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Interview with Rep. Patrick Meehan; FBI Translator Marries ISIS Fighter; Michael Slager to Plead Guilty in Shooting Death of Walter Scott; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired May 2, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:32:29] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just moments ago we heard from House leaders on the battle really inside the Republican Party to try and repeal and replace Obamacare. Joining us right now, Republican Congressman Patrick Meehan, he is a no vote, as we understand it, on this bill as it stands.
Congressman, we assume you were inside that meeting with the House speaker. We heard from our Phil Mattingly talking to sources inside who are left with the impression that the votes are not there to pass this bill right now. Is that your understanding?
REP. PATRICK MEEHAN (R), WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Well, I think that's accurate. If the votes were there, they'd put it up on the floor. They may be closer than people think, but it's not there yet.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So here's what you told Bloomberg, Congressman. "I want it to be good for sick people. It's not in its final form right now."
BERMAN: The president said that.
HARLOW: The president. I apologize. Not you. Let's pull this up on the screen. "It will be every bit as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare."
So here's -- two things to dissect here. The first is, he said it's not in its final form right now. You were just in that meeting. Is that how you understand it? Do you understand this bill as changing, having another amendment?
MEEHAN: Well, when he said it's not in his final form, I guess that suggests that there could still be some tweaking to get other people on board. I don't know what may happen over the course of the next few days, but the concern I have with it relates to the kind of think that they would identify with the ability for waivers to be given that would put people into things like high risk pools, and the question of the sustainability of those pools. So, you know, there's still some issues that need to be resolved.
BERMAN: And on the subject of preexisting conditions again.
HARLOW: Yes. BERMAN: Sort of the second part of what the president said.
BERMAN: Is it would be as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare. Do you think that statement is true?
MEEHAN: Well, we have to work on that. That's why you would have to have some changes. Things you would assure so there's not any lifetime caps on somebody. That you would be --
BERMAN: But as it stands -- but as it stands now, as the bill stands now without changes.
BERMAN: Because you just told us you don't know if they're changing it. But as it stands right now, is it better for people with preexisting conditions than Obamacare.
MEEHAN: No, I don't think it's as good as it needs to be to get there, to be able to make kind of the comparison to Obamacare, so you could tell those sick people that you're going to give them the care that they need with which they could currently get.
HARLOW: You know, and to be fair, this is something that I'm not living through, John is not living through, I would assume, Congressman, you're not living through, so to stand in that person's shoes, and to hear the president make that promise that this would be every bit as good on preexisting conditions as Obamacare, does the president just not understand the bill? Or is he being disingenuous?
[10:35:01] MEEHAN: No, I think he's really engaged. And I think he's looking to try cheer the team to find a way to get it over there. And he suggests --
HARLOW: OK, but that's just empirically not true as it stands now. It's not true. So then are you saying does he not -- does he not fully understand what the McArthur amendment does?
MEEHAN: I think he understands that it can get there and it needs to get there, and he's telling people that he wants it to get there, but I think it is accurate, it is not there. The McArthur amendment doesn't accomplish what it needs to for those sick people.
BERMAN: Has the president called to lobby you at all yet, sir?
MEEHAN: No, he's not -- no, he has not called me. Mike Pence has, but he has not.
BERMAN: What did -- I mean, I don't want to get into your private conversations, except that I actually do.
HARLOW: I was just going to say, yes, you do. (CROSSTALK)
MEEHAN: They're the same discussions as with leadership. You know, because I serve on the Ways and Means Committee, I think I have a fairly sophisticated knowledge of the issue and am able to engage with the members and the leadership on the concerns that I have, and a lot of it relates to the high-risk pools, which is the place in which we would probably put some of the greatest challenges now. I mean, you know, when you -- you've got to deal with the underlying fact, which is sick people -- nobody chooses to get sick.
And when they do, they may utilize a lot of services. And somehow they've got to be able to pay for it. So where is that going to come? It's in the assigned high-risk pools, but you've got to fund them. And I don't see them being fully funded right now.
HARLOW: Do you believe that if you were a betting man, would you put any money on the possibility that, you know, Republicans as a whole have to eventually back away from a complete repeal and replace and fix what is broken in Obamacare? Something that's an anathema to many Republicans to even say, but if you're a betting man, is that more of a reality at this point?
MEEHAN: Well, I -- you know, when you say back away, there's a lot of really good things in this bill that go a long way toward moving the system where it needs to go, and the states themselves need to be responsible and step up. And if they do, we've all got a long-term interest in making this system work because of the way it's currently constructed does not work. But it's not going to -- it's not going to be something that is going to be, you know, just fixed by one more tweak.
I think there's going to have to be some reconsideration that will allow people to -- some more people to get on board. But more importantly, so the system works, so we can deliver the kind of quality care that's going to drive down costs, but still not leave those that are sickest out in the lurch.
BERMAN: It is a goal that everyone should share. I don't think that's controversial.
MEEHAN: Yes. Well, that's the old story.
HARLOW: We appreciate your time. And when you do talk to the president, John Berman wants to know the details of that conversation.
BERMAN: She's right. I want to know the private conversation, even though I'm saying that I don't want to get into the private conversation.
HARLOW: As well. Thank you very much for your time.
MEEHAN: Thank you so much.
HARLOW: All right. Former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She will be exclusively on this network, speaking with our Christiane Amanpour, that is at 1:00 p.m. Eastern right here.
BERMAN: It's her first televised live interview one on one since the election.
BERMAN: A few questions you may want to ask the former secretary, I imagine.
HARLOW: Just a few.
BERMAN: Also an FBI translator secretly married a German rapper turned terrorist, becoming an ISIS bride to the man she was assigned to monitor. All of this actually happened, folks.
HARLOW: This is not "Homeland."
BERMAN: This is not "Homeland." This is actually story. Our exclusive report, next.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
[10:42:57] HARLOW: All right into CNN. We have learned that a former South Carolina police officer, Officers Michael Slager, has reached a deal in the federal civil rights case surrounding the shooting that you will remember of an unarmed African man.
BERMAN: Remember this video from just over two years ago? Walter Scott is seen running away during this routine traffic stop. The South Carolina police officer Michael Slager is seen shooting him from behind.
We're going to get a full report from the courthouse where this deal was just struck. What exactly the former officer agreed to plead guilty to.
BERMAN: And what it means for the state case, the murder case.
HARLOW: The criminal case.
BERMAN: The criminal case against this officer which was declared a mistrial before.
BERMAN: So we will come back to that very, very shortly.
HARLOW: More on in just a moment from our Marty Savidge.
Meantime an FBI translator goes rogue, secretly travels to Syria, marries an ISIS terrorists that she was assigned to investigate. Her case unsealed and quietly hidden until now.
Our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has this stunning exclusive report.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy and John, the FBI is not saying much at all about this case, other than to say they've reviewed it to reduce the vulnerabilities exposed here but clearly for a time they lost control and contact with one of their own.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): He is known by ISIS as "The German." Abu Talha al-Almani. A notorious ISIS fighter and recruiter, a former German rapper, who in intense and disturbing videos called for violent jihad and proudly held the severed head of an ISIS victim. Denis Cuspert is his real name, a German national targeted by the United States as a specially designated global terrorist, who survived a U.S. missile strike in 2015 and is believed to be still alive somewhere in ISIS- controlled Syria.
What has not been closed until now is that an FBI employee with top secret clearance lied to her bosses, secretly traveled to Syria, and married Cuspert for a short time, becoming the ISIS bride of the very terrorist she was assigned to investigate.
[10:45:11] That now former employee is Daniela Greene, her face obscured due to concerns for her safety. Having violated the public trust and endangered our nation's security, according to federal prosecutors, Greene served just two years in prison and is now free. She wouldn't answer CNN's questions saying if I talk to you, my family will be in danger.
The information about her case comes from previously sealed court documents. The records unsealed only after Greene finished cooperating with authorities and after prosecutors asked the judge to make them public. Unsealing these documents, they write, will allow appropriate public access to this case.
Greene, who was already married, traveled to Syria in the summer of 2014, and not only spent time in the company of members of ISIS, but ended up marrying an infamous ISIS terrorist.
GEORG HEIL, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: He is calling upon his followers to commit attacks inside Europe. He says, quote, Europe is the new battleground. He says go and slaughter them. Ambush them, shot their blood, take hostages, kill them.
GRIFFIN: The FBI hired Greene as a translator assigning her to the Detroit field office. She was tasked with helping investigate a terrorist labeled Individual A in court documents. CNN has learned Individual A is the German rapper turned ISIS fighter Denis Cuspert. Greene was able to track the terrorist using three Skype accounts, but it turns out the FBI knew of only two. Greene had sole access to a third Skype account and in June 2014, Greene told her supervisor she was making a trip to Germany to visit family. Instead she flew through to Toronto to Istanbul, traveled south to Gaziantep, Turkey, crossed the Syrian border with the help of the terrorist, and disappeared.
There in ISIS-controlled Syria, government prosecutors say Daniela Greene met up with the ISIS terrorist, and not only married him, but told him she was employed by the FBI and that the FBI had an open investigation into his activities. Shortly after arriving in Syria, Daniela Greene had a change of heart and within weeks was sending e- mails back to the United States, "I was weak," she wrote in one. "I really made a mess of things this time."
On August 6th, 2014, Daniela Greene left Syria, left ISIS, and did return to the United States, where she was immediately arrested.
(On camera): Unlike other terrorism-related cases, Daniela Greene's arrest and plea deal would receive no publicity at all from the Department of Justice. The case quietly hidden, court records sealed for months. Even after her case became a matter of public record, still silence.
(Voice-over): A look on the FBI and the Department of Justice Web sites show page after page of press releases about similar terrorism arrests over the years but this one stayed buried until now. CNN investigative reporter Scott Glover discovered the court documents.
SCOTT GLOVER, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I think it's a fair assessment to say it's embarrassing when an employee with a top excrete on security clearance secretly travels to Syria and marries a terrorist who is the subject of an investigation that she's working on.
GRIFFIN: What is even more stunning about this secretive case is how it ended. Greene began cooperating with the FBI immediately upon her arrest. She pleaded guilty to making false statements involving international terrorism. Though the government said she skirted a line dangerously close to other more serious charges. The assistant U.S. attorney wrote, "The nature and circumstances of this offense warrant serious punishment."
Similar cases have ended in sentences of 8, 10, 15 years in federal prison. Greene was sentenced to just two. According to prosecutors, it was because of her cooperation. She's already out on probation, but free.
GRIFFIN: As for Denis Cuspert, our sources are telling us that he is in fact alive and apparently married to yet another woman, living in ISIS-controlled Syria along the Iraq border -- Poppy, John.
HARLOW: Unreal story. Thank you so much for bringing it to us, Drew. Now back to our breaking news. We've learned the former South
Carolina police officer has reached a deal in the shooting of an unarmed African-American motorist.
BERMAN: All right. It goes back to this video that was -- just over two years ago. That's Walter Scott running away during a routine traffic stop. The South Carolina police officer Michael Slager is seen shooting him from behind.
Again we're going to get to Marty Savidge who is down in South Carolina for the exact details of this plea deal, which do matter.
What we have, Marty Savidge on the phone. Martin, what can you tell us exactly about the parameters of this deal? What did former officer Slager agree to plead guilty to?
[10:50:06] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): He's agreed, John, to plead guilty to one count of the federal charge of use of excessive force. In other words, with the statute authority that he had as a police officer, he used excessive force in the shooting of Walter Scott that eventually led to his death.
The other charges that were against him in this plea deal have been dropped. Those would include use of a weapon during a crime and then also lying to investigators, but additionally part of this plea agreement is that five days it is signed and agreed to today, then the state of South Carolina will drop its charges against the police officer. So that is a significant development, because it would mean essentially the end of prosecution of 35-year-old Michael Slager.
It is known that Slager will be taken into custody immediately this afternoon. He's been out on bond I believe since January of last year. He'll be taken into custody. That's what we know.
HARLOW: Marty Savidge, you've been on the story. We appreciate the reporting. A huge development, as we bring in our legal analyst Lauren Coates and Joey Jackson.
Joey, to you. He faced state murder charges. This was a long trial that ended in a mistrial, hung jury.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
HARLOW: And now he will not be tried again on those murder charges by the state. What does this mean he could face in terms of a prison sentence?
JACKSON: Well, it's a significant development. Just to back up, because remember that in the state trial, right, it ended in a hung jury. And people were amazed by that. You see something on video where there's a shot in the back, and so it was perplexing as to why, even if they didn't get him on murder, why the jury couldn't come to a decision even on manslaughter. And so now with this development, make no mistake about it, a federal civil rights violation charge carries a life sentence. And so you know --
BERMAN: It can carry a life sentence.
JACKSON: It can carry a life sentence, and so it's certainly -- you know, if he's plea bargaining, you would suspect that there were some sort of consideration given by the prosecutors, but I think ultimately it's up to a judge. The judge -- there are federal guidelines in this federal system with respect to the nature of the offense, with respect to, you know, your past criminal history, et cetera, but the federal judge really controls the cards, and so I don't know the specific terms of the plea bargain, it hasn't been released, but ultimately a judge is going to be deciding what his fate will be.
BERMAN: And Laura Coates, the judge will decide what that sentence is for, you know, the agreement to plea agreement on one charge now, excessive force in this federal civil rights case, which does mean that the criminal case, the murder case against Officer Slager --
BERMAN: -- is gone. Why would South Carolina, why would the state have agreed to this plea deal?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the reason you have the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, it was initially brought forth to be a backstop against states when they're unable to secure convictions based on whatever primers that may be raised and maybe other factors. In this case you have that one hung jury. And there's always the risk that the next this charge is brought against this man, and there's another trial, there could have been more than one hung juror and multiple people, in either way, another acquittal.
So they took the very safe route of saying, listen, we have a guaranteed conviction this way, we'll put our ego aside as the state, and say allow the backstop of the Department of Justice to come in. And remember, acting under a color of lies, as Joey said correctly, is no small charge. It carries up to a life sentence, and in some states up to a death penalty sentence.
And so what you have here is the Department of Justice who stepped in and said we are horrified that this particular officer, recall, first said that he had a taser almost used against him and was acting in self-defense. The color of law charge essentially says to the officer, you tried to exploit the trust we give an officer in uniform and tried to use it to your advantage at the expense of somebody's life. You'll be punished for that and the judge will likely go up to life.
HARLOW: Too often I think, you know, when you talk about legal proceedings, you know, the name and the life of the victim is not always a part of that. With Walter Scott, pulled over for a faulty brake light, the officer said he feared for his life. This has been the decision that the feds and the state have made ultimately.
Joey, do you know if any changes have been made in the wake of this in terms of policy within the police department in terms of training?
JACKSON: Yes. Well, I think what you're seeing is you're seeing not only here, but I think you're seeing throughout the country. Look, we've been talking a lot about body cams, for example, because now you're memorializing the transaction between the actual person being stopped and the police officer. You're talking about upgrades as far as training is concerned and hiring is concerned. So I don't think when you talk about the issue, Poppy and John, of changes, it's not only changes limited to this jurisdiction, but I think you see a sea change about South Carolina, but everywhere, with regard to the way police are interacting with people.
[10:55:07] And one other point. Remember that this tried civil rights, he's going to admit to something called a plea allocution. He has to admit before that judge that he intentionally violated his right and he did so with malice.
BERMAN: And, Laura, we got about 10 seconds left. Why would the defense -- why would Officer Slager have agreed to this? Did he fear a conviction on all three federal charges?
COATES: Possibly or he was hoping for lenience from the prosecutor. Likely in a plea agreement, they will decide not to allocute, meaning he will not recommend you serve life, it will be a lesser sentence. And he probably saw that he would be convicted. And if he did not agree to this term, it would have been a harsher sentence.
HARLOW: Thank you all very much. Martin Savidge, for the reporting. Laura Coates, Joey Jackson, for the legal analysis. We appreciate it. Of course, this is just breaking now. We'll have more on this for you straight ahead. Stay with us.