Shulkin, his one controversy was pricey travel also. You can take a look at that and it is plain to see Pruitt's list is

growing rather long.

BALDWIN: He may not have a lot of fans in the White House, but he has the most important one, the president of the United States. Rene, thank you very much.

More on our breaking news this afternoon. A huge moment. The president's White House lawyer is out, a Clinton impeachment lawyer is in. What this means for the Special Counsel's investigation. Plus, Don Lemon is up to talk with me about all things Kanye West, who is -- Kanye getting all kind of black lash for suggesting slavery was a choice. Don Lemon next.


BALDWIN: Breaking news. Another former Trump associate speaking with the special counsel team. To Manu Raju we go. What do you know?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Michael Caputo former Trump campaign advisor just got out of a meeting with Special Counsel Robert Muller's investigators. Having discussed issues of interest to them. Of course, we know Michael Caputo has been close with some members of the Trump inner circle, including Roger Stone, a long time Trump friend, who has come under a lot of scrutiny, Stone has for contacts that he may have had with an intermediary who had discussions with WikiLeaks during the campaign season. Stone has denied any wrong doing, but Caputo has been very close to stone over the years.

There have been also other questions about Caputo, his time in Russia, he spent some time in Russia in his career before moving to New York and helping advise the Trump campaign. Caputo has flatly denied he's done anything wrong and cooperated with multiple investigations.

[15:45:00] He just met with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators yesterday and released a closing statement in a closed- door meeting in with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigators in which he was sharply, sharply critical of their investigation, multiple investigations, even saying it's cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars and it's been a financial strain on his family. They've not found in his view any evidence of collusion whatsoever. But nonetheless, another sign that the Mueller probe is still moving pretty rapidly. Some significant interviews continue to take place, even the big interview between the president and Mueller's team. Still a question about whether or not that will happen. But other associates continue to come forward as this investigation carries on, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Moving forward. Manu Raju, thank you. Kanye West is keeping himself in the headlines and fans wondering what's going on with him? He calls it free thought. But most say his thought to "TMZ" about slavery is wrong and concerning that someone with his kind of influence would even say such a thing. This is what he said.


KANYE WEST, RAPPER: I'm a black person, a black community. I feel people try to minimize me to artist, hip hop, black community. Yes, I'm always going to represent that, but I also represent the world. When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years, that sound like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it's all y'all? It's like we're mentally imprisoned.

Do you feel that I'm being free and I'm thinking free?

VAN LATHAM, SENIOR PRODUCER, "TMZ": Actually, I don't think you're thinking anything. I think what you're doing right now is actually the absence of thought and the reason why I feel like that is because Kanye, you're entitled to your opinion, entitled to believe whatever you want but there is fact and real world, real life consequence behind everything that you just said. And while you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you've earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice.


BALDWIN: Ooh. You see these tweets, Kanye took to Twitter and said this "to make myself clear, I know slaves did not got shackled and put on a boat of free will. Even though the numbers were on our side means we were mentally enslaved."

With me now my friend, Don Lemon. Don Lemon. What would you say to him?

DON LEMON: I'm sorry. I just popped up because I look like when your dog is confused. But there is a lot. If you can put that last quote up where he says, the numbers were on our side. What does he mean by that? There were so many people of color that we could have fought slavery? What's the percentage of African-Americans in this country now? We make up 10 to 12 percent of the population. How were we going to fight in lesser numbers in those times? His facts are wrong.

First of all, I think we're witnessing someone who is obviously going through some things and it's happening, unfolding on national television unfortunately, so I'll just leave it at that because I don't want to cast aspersions on people, but his facts are wrong. And I don't mean this -- I'm so upset by this story. I'm over it. I'm sick of talking about him. I want him to pick up a history book. As a matter of fact -- go on.

BALDWIN: I was going to -- Maxine Crump. She was on the show last hour. Her great, great grandfather was sold as a slave to Georgetown University. And she was like we need to be rewriting our history books. These young people just don't know.

LEMON: We need to include this in history books. We don't need to rewrite history, but we need to include that in history books. And I would start if I were Kanye because I want to help you, Kanye, I would start with 1400s. If I were him, I would look up Cape Coast Castle, which I visited in 2014 with my mother when we were talking about our backgrounds. I would start there, and I would start with the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast and Africa, the slave coast and I would visit Cape Coast Castle if I were him, especially on August 1st of every year when they have Emancipation Day, and where they sort of reconcile what happened in Africa, shipping people off. I would start with that so that he could learn about the history, how people were kept in what is essentially holding cells, 13 x 15 foot holding cells, 300 to 500 people at a time in shackles before they were shipped off 5,000, 6,000 miles to the United States and beyond with -- to become slaves.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: You went with your mom. This is video from a couple of years ago.


BALDWIN: Had you done that before?

LEMON: I hadn't done that before. Obviously, I studied history. I grew up going to an all-black catholic school and we learned about those things. But I had never done that. This makes it real. And there is a door before you got shipped off before that long treacherous journey across the Atlantic, the last thing you saw was a door of no return. You walked through the door of no return.

BALDWIN: What was that like feeling that?

LEMON: It was awful. These are dungeons. We were in dungeons. That's were people kept before they were shipped off. It was terrible to realize that you had been housed in those horrid conditions, black people, Africans had been housed in those horrible conditions for months sometimes. And then that journey across the Atlantic lasted for months and then when you got there, what did --

BALDWIN: To think that that was a choice, right?

LEMON: That's not a choice.

BALDWIN: And to see the producer stand up because I realize a lot of people are like why are you giving this guy oxygen -- LEMON: He has a platform. And young people may actually believe

that, and they may understand that, and they may think history is not important. He keeps talking about, you know, the Trump -- President Trump and what he's done and about we should forget about history and we should forget about all these things. No, we can't forget about history. History is important. It doesn't mean we have to celebrate history, but we should know that history so that we don't have is to repeat it. The very people he's trying to appeal talking about history, the history of the flag, that they like to see come back, the confederate flag and all of that stuff, well then if history doesn't matter to you, none of that stuff matters as well.

The other thing that -- I want to say and I think it is very important is that it seems that African-Americans or black people in this country are the only people who are told how they should recognize and celebrate their history. We're the only people who are told -- Jewish people aren't told that. Every year for Passover, Jewish people commemorate the freedom from slavery and from ancient Egypt. No one says anything. And I commend them for it. My Jewish brothers and sisters should do that.

But people need to stop telling African-Americans they should forget about slavery and move on. We can do both. Know about our history and realize that from history that we don't have to be held to that. That we can aspire to go beyond that and be great as well. That is why -- after visiting cape coast castle, you can't tell me nothing. And which is a Kanye song, you can't tell me nothing. There is nothing that will stop me from achieving in this world. Kanye needs to realize, it is not a binary choice. You could remember your history and also achieve. It doesn't have to hold you there.

BALDWIN: Thank you for that.

LEMON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Don Lemon, 10:00 --

LEMON: One more thing. Can I say more thing? I know you have to go. This is -- as I was driving over, you know what I realized and we're friends, you didn't think about this, in my immediate family, I'm the first person in my immediate family to be born with full rights and privileges as a United States citizen.

BALDWIN: How about that.

LEMON: 1964 Voter Rights Act. My sister and mother, did not have full rights. I'm the first person -- think about that. Kanye, think about that.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Don Lemon. Good to see you.

Coming up next, jurors who handed down guilty verdicts against Bill Cosby and what they are revealing about their deliberations and the #me-too movement.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Moments ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing the Justice Department is sending dozens more prosecutors and immigration judges to the southwest border to help prosecutor illegal immigration. He also delivered a stern warning for the caravan of migrants seeking asylum here in the U.S.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not going to let this country be overwhelmed. People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border. We need legality and integrity in the system. People should wait their turn --


BALDWIN: We should point out the caravan that the president is tweeting about is seeking asylum through legal channels and according to the organizer, nearly half of the migrants have now been accepted by the U.S. for processing.

The jury that convicted Bill Cosby is speaking out now about the case in their decision in a joints statement, they say that the #me-too movement did not influence their decision. But that they were compelled by the testimony and evidence presented to them in that courtroom. Jean Casarez following this case and there in Morristown. Do we know why the jurors felt compelled to release the statement? What did they say?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everyone wants to hear from them. The public wants to know what evidence they found important in their decision, what evidence and testimony they may have disregarded. But they did say in this joint letter that the deliberations were sacred. Writing, after thoughtful and meticulous consideration of the information and evidence provided to us, we came to our unanimous verdict. Our decision was not influenced in any way by factors other than what we heard and saw in the courtroom. Not once were race or the #me-too movement ever discussed, nor did either factor enter our decision. Each of us spoke of the weight of our responsibility, we understood the consequences to human lives, to an American icon, and to all who are victims.

And they also asked for their privacy at this time. Saying that they were just get reunited with their family and friends and I think that is another reason for this letter. Yesterday there was argument in the Montgomery County Court for the release of the names of the jurors. And the media argued there is a First Amendment constitutional right that the names be made public. The prosecution agreed they want their privacy and their names should not be released. The judge is looking at the law and deciding what is important in this situation and how he should rule at this moment.

But the next date that is important is the sentencing of Bill Cosby. And that we understand will take place and now less than 75 days. But one important aspect is not only his sentence that he will get, in regard to prison, after being convicted on three serious felonies and Andrea Constand could give a victim pact statement. But we know prosecutors are look at the law in Pennsylvania to see if other accusers, other alleged victims also would be able to stand up in court and talk to Bill Cosby and the court about what they believe is appropriate in a victim pact statement. Of course, the defense would be able to weigh in and this is something they most definitely I think, would not be in favor of, Brooke.

We'll look for that next up in this process in a couple of weeks, Jean, thank you so much. The jurors in that major Bill Cosby decision. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.