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Report: GOP's Jordan Denies Knowledge of Abuse at Ohio State; Trump's Patience with Pruitt Hits Tipping Point; Embattled EPA Chief Asked Trump to Fire Sessions and Hire Himself; GOP Senate Panel Says Russia Attacked U.S. Elections; How Will We Know What Was Discussed at Trump Putin Meeting If Private; Form Gives Parents Options to Be Deported with or without Kids. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 4, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Thank you very much. Hi and happy Fourth of July, everyone, welcome to a special holiday edition of CNN NEWSROOM.
We begin with breaking news, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan defiant and unequivocally denying the explosive accusations that he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse while he was the assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University years ago. The university announced in April it was investigating allegations that Dr. Richard Strauss abused several wrestling team members. This goes book back to the mid '70s, to the late '90s. He's since died, but his tenure overlapped with Jim Jordan, at the time a former assistant wrestling coach. Jean Casarez is back with us on this. I know you have two key people speaking out in past couple of hours?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Congressman Jim Jordan just spoke out publicly for the first time at a Fourth of July event in Ohio saying that he did not know that abuse was going on to the male athletes while he was an assistant coach at Ohio State University. There's a massive investigation going on now by independent counsel in Ohio.
The allegation is that this doctor, Richard Strauss, who was the team doctor for athletics at the university for two decades, that he would treat athletes for their injuries, and while they were in the examination room alone with the doctor, he would sexually molest them. I spoke with a wrestler back in the day when the doctor was there along with Congressman Jordan. He said he was a victim and the congressman knew about this because everybody in the wrestling department did. Listen --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE DISABATO, FORMER OHIO STATE WRESTLER: I was close to both Jim and coach. We talked openly within our locker room about Strauss in particular that he was a serial groper. I can tell you now he's not telling the truth. He did know. He has knowledge. He was there over eight years, it's impossible to ignore the training environment. It was deviant, chaotic.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CESAREZ: Congressman Jordan just said he did know Dr. Richard Strauss, and he did know that he went into the shower area where the athletes did. He explained it further which Michael Disabato acknowledges, that the shower facilities were in the center of the university and professors and others went into the male facilities. It was an open shower that anyone could go in. He also said that he's spoken to other coaches, that they also didn't know the abuse was going on. And here is Jim Jordan in his own words minutes ago from Ohio --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN, (R), OHIO: Mike Russell for us was -- was a friend, but something's changed. It's -- you know, things he said are just not true. We knew of no abuse, never heard of abuse. If we had, we'd of reported it. And if, in fact, there is problems, we want justice for the people who are victims obviously. And as I said, we're happy to talk with -- with the folks who are doing the investigation. But nothing that -- I mean, things they said about me just were flat-out not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CESAREZ: And Congressman Jordan goes on to say that he has gotten emails from the former wrestler. The latest at 4:30 this morning. He characterizes them as strange, and at this point says that he believes that his office will be going to the Capitol Hill police to let them know. And one other thing, the council for the university told CNN yesterday that they had reached out to Congressman Jordan by e-mail, by phone, asking him to do an interview as part of this investigation. That they hadn't heard from him. His office, and he confirms on camera, that they have gone through all of their communications, they can't find anything. So, they are asking the office of counsel, Ohio State University, what did you send us, we want to see it because we are here to assist you.
BALDWIN: We're staying on this. You're staying on this. We've got the former wrestler who is leveling these allegations all these years later coming up next hour. Stay tuned for that. Thank you very much.
To the White House now. The president and the first lady are hosting a July 4th picnic for military families on the south lawn. Later they will enjoy fireworks. On this day that the president is celebrating America's independence, he is facing a dilemma involving a top cabinet official.
[14:05:00] Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is facing a new -- Scott Pruitt is facing a new wave of ethics violations, some say he is, quote/unquote, inching toward the tipping point. We're learning from sources that Pruitt in the spring made a direct appeal to President Trump to fire his attorney general, so to fire Jeff Sessions, and to temporarily hire him for the job.
This as we are learning more details we are learning of a conversation between the president and his top foreign policy advisors. President Trump asking about the possibility of a U.S. military invasion in Venezuela. Let's go to our White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez, on all of the above. Let's start with the Scott Pruitt conversation with the president involving Jeff Sessions. Tell me what you know about that.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Several sources telling CNN that earlier this year, Scott Pruitt apparently asked President Trump if he would fire his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and at least temporarily put him in that role for some 200 days or so, according to the Vacancies Act, before he would then move back to Oklahoma and run for political office.
Of course, we know that President Trump is publicly displeased with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, he's called him be leaguered before. It's not necessarily a surprise that perhaps the president has been pondering a replacement. But this comes on top of all of the allegations of ethical and possible financial violations by Scott Pruitt. We should point out he is being investigated through 14 separate federal probes that we know of. It comes on the heels of recent reporting, a senior administration official telling CNN they believe that Scott Pruitt is inching closer to a tipping point with President Trump.
The White House has been open that the president has been closely watching some of the media coverage of these allegations against the EPA administrator, and so far, Trump has said that Pruitt is doing a good job with the EPA, in terms of his future, the president said several times we'll see where things land with Scott Pruitt. The administration official wondering aloud how much longer Pruitt could keep his job because the timing is important here. Keep in mind, midterm elections are only a few months away. Democrats could potentially use these controversies, these allegations against Pruitt, to build campaign ads that essentially accuse Republicans and the president of not draining the swamp as he promised to.
BALDWIN: Right. Separately, what do you know about that Venezuela conversation?
SANCHEZ: The president brought it up in a meeting with foreign policy officials, asking about a possible military intervention. We're told that aides vigorously tried to talk him out of that, the one aide told us that the president was just thinking out loud, he was spit balling, as officials tell us he often does during the meetings, trying to solicit different opinions. The aides apparently told him that in the region, none of the United States allies would support that invasion despite that we're told that the president actually brought it up on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last year, asking some American allies in Latin America if they would stand with the United States for some possible intervention in Venezuela. All of them apparently told President Trump that they would not.
BALDWIN: Boris Sanchez at the White House. Thank you very much.
Jumping back to Pruitt here. He's already the subject, as Boris said, of at least 14 different probes into alleged ethical violations. I cannot possibly -- look at the teeny, tiny print, I can't read all of these. Here are some highlights -- he asked his aides to get his wife a job, not once but twice. Recently a room near -- rented a room near capitol hill from a lobbyist for $58 a night. He had an aide inquire about getting a used Trump hotel mattress. He blew through traffic. He flew first class every single time. He gave big raises to his favorite staff. He installed this $43,000 privacy booth, this phone booth, in his office. He used 24/7 security detail to go to brunch, to pick up lotion and dry cleaning, and spent taxpayer money on trips to Morocco, Italy, Australia, Disneyland, the Rose Bowl, and his multiple trips to his home in Oklahoma. Let's talk about this. Two CNN analysts, Josh Green, national correspondent for "Bloomberg Business Week," and Amie Parnes, senior correspondent for "The Hill." Amy, this guy --
[14:10:00] AMIE PARNES, CORRESPONDENT, "THE HILL": Yes.
BALDWIN: Again, according to reports, he went to President Trump and said, fire Sessions, hire me. Then I'm going to go home to Oklahoma and run for office. Where does he get that kind of confidence, hubris?
PARNES: And can you even imagine those 200 days and what they would look like? And how everyone would be like, oh, my gosh, this is the guy who's
taking over for Jeff Sessions and how many headlines would come out of that. It would create its own controversy. I think that's why that was -- someone put the kibosh on that quickly.
BALDWIN: And Josh for context it seems like forever ago, but we remember Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary who resigned over the use of private planes when which apparently enraged the president and, quote, undercut his promise to bring accountability to Washington, right, #draintheswamp. Pruitt here totally fine. What's this really about? Is it about loyalty to Trump?
JOSHUA GREEN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT FOR "BLOOMBERG BUSINESS WEEK": I think there are two things going on. One, Pruitt has been effective when it comes to stripping and dismantling regulations which is what Trump and Republicans want from an EPA administrator. He's been doing the job that makes Republican donors and oil executives happy. The other thing here that I -- I think we have to talk about is that Pruitt could potentially solve a big problem for Trump if Trump were to decide that he wanted to get rid of Robert Mueller, special counsel, he could maneuver Jeff Sessions out.
And then because of something called the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, he could move Scott Pruitt into the job of AG for 210 days without senate confirmation. So, the big thing stopping Trump from getting rid of sessions is you'd have to have the senate confirm a replacement. Pruitt offers an avenue at least for 210 days for Trump to maneuver in, you know, a lackey who isn't concerned by ethical norms to potentially do his bidding. I think that's one appeal that Scott Pruitt has and helps to explain why he stuck around through the longest list of scandals that I've ever heard of a cabinet secretary enduring.
BALDWIN: From Pruitt let's go to Michael Cohen. He has a big day in court tomorrow. Noteworthy today, Amie Parnes, is he's gone to Twitter, removed the part in the profile section, removed the part where he referred to Trump's personal attorney, changed his cover photo. It was a Trump event, something related to Trump, and now this American flag. When I saw this I was like is this the official Twitter breakup?
PARNES: Pretty much. Trump loves Twitter. I think he wants to clean the slate. I believe him that he would put his family first. He would put himself first over Trump. They had a tumultuous relationship going into this, I don't think he would put himself on the line, you know, when all this is at stake.
BALDWIN: Do you think that the White House -- two days after the George Stephanopoulos interview and ahead of the big day tomorrow in court, do you think the White House should be worried?
GREEN: Sure, depending on what it is Trump -- Cohen knows about Trump, but you know, giving the closeness -- given the closeness of them, the relationship, including Russian matters, that's a potentially big worry for Trump. One of the reasons why Cohen is doing stuff like this is that he hasn't gotten a lot of love from Trump. With Mike Flynn, Trump was openly saying what a great guy Flynn was even as he pled guilty to charges of lying to the FBI.
Michael Cohen hasn't gotten any similar treatment. I think he's waking up for the fact that Trump is going to watch out for Trump, and he isn't going to do anything to throw Michael Cohen a bone. Cohen has been giving interviews with Stephanopoulos and that sort of thing, changing his Twitter bio send the signal to Trump that I'm worry and distancing myself from you, and the ball is in Trump's court if he wants to try and bring Cohen into the fold to make some expression of support which so far Trump hasn't done.
BALDWIN: Josh, Amy, thanks for hanging out with me on the Fourth Of July. Happy Independence Day.
[14:15:00] Coming up, as President Trump plans to meet one on one with Vladimir Putin and right now a group of house Republicans are in Moscow laying the groundwork, a number of critics are wondering is Russia getting a warmer treatment than some of our key allies.
Also, still trapped. The latest plan to free that youth soccer team trapped in the dark underground cave in Thailand for days. We'll talk to a counselor about this. The long-term impact these kids could face when they get out.
And a shocking story today. A 92-year-old woman refuses to enter an assisted living facility, decides to take matters into her own hands, and pulls a gun on her own son. Yes, this is her mugshot. That 92- year-old woman facing murder charges. Were back in just a moment.
BALDWIN: We're back. Happy Fourth of July. We are just days away for the Trump-Putin summit set to happen in Finland. As the summit nears another group of Republican lawmakers spending the day in Russia. The meeting coming as the senate intelligence committee released a bipartisan report contradicting the president and backing up the intelligence committee that, yes, indeed, Russia attacked the U.S. and wanted Trump to win. CNN national security analyst and retired CIA Chief of Russia Operations, Steve Hall, is with me. Steve, happy Fourth of July. Thanks for coming on.
STEVE HALL, RETIRED CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: My pleasure.
[14:20:00] BALDWIN: So first to the fact that you have these Republican lawmakers over in Russia in the first place, and there's criticism that they're there and, you know, not with our NATO allies for -- for example, you know, what do you make -- is that a fair criticism?
HALL: Yes. I think it is. There's a lot of weird stuff going on now. And I think unfortunately what's happening is that we're sort of handing victory after victory unnecessary victories to Vladimir Putin. The fact that a senior delegation, you know, comes over from our Congress, and the fact that, frankly, the -- President Trump agreed to meet Putin is something that he really values. I think you have to look at this from the Russians perspective and Putin's perspective.
He wants to be seen as a great power. He wants to be seen as a world leader despite the fact that they have, you know, a struggling economy and have all sorts of other difficulties that really would argue against that. Nevertheless, when the president goes to see him, when you've got the senior delegations that visit the rubber stamp parliament, the Duma, it doesn't do us favors especially when it comes at the expense of our allies. Struggling economy and have all sorts of other difficulties that really would argue against that. Nevertheless, when the president goes to see him, when you've got the senior delegations that visit the rubber stamp parliament, the Duma, it doesn't do us favors especially when it comes at the expense of our allies.
BALDWIN: How about keeping that Putin-Trump meeting in mind and apparently, Steve, the way Russian tv is playing this whole visit with these Republican lawmakers, is that these Republicans, you know, they talk this big game, but when they got there, and they were face to face with these Russians, they were quiet. How do you think that affects any sort of dynamic between Putin and Trump going into that meeting?
HALL: Well, first of all, you have to understand that, again, looking at it from the Russian side, the Russian-controlled propaganda outlets that are essentially they're network news, equivalent thereof, will paint this absolutely, you know, in the best possible light for Putin and Russia. That's -- that's sort of another win that we're giving them. Yes, just the very idea that we're going in to talk to the president, going in to talk to Putin right on the heels of the Senate oversight committee's hearing that they arrived at the conclusion that Vladimir Putin attacked our elections, tried to get Hillary Clinton at a disadvantage and increased the likelihood that Trump would win.
You put all of that to include the fact that we're stiff arming our NATO allies, I mean, you just kind of have to wonder what's the big picture, what's the policy, having a good relationship with Russia is not in and of itself a policy. You got to wonder, well, what is.
BALDWIN: Adam Schiff, Democrat on the House intel committee, tweeted about -- the Senate intel committee findings and tweeted, it was clear in January, 2017, and the evidence has only grown stronger since -- talking about Russia meddling -- only the president and his allies deny it. How is it that everyone but Trump, Putin, and a handful of Republicans in the House now say that Putin meddled to help Trump win?
HALL: It's also common sensical. If you wanted to set aside all of the intelligence reporting, all of the assessments, all of that stuff and write it off as a cockamamie deep state type of thing, just think about it common sensically. What were Donald Trump's physicians while he was a candidate? He was basically saying maybe Crimea does belong to Russia or should go to Russia. Maybe this whole NATO thing is not such a good idea, and they're obsolete. Things he is still alluding to and outright saying. Again, you've got to wonder what is our policy here and how is it that we're having a meeting with Vladimir Putin which is going to clearly give him a win, and what is the United States going to get out of it? What is our security interests here? What is being advanced from the American or Western alliance, and I don't think of anything? And I can't think of anything.
BALDWIN: If it's just the two of these guys in a meeting, how will we ever know if the president does bring this up, reminiscent of the concerns ahead of the Kim Jong-Un meeting. Steve hall, we'll talk again. Thank you very much.
Just ahead here, this 92-year-old woman is under arrest and charged with the murder of her son. This has to do with her not wanting to go to assisted living. We will explain.
[14:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: With hundreds of migrant families still in custody at the border, CNN has obtained a form that has been handed to parents who are separated from their kids. This is the first document outlining the options they have for a parent facing deportation that has been made available to CNN. Nick Valencia is live on the Texas border town of McAllen. You have read this form. What does it say?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The form was provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center. They got it from a contact in a local ICE field office because they were concerned and wanted the Southern Poverty Law Center to advise clients. It lays out two simple questions for detained adults who are still separated from their children -- be deported with your child or be deported without your child and leave them here in the United States to go through this process by themselves.
Advocates for immigrants in the United States say this is deeply troubling. Clients may not understand the legalese of the documents. In some cases, you know this, migrants don't speak Spanish, they speak indigenous languages. We know from according to the SPLC that at least two clients they say who have not been brought before the judge and are not under final removal proceedings, they say have been pressured to sign the document. They didn't provide specific details. There's no way for us to verify that ICE we should say is -- verified the form and said that it's only being used for those that are under final removal orders.
BALDWIN: Before you go, you were at the Texas facility with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was at last week. And you learned some details.
[14:30:00] VALENCIA: First reported by the group Intercept, 60 to 65 women were move -- 60 to 65 women were moved outside while Secretary Nielsen was inside. The group was intentionally moved outside by the secretary. We've reached out to ICE to confirm and they haven't called back. But a spokesperson said after coordinating with the secret service, coordinating with Secretary Nielsen's visit, people were moved to the dorm for recreation. That's why they're saying it happened.
A short time ago I spoke to a detainee who tells a different story. She tells me that the women were moved outside for about two hours. They weren't told why they were moved. It was during the period of time that some of the women began screaming for their children, asking to be reunited with their children. She said it wasn't until this afternoon that she realized Secretary Nielsen was at the event to begin with. Immigration attorneys are being made aware of the news, deeply concerned, as well, about the process and how the women were handled during the secretary's visit.
BALDWIN: Nick Valencia in Texas on the 4th. Thank you very much.
To a dramatization video that is getting a lot of attention now. It shows a young boy peering over a wooden table at the immigration judge before him. His legs dangle, too short to reach the ground, he has headphones to hear the translation of the judge's words. He's sitting there all alone without an attorney, without his parents, and he is about to represent himself in court. This is part of an ad, it is called "unaccompanied, alone in America --