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Holy Fire only 5 Percent Contained; Judge Halts Deportation; Chana Warns U.S. Navy Plane; North Korea Calls Proposals Gangster- like; Overhauling the Criminal Justice System. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 10, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: People are desperate to do whatever they can.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Poppy. You know, it isn't the size of this fire, about 10,000 acres, it's the location that is causing the real problem. If you can look behind me, we've been watching for the past few hours choppers dropping water on this hillside that's now smoking. It was in flames. And we are in a neighborhood. There are seven and a half thousand homes currently under threat.

And the fire, it moves unpredictably. That's the issue with wildfires. Yesterday, you know, authorities were quite positive. They were saying the weather's getting better. Then, in the afternoon, as it so often does, the wind whipped up and brought flames within feet of houses.

Now, luckily, they had dropped a lot of flame retardant. That helped. But also it was boots on the ground. It was firefighters scrambling up those hills in 90 plus degree temperatures trying to damp (ph) the flames, trying to save those homes. And they managed there and this morning so farther they are doing well here. It was a big fire in a gulch just over there feet from the back of homes that has also been damped down for now.

But as I mentioned, still seven and a half thousand homes are under threat. More than 20,000 people have been put under mandatory evacuation. Many others hanging tight, ready to go but hoping that they can stay.

Now, this fire, authorities believe, was started on purpose. There is a 51-year-old man who is in custody right now. He's expected to appear in court a little bit later, facing multiple charges that could see him spend the rest of his life in jail.


HARLOW: Oh, Nick Watt, thank you for being there for that reporting for you and your team on the ground.

Also, on the immigration front, two asylum seekers, a mother and a daughter, who are fighting deportation from this country, yesterday they were put on a plane, sent back to El Salvador, while their case was in the middle of being heard. A federal judge head about this and erupted, ordering that plane be turned around immediately, returned from El Salvador, back to the United States. Judge Emmitt Sullivan also threatened to hold U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt. The mother and her daughter go by the name of Carmen, that's the mother's name, came to the U.S. from El Salvador with her daughter after what she says were two decades of horrific sexual abuse by her husband and death threats from a violent gang.

Our Dianne Gallagher joins me now with the latest.

You know, the federal judge agreed with the ACLU here, Dianne, and then, as this plane is in the air, the government had to scramble to bring these two people home.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, scramble might even be an understatement here, Poppy. The judge, as you said, kind of erupted at the government asking, why would you do this. You just sort of spirited them off to another country in the middle of their hearing and gave them two options, you can either turn the plane around in the air and bring them back, or as soon as they land in El Salvador, you can bring them back. And according to DHS, it was such a quick turnaround that Carmen and her daughter never actually even disembarked from that plane. As soon as it landed, they turned it back around. They landed it in Texas last night, Poppy, and have been ordered back to that Dilley facility, the family residential facility they are staying at in the meantime.

HARLOW: So -- I mean what does this mean, big picture, Dianne? Is this just about these two women seeking asylum in this country and doing it the legal way to see if they're granted that, or does this ruling have much broader implications for asylum seekers here?

GALLAGHER: So, overall, this is about those two and six other women who are being represented by the ACLU in a specific case. Broadly, though, the ACLU is arguing that these standards that the Trump administration is applying to asylum are unfair. And essentially what it is, is that domestic violence, people who are fleeing domestic violence, they make it harder for those who are fleeing gang violence to be considered approved for asylum. Basically they've said that it's not something that counts right now.

The ACLU is trying to get judges, the legal community, and perhaps eventually the Trump administration, to remedy that, to change that, to ease those restrictions. But as far as the judge's ruling yesterday, that simply applies to those eight women who are being represented in this particular case.

HARLOW: Got it. Got it. OK. And we have the deputy director of the ACLU joining me in a little bit to talk much more about this.

Dianne, thank you for the reporting.

Also, I want to update you on a very important story. Ohio State wrestler -- a former wrestler from Ohio State this morning is clarifying his comments, he says, about Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio and whether he knew about those sexual abuse allegations against the team doctor decades ago when Congressman Jordan was an assistant coach. A month ago this former wrestler by the name of Mark Coleman said there is no way that Congressman Jordan doesn't remember what happened unless, quote, unless he has got dementia or something. That was his statement then.

[09:35:00] Now Coleman is clarifying to our Jean Casarez, saying that he has no direct knowledge that the congressman knew about the allegations at all. And here's what he told Jean. Quote, maybe I spoke without thinking. Since I've said that, it has consumed me 24 hours a day. I didn't like the way it was heading and the direction it was heading. More than 100 former students have accused Strauss, the former team doctor, of sexual misconduct. We'll keep you posted on that.

Up next for us, a CNN exclusive from high above one of the most hotly contested regions in the world. We're talking about the South China Sea. You're looking at images taken from a U.S. Navy plane as China's military issues a frank warning, leave immediately.


HARLOW: Leave immediately. That was just one of the six warnings that China gave a U.S. military surveillance flight as it flew over the hotly disputed South China Sea. CNN was granted exclusive and rare access aboard that flight. It flew past four key islands where China has built up an extensive military presence.

[09:40:10] Let's go to our Ivan Watson, who was onboard one of these fights.

It must have been just an incredible experience to be up there, to see what is such a hotly contested region, to see what's going on and he controversy about this region has run deep and run long and China points its finger consistently at Washington for what they say is escalating the tension. Remind us what's behind this.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, there's clear dispute here, Poppy.

First of all, the U.S. Navy invited CNN, the only real news organization from the U.S., on board this reconnaissance flight and we went through the South China Sea, where you've got a bunch of different countries all claiming the same area of maritime territory. The difference is that China, to stake its claim, simply built enormous islands. I mean just built them on top of coral reefs, islands that didn't exist a decade ago. And that's what we were flying past. And as we flew past them, we got these warnings coming from the Chinese military. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. military aircraft Papa 8 Alpha, this is the Chinese military. China has the sovereignty of the Naga Islands including the reef and these adjacent waters. Leave immediately and keep far off so as to avoid any misunderstanding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am a sovereign immune United States Naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal states and exercising these rights as guaranteed by international law. I am operating with due regard for the right and duties of all states.


WATSON: So the U.S. government insists that China is not -- does not have a right to claim almost all of this body of water that nearly a third of the world's shipping goes through. It says it's a violation of international law and has accused China of putting surface to air missiles on some of these manmade islands. So flights like this one, they monitor the fortification of these islands. But the fact of the matter is that the Chinese look like they're there to stay. We saw four of these manmade islands. One of them had a manmade harbor in it that had at least 85 ships in it. Just to give you a sense of the scale of this massive land reclamation project.

HARLOW: It's striking. I mean I've, obviously, read about this for years, but never have I seen something like I just witnessed. And you were there for it.

I know you have a piece coming up later today on "The Situation Room" with Wolf. We look forward to that. Thank you for that fascinating reporting.

Meantime, U.S. and North Korean progress on denuclearization, not progress right now. Still a standstill. According to a senior diplomat, North Korea keeps rejecting U.S. proposals to start the process, calling them gangster-like. That's a word we've heard before in these talks.

CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski is with me at the State Department.

This is significant. What happened?


Yes, so we're being told by two senior diplomatic sources that the U.S. has made repeated, multiple, specific proposals for starting the process and then proceeding down the path of complete denuclearization, including timelines for potentially doing so. But all of them so far have been rejected by North Korea, which considers them, quote, gangster-like.

So these sources say that the U.S. has been still looking for this big gesture from North Korea, which would be in the form of it giving up a significant portion of its nuclear arsenal and in the short term. But that Kim Jong-un is insisting now that he will not make any step or any move towards denuclearization until there's a big gesture on the part of the U.S. These sources believe that that would be addressing Kim's security concerns. Likely what he's looking for is a peace proposal for the Korean Peninsula. That's something that he has talked about before. That is something that the U.S. has said that it would be open to. But it's looking for North Korea to move first. However, Kim Jong-un

is looking for the U.S. to move first and he's insisting that he won't make any move until he gets some kind of commitment like that. Thus, things are stalled for now, Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Michelle Kosinski, important reporting from your sources. Thank you for the update.

[09:44:34] Up next, President Trump says it is time to change the criminal justice system in this country and he is doing something about it. He brought together a big group of people who can make a lot of change in this country yesterday. We're going to dive into it with Van Jones, next.


[09:49:15] HARLOW: Criminal justice reform. It is one of the few issues these days that has wide bipartisan support. A majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents all support it. And just yesterday, President Trump hosted governors and state attorneys general at a roundtable discussion on it. His son-in-law and his adviser, Jared Kushner, was at that table. He has been working on this issue since day one.

America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, 2.2 million people are in prison in this country, and the U.S. has a quarter of the world's prison population and spent $60 billion a year running state and federal prisons.

The president has asked Congress to allocate $250 million over five years for programs to work with inmates like drug treatment, skills training and education. And there's a lot more that needs to be done.

Van Jones, our political commentator, host of "The Van Jones Show" here on CNN, and also the co-founder of Cut 50, a national bipartisan criminal justice initiative, is with me.

I was so glad to see this happen yesterday.


HARLOW: I'm so glad you're here to talk about it.

You know, is this going to be the White House that is able to really achieve meaningful criminal justice reform?

JONES: Well, I mean it's conceivable. Listen, when I think Trump picked Jeff Sessions to lead the attorney general's office, he's not been a supporter of reform. And that sends (ph), I think, a very scary, very bad signal. But I think what that obscured is that the Republican Party has been moving in a healthy direction on criminal justice policy for about ten years. Don't forget, in 2010, with that Tea Party wave, a lot of governors, Republican governors, got ahold of states with really bad budgets. And they had to make a decision. Are we going to raise taxes to keep building prisons --


JONES: Or are we going to get smarter?

And Rick Perry, as the governor of Texas, said, look, we're going to get smarter. They actually closed prisons in Texas and brought the crime rate down. Same thing happened in Georgia with Governor Deal.

HARLOW: Right. Kasich.

JONES: Kasich in Ohio.

So you actually have a bunch of people in the Republican Party, Newt Gingrich, the Koch brothers were all saying, why are we spending this much money making people worse --

HARLOW: Right.

JONES: We could spend less money making people better.

HARLOW: We invited Newt Gingrich on the show to be with you today to talk about this.


HARLOW: He couldn't. But, I mean, you know, he leads Cut 50 with you and --

JONES: Yes. Well, he was one of the people that helped us get it started.


JONES: And so what's interesting is both political parties has a reason to be concerned. If you're a Republican, you don't like big, failed government bureaucracies wasting money making people worse. We've got libertarians on the right that don't like the government having so much power. You've got Christian conservatives who say, where is the redemption, where are the second chances? And, of course --


JONES: You know, progressives and liberals don't like locking up so many poor black and brown folks.

HARLOW: Right.

JONES: And so there's actual, on this issue of all issues, there's common ground.

HARLOW: This -- a lot of common ground. And when you look at the numbers, five times -- according to NAACP, five times more African- Americans are incarcerated than whites. When you look at it by population, you've got about 12 percent of the U.S. population is African-American, 33 percent of the prison population is African- American on the federal and state level. Yet, this could not, did not happen under the first black president in this country, but may happen now.


HARLOW: And some would say, is there an irony in that? What's your read?

JONES: Listen, President Obama, Attorney General Holder, put a lot of work trying to get some changes made and actually made some changes at the administrative levels. Frankly, some of those Sessions rolled back.

At the legislative level, there was a bipartisan momentum to get a bill done, but the clock ran out. And part of what happened was, people wanted to get too much done in one bill.

I think the smart thing here is that Jared Kushner, his father went to prison, so he understands this issue better than most people, because it's personal to him. And he has been able to built up a coalition of voices and forces to actually get something smart done. It's called the First Step Act.


JONES: It's not as big as what the Obamas were trying to get done.

HARLOW: Yes. Right.

JONES: But it might actually get done because you actually do now have somebody in the White House, there's such a strong chance.

HARLOW: And it passed the House. It's being, you know, it's being debated in the Senate. The issue with the First Step Act that had some real -- those really on the left in Congress --

JONES: (INAUDIBLE) deterrence.

HARLOW: Elizabeth Warren, others opposing it --


HARLOW: Is because they say it didn't go far enough. It didn't address mandatory minimum sentences.

JONES: Right.

HARLOW: It doesn't address mandatory minimum sentences.

JONES: No, it doesn't.

HARLOW: Is that -- I mean there are discussions in Congress about actually addressing that. Are you hopeful?

JONES: Listen, I'm hopeful. Here's what I thought about what happened in the House. And Hakeem Jeffries and -- HARLOW: Yes. We had him on to talk about it.

JONES: Exactly. And Collins on the right, came together to try to get something done in the House. And some people said, well, you've got to get a camel through a key hole. You've got to do everything possible in this one bill or you'll never get it done. And I think Hakeem Jeffries and Collins and Jared Kushner and the people at Cut 50 were smart to say, you know what, let's get something done, even if it's modest, to break this log jam, to break this idea that we can't work together on anything. Even helping the people who are poor and addicted and have no champion in the -- being held in our federal prisons. We can't even help them because we're so mad at each other.

Once that log jam was broken, now in the Senate people are saying, well, maybe we should do this and maybe we should do a bit more.

I think the thing about this issue is, I don't care if you're conservative, liberal, black, Latino, white. Whoever you are, the more you look at our prison system, the more stuff you find that's just stupid. Why are you spending this much money hurting people? You're not helping people. And I believe it begins to build on itself. So I think you put -- you probably will get some sentencing reform. I think you will get some -- some other positive steps. But the main thing you're going to get, you're going to get a proof point that we can work together to help the people at the bottom.

HARLOW: Yes. And can you imagine if all that money went into our schools, our public school? Can you imagine if the --

JONES: Anything.

HARLOW: You know, if teachers didn't have to buy their kids notebooks out of their own pockets.

JONES: If you took it and blew it out with a fan --


JONES: You can get better outcomes.

HARLOW: OK. Maybe not.

Van, before you go, the show, this weekend, tomorrow night, who do you have on?

[09:55:01] JONES: Yes. I have another Jones. It's hard to keep up with the Jones. I've got Leslie Jones coming on the show this weekend. It's at 7:00. And on -- and she is unbelievable. She's an incredible -- I mean she basically took over my show. I had no chance of me going up against her.

But we also -- we went go in my van, we went to Atlanta, Georgia, and we talked to people who are voters there. And for the first time in my van, in a van episode, we had people on both sides breaking down crying talking about some of the stuff that's happening in Georgia.

HARLOW: Oh, wow.

JONES: So it's a really powerful show.

HARLOW: Good. "Van in a Van."

JONES: "Van in a Van."

HARLOW: Van, thank you for being here on all of this today. Such an important day to have your voice.

JONES: Glad to be here.

HARLOW: Good to be with you, my friend.

Don't miss "The Van Jones Show." It is right here, CNN, tomorrow night, 7:00 Eastern. We'll be right back.