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Comedian Prank-Called Trump on Air Force One; Trump to Meet with Supreme Court Nominees this Weekend; Candlelight Vigil Honors "Capital Gazette" Shooting Victims; Maxine Waters Spoke in Los Angeles Amid Nationwide Protests over Separated Immigrant Families. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 30, 2018 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: -- Eastern right here on CNN.

It's 5:00 Eastern. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us.

Our breaking news right now, thousands of people in cities big and small all across the country demanding the American government provide the most basic of human rights for people seeking asylum in the United States or detained at the U.S. border.

They want President Trump's zero-tolerance policy stopped immediately. They want the practice of detaining these families stopped immediately and more than anything else, they want families torn apart in these past few weeks from border crackdowns to be reunited immediately. The words they are shouting? Families belong together.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People realize that we must stand by the values that have made this country hope. Things cannot happen under our watch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I live with the constant fear of losing my mom to deportation. My mom is strong, beautiful and brave. She is also a person who taught me how to speak up when I see things that aren't fair.

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, "HAMILTON" CREATOR: I'm going to sing a lullaby that I wrote. This is for those parents and we won't stop until they can sing them to their kids again.


ALICIA KEYS, SINGER SONGWRITER: My 7-year-old son is here with me today. His name is Egypt and I couldn't even imagine not being able to find him. I couldn't even imagine being separated from him or scared about how he's being treated. So, this is all of our fight because if it can happen to any child, it can happen to my child and your child and all of our children.


CABRERA: Let's get straight to Los Angeles now where that rally continues. Thousands gathered downtown on the steps of city hall. Our correspondent, Nick Watt, is there. Nick, we have heard some emotional speeches today where you are as well happening right now, fill us in what is going on.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, they have been speaking now for about three hours. There was supposed to be an hour of speeches and then the march. The marching has not really started. There is still speaking.

We just heard Cher get up on stage and her message was everybody get out to vote. Kamala Harris was up there, her message was we are better than this. We had Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas sinking where is the love and then John Legend quoting Marvin Gaye, singing, Marvin Gaye, saying only love can conquer hate. A very diverse crowd here.

We've even had undocumented immigrants themselves getting up on that stage and speaking. One young woman who came Guatemala, she said I'm undocumented, I'm unapologetic and I'm unafraid. Of course, also a great array of banners.

And I want to bring in one protester, Toby, if you could come in here. This banner caught my ICE that I acknowledged. This is the only Ice Cube, not ICE as we know it. Why are you here today, what particularly made you come out today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My family, my daughter, my wife had a visceral experience to what was happening in our country. And I knew I had to be here for her, for the people, for the children that are in these cages, for grandparents, the parents. It was important to me. Also, as a black man, as slavery is real, I know what it is like to have your family torn apart. I'm still unpacking it myself. So, that is why I'm here.

WATT: And what has atmosphere been like today? Have you spoken to like-minded individuals, have you felt a feeling of solidarity and comradeship?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely solidarity, man. Just reading other people's signs and knowing we're out here together, hearing the people talk, I've had a good time. And it feels important.

[17:05:12] Like it is not a time where I'm like smiling and a good time like that. It is purposeful. I feel like there is purpose in this.

WATT: There is purpose, but also a little bit of humor in your sign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It is humor in it because it is true. What they are doing tearing families apart is crazy. So, I had to bring my personality to what is going on and this is what I came up with. This and also a quote from Barack Obama.

WATT: Thanks very much for talking to us, Toby. So, that is just a taste of what is still going on here and still going on here in Los Angeles, three hours after they started talking. Ana, back to you.

CABRERA: Nick Watt in Los Angeles, thank you. Now north to Portland, Oregon, where crowds and speakers have been calling for the reunion of families that are still separated at the border.

CNN's Dan Simon is there for us. Dan, what are people there telling you?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hello, Ana. The protest has ended, but you can see there are still a number of people here in front of ICE Headquarters. And you can see the police officers behind me. Since June 17, a tent city has formed around the ICE building.

And you can see some people still standing here in front. And what a situation it's been like over the past two weeks with this city has basically risen from nothing. You have a full infrastructure in there where people are living there 24/7.

You have a tent that has food, there is a tent that has children's toys. It really is a mini city that has formed here in Portland. And I want to introduce you now to two people who are part of this protest, part of this rally.

Kim, let me start with you. What made you come out today and march with these people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here to stand in solidarity with the communities affected. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, I feel like this could have easily been me at the border who could have been separated. I can't imagine the trauma that those kids are going through and it is horrific that our tax money helps fund institutions like ICE.

SIMON: And Tabetha, what stood out for you as you made that two-mile walk from where the rally occurred in the park to the ICE building?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I just think it is ridiculous that we have to demonstrate how much anger this is causing because there are so many people being affected, separated. So, many people are being like helpless because why they don't have documents, they don't have anyone to turn to because their own government is turning them away, putting them down the drain, making children suffer. It is ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The last time I checked, it is not a crime to seek asylum. The U.S. has caused a lot of problems for these people coming here, the U.S. has caused the insecurity and caused them to come here. So, there is a lot of misinformation around that.

SIMON: Thank you very much. Ana, a couple viewpoints here today. And despite the fact that they have been here for two weeks, for the most part things have been peaceful. We did see police make some arrests a couple days ago, but for the most part things are peaceful.

The mayor says that they are allowed to be where they are as long as they stay on city property. He won't use Portland police to break this up. So, we anticipate that this occupation around the ICE Headquarters will remain indefinitely -- Ana.

CABRERA: Dan Simon in Portland, Oregon. Thank you. President Trump just now on Twitter directly contradicting himself on immigration. The president tweeting this, quote, "I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the immigration bill either one or two because it could never have gotten enough Democrats as long as there is the 60-vote threshold." Referring to the Senate.

"I released many prior to the vote knowing we need more Republicans to win in November." Now, compare that tweet with President Trump's Wednesday tweet. In all caps, quote, "House Republicans should pass the strong but fair immigration bill today even though the Dems won't let it pass in the Senate. Passage will show that we want strong borders and security while the Dems want open borders equals crime."

Let's talk it over now with Matt Lewis, senior columnist, for "The Daily Beast," and Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for "Bloomberg News." Matt, first your reaction to the president's contradictory messages just three days apart.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not surprised at all. He does this all the tile. He contradicts himself all the time. Senator Schumer said it is like negotiating with Jello. And this is a real problem. He has done it on guns, immigration. It is not a surprise at all.

CABRERA: Toluse, your thoughts?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": Yes, I agree with Matt completely. We've seen the president really contradict themselves multiple times on multiple issues. He seems to be able to create his own reality and even though you have that tweet with all caps showing that he was trying to get Republicans to vote for a bill that really went down in flames, that is part of the reason you see the president stepping away from it.

[17:10:09] That bill failed by a large margin. It got only about half of his Republican caucus to vote for it. And then all Democrats were united voting against it. So, it is clear that President Trump wants to run this upcoming midterm election on immigration not necessarily on tax cuts or on the economy.

So, he is tweeting about immigration and ICE and trying to paint the Democrats as open borders and pro crime, but the fact that Republicans were not able to get a bill passed through the House is a stain on their legislative record and the president is trying to distance himself from that as quickly as possible.

CABRERA: President Trump is tweeting today and also golfing today and Congress now on a holiday recess. Are those the best optics for our nation's leaders as immigration protests take place all across the country, people are outraged?

LEWIS: Probably not, but I have to say I think there is bad optics on both sides. You just showed a package in Portland right before you came to us, I saw a sign that said abolish be ICE, which I think is a really stupid move for Democrats to do to change the subject from family reunification to getting rid of ICE, which I think to a lot of Americans suggest open borders.

You also showed an interview with a young lady who basically said America is to blame for the problems in Central America and for -- that is the kind of stuff I think a lot of people in middle America, a lot of the voters who voted for Donald Trump in Ohio and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, this is good news for Donald Trump I think overall today.

CABRERA: Toluse, let's talk more about this idea that we're now starting to hear more and more Democrats suggest, which is to abolish ICE, which not mentioned. Here is Senator Elizabeth Warren today.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: The president's deeply immoral actions have made it obvious we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom. Starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality and values.


CABRERA: But Toluse, this idea seems to be gaining momentum. What is the Democrat's strategy here?

OLORUNNIPA: Well, if you look at how President Trump ran his presidential campaign, he really focused on his base. He talked about building the wall. He talked about Mexican immigrants who were in his view rapists and criminals, and he was able to win by focusing on his base and getting them to turnout.

We're seeing Democrats sort of try to have a mere image of that, focusing specifically on their base. Their base is animated by this idea of abolishing ICE because they have seen some of these images of children in cages.

They have seen how President Trump's handling of ICE has allowed the agency to move much more aggressively on deporting people who aren't necessarily criminals, who have entered the country illegally but have not done any other crimes while they were here.

So, they are trying to rally their base, motivate their base to make sure that they come out during the November elections. And as Matt said, this is something that could turn off some moderate voters, some independent voters and some Republicans who might be open to voting for Democrats.

But a number of Democrats are seeing this as a base election where they need to motivate their base, they need to make sure their Democratic solid voters who normally come out during primary elections come out and vote and make sure that they are able to win back the House and potentially win back the Senate in November.

CABRERA: And in order to win back the Senate that means people like Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Joe Manchin, these red state Democrats would need to hold on to their seats. They are vulnerable. So, what does something like this as tactic, Matt, mean for them?

LEWIS: Well, look, I think that actually this isn't so much about turning out voters in the midterms. Although I do agree sadly both parties have become base parties that focus more on turnout than persuasion. I actually think what is driving this isn't the midterms though. It is the jockeying for position in 2020.

So, the most prominent person to come out in favor of abolishing ICE has been Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who I think is running for president, and I think she's trying to basically outflank everybody and get to the left on this issue.

So, I think it's very -- this idea of abolishing ICE is actually very damaging to the Democratic Party collectively, but individually very good for Kirsten Gillibrand.

CABRERA: Toluse, in a court filing last night, the Justice Department said that it will be abide by the order from that judge in California to reunite families separated at the border, but acknowledged it is uncertain how family reunification moves forward. How do they still not have a plan?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, it is clear that they did not have very much of a plan when they entered into this process of family separations. They did not realize that it was going to be such a bad PR situation that the president was going to reverse himself so quickly.

[17:15:03] They thought this would be a deterrent and they would be able to quickly to send the message across to Central America that we will separate you from your families, so you shouldn't come over.

It is not clear that it has worked out that way and because the government is so wowed and unwieldy at times, it can be difficult to put things back together after you've started down one path.

So, they did not necessarily collect the relevant information from the parents and children at the point of separation in trying to on put all that information back through a database now is more difficult be when you have children who are hundreds of miles away from their parents.

Some were too young to know their parents' names or to help the government get them back in touch with their parents. So, it is going to be a tough situation and they will have a lot of difficulty meeting that 30-day deadline.

CABRERA: Matt, they have no answers when it comes to how many children have been 134raeen separated from parents, how quickly they can bring them back together whether they have actually stopped separating families at the border. How do you explain this complete lack of transparency about what is going on at America's borders?

LEWIS: I mean, this is really-I think the most horrific part. You know, I think it is inexcusable. You can make an argument for family separation even, right? I'm not in favor of it, but you could make an argument for strong border, building a wall, all that. There are legitimate smart people who make that argument.

What you can't argue is that it is OK for America to take your kids away and not to keep track of them. Not to be able to reunite you at some point by injury are chew of like keeping records. It is unbelievable that this is actually happened. And I think this is the thing that should be making people take to the streets more than anything.

CABRERA: Matt Lewis and Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you both, gentlemen. Good to have you with us.

Coming up, as you heard, a growing numbering of Democrats including some possible 2020 candidates are calling for ICE to be abolished, but what exactly does ICE do and what would ending it means? We'll investigate ahead.



CABRERA: Our breaking news, as thousands across the country protest President Trump's immigration policy, we are hearing a lot of back and forth from lawmakers about how to fix it. A number of Democrats including Senator Elizabeth Warren say this is a moral issue and the U.S. should just abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE altogether.

It sounds simple enough, but let's take a step back for just a second because can we really just abolish ICE? To answer that question, you have to know exactly what it does. The agency made up of 20,000 or so people. It's fairly. It was established in 2003 after September 11th is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

ICE's number one job is to protect the U.S. from terrorists and criminal threats coming across the border, but often times it is confused with Customs and Border Patrol or CBP. The two agencies share a lot of the same responsibilities, but there are some important differences.

So, think of ICE as the FBI of immigration and CBP as the state troopers, Border Patrol agents enforce the laws at and near the border, while ICE agents enforce immigration laws everywhere else in the U.S.

As for what they have the power to do, ICE agents have a lot more power while Border Patrol agents can question, investigate and detain undocumented immigrants, ICE agents have the power to deport them.

Members of Congress left Washington for the Fourth of July holiday without passing a single immigration bill. Earlier today, I asked California lawmakers on both sides of aisle, Republican and Democrat about the stalled immigration debate. Here is what Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu had to say. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) REPRESENTATIVE TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: Under both Obama and Bush administrations, people who came in with legal asylum claims, we would let them proceed with those asylum claims and then if that didn't work, then we would prosecute them. The Trump administration flip that had on its head.

That is why you are seeing the family separations nap is not the cause of Congress. However, do I agree that I do agree that we need a comprehensive immigration bill. If Democrats had control of Congress in November, we would pass a comprehensive immigration bill and put it on the president's desk.

CABRERA: Do you believe ICE should be abolished?

LIEU: Parts of ICE have strayed far away from their original mission, so that is why I called on Homeland Secretary Nielsen to resign, the new ICE director should be someone who would not implement cruel and inhumane policies. We need to change the policy of ICE so that they don't terrorize communities. If none of that happens, then I agree we need to abolish ICE and replace it with an agency that is more consistent with America's values.

CABRERA: Is there is a risk calling for that, could these calls make the Democratic Party look weak on security?

LIEU: No one is saying abolish ICE and do nothing. What they are saying is abolish ICE and replace it with people in an agency more consistent with America's values where we a not ripping kids away from their parents.


CABRERA: Now here's part of my conversation with Republican Congressman Jeff Denham also of California. Watch this.


REPRESENTATIVE JEFF DENHAM (R), CALIFORNIA: We have to do our job. You are elected to lead. I didn't agree with the last president doing executive orders. I don't agree with this president doing executive orders. Congress has to do its job. If there is a broken immigration system or even if there is an issue in current law that needs to be fixed, then you pass legislation, Congress is where laws are created.

CABRERA: Is your leader in the House, Paul Ryan doing enough?

DENHAM: I don't think either party is doing enough.

CABRERA: But Republicans have the majority right now, let's be honest.

DENHAM: Well, sure, but Democrats had the majority by much larger numbers and couldn't even pass the clean Dream Act. So, there is enough blame to go around. Multiple presidents, this has been broken for 30 plus years. [17:25:04] This is the first time we actually have Republicans on record with a majority of Republicans saying we want a fix for DREAMers. So, while country get the numbers that I wanted to see on this bill last week, I think we still move the debate forward quite a bit.

CABRERA: How will it come back up?

DENHAM: We'll have to force a vote. Just like we did on this discharge petition. So, we're looking for new ways to bring this up, but ultimately, I think the court is the one that forces a vote. July 17 is when Texas brings this issue you up just like the Ninth Circuit already did. The Supreme Court will have to deal with this. Rather than make it an issue in the courts that creates more volatility, Congress just needs to come together and get it done.


CABRERA: Coming up, a comedian makes a prank call and ends up talking to President Trump, and that is not even the craziest part of this story.


[17:30:19] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: A comedian successfully prank- called President Trump on Air Force One this week. So he did what any comedian would do in the digital age, he turned the recording into a podcast. John Melendez, known as Stuttering John, from his time on the "Howard Stern Show," pretended to be Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. He even asked about the president's upcoming Supreme Court nomination. Take a listen.


JOHN MELENDEZ, COMEDIAN & PODCAST HOST (voice-over): I'm begging you. Are you going to more moderate or do you think you're going to go more conservative?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): Well, I haven't looked -- I mean, I have a list of people. I have a big list of people, Bob. And we'll take a look at it. And we're going to make a decision. I'll probably make it over the next couple of weeks.

MELENDEZ: Because I promise you, you will have my vote. I will help you, you know, if you don't go too conservative. You know what I'm saying?

TRUMP: Yes. We'll talk to you about it.


CABRERA: CNN's Boris Sanchez is joining me now from New Jersey near the president's Bedminster Golf Club.

Everybody was listening closely, Boris, there to hear what he was going to answer when he said, you'll have my vote if you don't go too conservative. That, well, we'll talk about it, wasn't much of a giveaway. But the president has been courting a couple female Senators from his own party who may be key to confirm as a Supreme Court nominee. Is he considering any women as his nominee?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The president, yesterday, during a gaggle on Air Force One, actually confirmed that he is. He said that there was a list of 25 names that his administration cobbled together and he had a short list of about five. Though he said he would be interviewing six or seven people, he did say that there are two women within that list of five.

Here is more from President Trump. I want you to listen closely to this exchange.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I'll be announcing on the 9th.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (voice-over): Where are you leaning?

TRUMP: We have great people. You know, we have 25 very outstanding people. Hey, look, I like them all.


TRUMP: I think I've got it down to about five.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (voice-over): Is there a woman on the short list?

TRUMP: Yes, I do have a woman.


TRUMP: I have two women on the short list.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (voice-over): Two women on the short list? Two women out of the five?

TRUMP: We have three women on the court now. I have two women --


TRUMP: -- out of the five.


SANCHEZ: So in that exchange with reporters, you hear a reporter ask, what about Amy, a reference to Amy Coney Barrett, a former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia. The president didn't answer her question. But a source from the White House tells us that Coney Barrett is one of the front runners for the position. That source indicated they were not clear on who the second woman on the short list of vie is. But we do know another frontrunner is Brett Kavanaugh, who was a clerk

for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement this week.

Further, there's a dark-horse candidate that the president talked about during that gaggle. That is Utah Senator Mike Lee, who has publicly expressed interest in the role. And the president acknowledged hearing about that interest yesterday. Though a spokesperson for the Senator told CNN that he has not spoken directly to President Trump about this.

Again the president said that he would be potentially interviewing with possible nominees this weekend here in Bedminster. I asked the White House whether those meetings had already taken place, if there was any information that he could offer, they have yet to response -- Ana?

CABRERA: Boris Sanchez, keep us posted. Thank you.

We're continuing to watch coast to coast immigration protests all across America today.


AMERICA FERRERA, ACTRESS: It is easy to imagine that I would hope that if it was my family being torn apart, if it was my brother being arbitrarily criminalized, if it was my sister being banned, then someone would stand up for me and my family.




[17:38:18] CABRERA: Welcome back. We are getting new images of the deadly scene in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman shot and killed five employees at the "Capital Gazette" newspaper. Video captured the moments when police raced to evacuate workers from that building.






UNIDENTIFIED LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER: Put your hands up. Straight across that parking lot. Keep your hands in the air for me.



Walk straight to me.




CABRERA: Hundreds turned out last night for a massive candlelight vigil honoring the shooting victims.

CNN's Randi Kaye has more on the lives lost.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 25 years, Gerald Fischman was the conscience of the "Capital Gazette" newsroom, often writing scathing editorials.

Colleagues say he has a wry wit and wicked pen that was often hidden beneath his quirky, low-keyed demeanor.

TOM MARQUARDT, FORMER EDITOR & PUBLISHER, CAPITAL GAZETTE: Gerald Fischman was a character. He wore a cardigan and tie to work every day. Tried to get on jeopardy twice and failed. A guy who could turn prose like anybody I've seen.

KAYE: According to the "Gazette," Fischman married late in life, announcing to the newsroom that he had met an opera singer from Mongolia online. Gerald Fischman was 61.

Writer Wendi Winters worked in the "Capital Gazette" newsroom for a dozen years.

Co-workers say the 65-year-old mother had a talent for connecting with the community, a dedicated employee who loved the news business.

Winters' daughter called her mother a fantastic reporter, adding that her life was a gift to everyone who knew her.

[17:40:16] MARQUARDT: She wrote so much that she became the most prolific writer in the newsroom. Very charming person who would bring me and others in the newsroom a cake every Christmas time.

KAYE: In her last tweet, Wendi Winters promoted a "Capital Gazette" video about a community mural project. "Spreading beauty one artwork at a time today," she wrote.

Rebecca Smith was hired recently as a sales assistant. On her Facebook page, she described herself as a dog mom, softball fiance, and bonus mom to the best kid ever. Rebecca lived with her fiance in the Baltimore area.

A friend described Rebecca as the absolute most beautiful person with the biggest heart. Rebecca Smith was just 34.

Sports Writer John McNamara died doing his dream job, after working at the "Capital Gazette" for nearly 24 years. Mac, as he was affectionately called, will be remembered for not only his great sports knowledge, but for his wit and his infectious laugh.

MARQUARDT: John McNamara was a diehard Terps fan, loved covering Terps sports, liked covering the Capital hockey team.

KAYE: He was one of seven children, but he and his wife never had children of their own. John McNamara was 56.

"Capital Gazette" columnist and assistant editor, Rob Hiaasen, will be remembered as a joyful generous mentor.

Current and former co-workers say he was a great story teller who was often drawn to quirky stories, but seriously committed to both reporting and helping shape young journalists. Rob stood 6'5" and was affectionately called Big Rob.

CARL HIAASEN, BORTHER OF ROB HIAASEN (voice-over): Immense presence, and not just because of his size. Because of the warmth that he brought to every room and every situation. And this will probably never heal for all of us.

KAYE: Rob once wrote a description of his ideal job, "I would like to be paid for the occasional amusing remark or for simply showing up promptly to work and bringing in cookies from time to time."

He was married to his wife for 33 years and had three children. Rob Hiaasen was 59.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.



[17:47:08] CABRERA: Over the past quarter of a century, tougher law enforcement and stiffer sentencing has had a profound effect, particularly on women in the prison system. And this Sunday, on CNN, our new original film, "American Jail," takes a fascinating look at the state of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Here's a take of what some female inmates experience.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: I'm here because I owe $545 to domestics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That child support?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: My case is being closed, but I lost my job before I could pay the last payment. And I'm here for six months now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: It is just backwards. It is a crooked county I think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a crooked county?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: It is all about the money. You owe them $5, you better give them their $5.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: And there's no help. There's no help. I mean, how is she supposed to pay child support if she's in jail.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: And the whole reason I was on child support is because I went to go get clean. I was a heroin addict. I was working. My living situation got messed up. I got kicked out. I had to quit my job. And now here I am. Over $545 on a case that will be closed as soon as I leave here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: If you don't get the proper help, the recidivism rate skyrockets. Everybody is in and out, in and out, in and out.

I think they need to offer more treatment. Like a lot of treatment centers around here are closing. And I think that is a terrible injustice to people because you are not going to get better sitting in a bunk in a cell.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE INMATE: You have to work through everything. It is a vicious cycle.


CABRERA: Joining us now is Topeka K. Sam, who has had firsthand experience as a federal inmate, and is now an advocate for incarcerated women as the director of Dignity for Incarcerated Women.

Topeka, first of all, thank you for being here, for being open to sharing a little bit of your story.

What do you want people to know about your time in prison?

TOPEKA K. SAM, DIRECTOR, DIGNITY FOR INCARCERATED WOMEN: Well, my time in prison was no different than what you saw from the women, experiencing stripping of dignity, experiencing lack of products for women, lack of help and services, lack of fair treatment even under the law, due process under the law. When I was in -- when I looked at the clip, it kind of took me back again just thinking about my first 11 months when I was in the county jail. And it was very much like that in Virginia where there were women who are were cycling in and out because of substance misuse. And the fact that I found out exactly what happened to women who use drugs, based on being in that prison, and seeing women go in and come out, sometimes never coming back because they overdosed, and being criminalized over and over again. And they're losing their children and losing their homes and whatever bit of connection that they had to the outside. So when I went through federal prison, it was no different. I was very fortunate. I had great support. Family support. Friends. I had mentors who came in to visit me. I knew that coming out, I would have a very different transition because I had that same support network. That's why I started Ladies of Hope Ministries and Hope House to make sure women have the same opportunities I did.

[17:50:24] CABRERA: Trying to give back and make a better world, ultimately, making an impact.

SAM: Absolutely.

CABRERA: Part of that, in the sound we just heard, was women talking about being incarcerated because of unpaid debts. How common is that? Is, you know, jail an effective punishment?

SAM: Absolutely not. It's very common. Women are incarcerated -- I mean people, you know, women and men are being incarcerated for unpaid debts, unpaid tickets. Sometimes parking tickets that accrue over time. And opposed to giving a person -- understanding if a person can't pay their ticket, criminalizing them and putting them in prison is not going to help them pay the debt even further. And there are prisons throughout the country that will actually charge people $1 to $2 a day to be incarcerated. That's accruing more debt. When they come out, not only do they have these unpaid fines, after still paying with their life through serving the time, then they have to still pay $1 or $2, which can accrue to thousands of dollars when people have been incarcerated --


CABRERA: Which sounds like it makes things only worse.

SAM: Right.

CABRERA: But there are people who would argue that actions have consequences. So what do you think would be a fair consequence?

SAM: A fair consequence would actually -- well, first of all, I think every situation needs to be looked at differently, right? The reason we have mass incarceration anyway is because we have criminalized poverty. So if people aren't getting money, they're not getting access to resources within their communities, why are we throwing people in prison and expecting things to change? We're doing it because prison is big business. People are getting money through the prison industrial complex. People are losing their families, more debt. And it's not helping. So that is not a way to rehabilitate. That's not a way to pay debt. It's not a way to allow people to transform their lives. If you reinvest money into programming within the communities from the beginning, then a lot of these things would not be happening to begin with.

CABRERA: Topeka Sam, thank you so much for shedding some light. SAM: Thank you.

CABRERA: We look forward to hearing more of these stories and understanding the issue further with the premier of "American Jail." It is this Sunday, tomorrow night, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, here on CNN.

Meantime, protesters across the country today demanding action on separated children at the border. Families who have been separated.

Here is Congresswoman Maxine Waters earlier today responding to critics and even to threats to her life over her criticism of President Donald Trump.


REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D), CALIFORNIA: I know that there are those who are talking about censuring me, talking about kicking me out of Congress, talking about shooting me --


WATERS: -- talking about hanging me.


WATERS: All I have to say is this. If you shoot me, you better shoot straight. There's nothing like a wounded animal.




[17:57:52] CABRERA: In this weekend's "Fit Nation," we head to the backwoods of Tennessee where people compete in what many consider the toughest race in the world.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every year, in the back woods of Tennessee, there's a race so tough only 15 people have ever finished it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a bit of a problem. I really don't know where I'm supposed to be going next.

GUPTA: Welcome to the Barkley Marathons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest challenges in sports really are pressure and uncertainty. The Barkley weekend is filled with pressure and uncertainty.

GUPTA: Just 40 select athletes are chosen to try to complete five 20- mile loops of steep, unmarked terrain using nothing but a map and a compass.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A race where you're just kind of running around in the forest not knowing if you're on the right trail or not, it adds a whole other mental element.

GUPTA: Runners have 12 hours to complete each loop and find 13 hidden books along the way to prove they stayed on course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kind of incredible physical beating these people take and go out there 12, 14, 16 hours. You're wet, you're cold, you're hungry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is fogged in and freezing up here.

GUPTA: Even for the most accomplished ultra-runners, the course can seem impossible, leaving just one option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have made the decision to self-extract. I've got to get myself out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be great if everyone could get that prize, but the nature of the prize is that you can't.

I'm glad that you can't. Another time, you get to make a new mistake.


GUPTA: This year, Mother Nature rained down on the course, creating havoc for runners. Many missed the time cutoff, earning them the Barkleys' signature sendoff.


GUPTA: This year's best runner finished only three loops. Once again, the Barkley won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People will come back alive, maybe hurt in their soul but physically with things that they'll recover from.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was just glorious suffering.



[18:00:07] CABRERA: Talk about tough.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I'll see you an hour from now, live, in the CNN NEWSROOM.

"SMERCONISH" is next.