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GOP's Collins: I'll Beat "Meritless" Charges; Can GOP Slow "Blue Wave" ahead of Midterms? Remembering Heather Heyer on Charlottesville Anniversary; Report: Children Flying Alone Diverted, Sent to Hotel. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 9, 2018 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00]

HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And he is facing a maximum of 150 years in federal prison if convicted of the fraud charges against him. This morning, though, New York Congressman Chris Collins, is not only refusing to step down, he is campaigning for re-election in November, insisting he will be cleared of all of the insider trading charges in front of him.

[10:35:02] This is after he allegedly tipped his son to dump stock in an Australian drug company that he sat on the board of, a company called Innate Immunotherapeutics ahead of adverse news about a clinical trial being released. Listen to the Congressman's response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: The charges that have been levied against me are meritless, and I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Now my next guest was currently - was until yesterday serving with him on the House subcommittee. And he of course remains on the committee. But Collins was taken off of it by the speaker, Paul Ryan. With me is Congressman Tom Reed of New York. I appreciate you being with me.

REP. TOM REED (R-NY), WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me on, Poppy.

HARLOW: You of course represent constituents in New York in the 23rd district. Collins was in the 27th district, still is. Should he resign?

REED: Well, you know, that's obviously up to Chris and his family, to go through these difficult decisions that they're going to have to face. And these are serious allegations, and I recognize the seriousness of these allegations. And ultimately, that decision needs to rest with him and his family. HARLOW: So, you know, it was and it remains legal for a sitting U.S. member of Congress to sit on the board of a publicly traded company, to profit from that position. That's what he was doing. And a lot of Americans, myself included, are asking this morning, really? Really? That can happen? Do you think it should be legal?

REED: Well, you know, as we look at our ethics laws, always open to additional reforms. And you know we did a great step in the STOCK Act, which did a lot to curtail a lot of the abuses from before. Open to the improvements going forward. But at the end of the day, you know, this is why there's processes in place. We have the House Ethics Committee looking at this issue, as well as others. And I'll tell you, that's where these investigations go.

HARLOW: I hear you, but as you know, the House Ethics Committee came out last October and said there was substantial reason to believe that -- was action of concern here. I think it's just really sort of a straight question, yes or no answer. Should it be legal for a sitting member of Congress to sit on the board of a publicly traded company and profit from that position?

REED: Well, I oh -- I think that's a fair question.

HARLOW: Especially when you serve on the Health Committee. Especially when you serve on the Health Committee that would oversee this stuff.

REED: You know, obviously, that's a fair question. And that type of conflict of interest, I don't think it is allowed under existing rules, though, to profit from your position as a member of Congress. But we'll take a look at that. But obviously, any type of conflict of interest, we need to do a better job in Congress to send the message to the people that you know we're making sure that the integrity of the House is in place, and that no one is above the law.

HARLOW: So, should a sitting member of Congress be able to sit on the board of a publicly traded company?

REED: I think there's a serious question there that needs to be answered. And that's probably --

HARLOW: What's your answer? What's your answer? Yes or no?

REED: I would agree with you. I would agree with you. That is an area of reform that needs to occur.

HARLOW: So, no.

REED: Oh, no. That's not what I said. No, I think, yes. You know, having that type of conflict of interest is something --

HARLOW: Right, right, right. I'm saying -- I'm saying, are you saying no, they should not allow a sitting member of Congress should not be allowed to sit on the board of a publicly traded company?

REED: Yes, that makes some sense to me.

HARLOW: OK.

REED: As reforms going forward.

HARLOW: All right. Let's move on. Let's see what happens in Congress on that.

Let's move on to the midterms. I'm sure you saw the piece, front page of the "Washington Post" this morning, and the headline is the GOP debates the Trump effect. So, the main take-away here, and they quote a lot of Republican strategists who look at what happened Tuesday night, even the close call that is still up in the air in Ohio 12th. And they see this as a dark omen. Some are saying it indicates the limits of how much President Trump can help across the board in all of the districts, come the midterms.

Long-time Republican consultant, Stuart Stevens writes, "Nothing bodes well, you look at the amount of money spent on the Republican side in Ohio, the focus put on it, and you have an early warning sign. It's time for Republicans to counteract."

The president said after the Tuesday races, as long as I campaign or support Senate or House candidates within reason, they will win.

Who is right?

REED: I think it's ultimately up to the people. It's not about one action or the other. It's ultimately up to the people. And I think once we get our message about the economy and the 3.9 percent unemployment rate, lowest in decades, and people see an optimistic future ahead of them, I think we'll do just fine at the midterms. But at the end day, you've got to recognize there is energy on the other side of the aisle, and this is going to be a fight that is ultimately left to where it needs to be. The people in those districts that are voting.

HARLOW: It's interesting that you say that. There is energy that is growing on the other side among the Democrats. David Wasserman, House analyst, says you know for the nonpartisan "Cook Political Report" said, what we saw this week in these elections, quote, "reinforces our view that Democrats are a substantial favorite to retake the House."

[10:40:09] We had Democratic Governor Jay Inslee, of Washington state, who chairs the Democratic Governor's Association say this. Let me read it to you, quote, "Trump has been the great doctor stitching up our scars and healing us organically."

His argument is that the president is helping bring together the Democratic Party. What do you think?

REED: Well, I think, you know, obviously, there's a reason for the energy on the other side of the aisle. And if you look at history, when one party wins the White House, the other party doesn't do too well in those midterms that follow. But where we stand today is I think -- we have to put the message of what we're representing and delivering for the American people before the American people. And I think at that -- if that occurs, and we get that debate, we'll be just fine going into this election. But you've got to recognize the energy on the other side.

HARLOW: Congressman Reed, do you think that Republicans will maintain control of both chambers come November?

REED: I think we're in a good position to do that. But obviously, I recognize that that could be a different outcome, given the energy on the other side of the aisle. You know, listening to pundits -- look at what the pundits did in 2016. No one predicted the outcome on election night of 2016 that President Trump would be the president of the United States. So, I don't give a lot of weight to pundits. I take it into consideration. But ultimately, it's up to the voters on November who is going to be in power, who is going to have the majority. And my hope is once we get through that, we start solving problems for the American people back home.

HARLOW: All right. Congressman Tom Reed, joining me from Rochester this morning. Nice to have you. Thanks.

REED: Thank you very much, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Still ahead, as we come up on the one-year anniversary, it's this weekend, of the deadly Charlottesville protests, we remember her. We remember Heather Heyer, who was killed during the demonstrations, as well as two police officers. One of Heather's closest friends will join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:51:25] HARLOW: So, the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, bracing for what could be a volatile weekend. States of emergency have been declared, not only in Charlottesville this weekend, but also, across the entire state. Of course, Sunday marks one year since the deadly Unite the Right rally. These two Virginia state troopers were both killed during those protests. Also, killed, 32-year-old Heather Heyer. She was run over by a car, allegedly driven by a suspected neo Nazi sympathizer. And the driver of that car is charged with first degree murder for the death of Heather Heyer, as well as 30 federal hate crime charges. At Heather's funeral last year, her mother Susan Bro vowed that her daughter's death would not be in vain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN BRO, HEATHER HEYER'S MOTHER: And I think the reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did is achievable. We don't all have to die. We don't all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: It's a moment none of us will forget. Alfred Wilson is with me now, a close friend of Heather. Thank you for being here.

ALFRED WILSON, HEATHER HEYER'S FORMER SUPERVISOR AND FRIEND: Thank you for having me, Poppy.

HARLOW: You were so, close to her. She was close to your three children, including your youngest. And, I mean, you went over to her apartment the day after she died and helped clean it out. And you're very close with her mother. I think my first question to you is, it's been a year. What do you want everyone to know and remember about her always?

WILSON: Heather was a very kind and young lady. She was a woman that cared about all. She always wanted to make sure that everyone was equally treated. She believed that everyone had a chance or should have a chance in our society. And that's one of the things I want everyone to basically remember about her.

HARLOW: You've said that it was her, that it was Heather Heyer, a white woman, who alerted to you the silent racism that exists and is profound. And profoundly hurtful and painful in this country still today. How did she do that for you?

WILSON: Well, Heather and I worked together probably about 40 to 50 hours a week. Quite often, I would meet with various clients, and a lot of times individuals that we meet with would be introduced and say, oh, you're going to meet with Alfred Wilson. And I guess the first thing some individuals didn't think Alfred Wilson was a black male. And when I would walk around the corner to come meet them, I might stick my hand out to shake their hand. And I just oh -- I guess being around -- just hadn't noticed it before.

But Heather would point out and pick up on it very quickly, that individuals may not have stuck their hands out immediately to shake my hand, because was a black male. And she would point that out to me. She would say, Alfred, how can you still reach out to help individuals that apparently don't appreciate what you bring to the table for them? I would frequently let her know that you know it's my job to try to help them, regardless of what their feelings may be about me. And she come to point out to me, you know, these injustices that people would somewhat look down on me because I'm a black male.

HARLOW: You said four months after she was killed, you said, quote, "I would say our society killed her."

What do you mean?

[10:50:01] WILSON: Our society killed her in that the political climate that we've actually voted and put ourselves in, has made people feel like it's OK to come speak up and say the things that they're saying. The negative, hateful things that they're saying now.

I mean, our political climate over a year ago, we didn't have individuals being so bold and so brass about the things that they're doing. On a daily basis, I'm the co-founder of the Heather Heyer Foundation and executive director. So, I monitor the e-mails that come in, and on a daily basis, I'm getting e-mails where individuals feel like it's OK to sit there and say negative things about race or to sit there and say hateful things about, oh, they're glad that Heather died. I don't understand how someone can be that bold. And the only reason they're that bold is because of our political climate at this point has made it seem like it's OK to say such things.

HARLOW: Well, the language that President Trump used in the wake of the Unite the Right rally and the events of Charlottesville was and will always be remembered as both sides. So, if he were to address it this weekend, one year later, what would you like to hear?

WILSON: Well, to be honest, it's kind of hard for me to still acknowledge that person that you're talking about is president. I still call him Mr. Trump or Donald. From him, I would hope that he's opened his eyes, think about what he's saying. One of the things that Susan always sits there and points out, you must think about what you're saying. But I would hope he would think about what he's saying and have some empathy about what's happening in our society. Realizing that all black, brown people. All people of different religious, we all have a contribution to this country. If it wasn't for the diversity in our country, America wouldn't be the America it is.

HARLOW: You know, I will just end on this because I've read something that you said recently, that really struck me, Alfred. And you said that Heather would have been, in your words, kicking with joy from the soulful movement that has flowed from the tragedy that ended her life.

WILSON: Yes. She would -- Heather was a quiet person. She kept to herself. She wouldn't be the one that's out here publicly speaking, constantly. But she would be the one standing up, making people aware about what's happening. So, she would be very happy that we are still as a society having difficult conversations. And that's one of the things that she constantly had. She would have those difficult conversations. She would bring social issues to the light. Allow people or get people to try to understand what's happening. So, I would know she would be very excited and very pleased to see that we are still having these kinds of conversations and that we're trying to make some kind of change.

HARLOW: Yes. Alfred, thank you for being here. I know this weekend is going to be hard for you. We're thinking about you and your kids through it all. Thank you for sharing this with us.

WILSON: Thank you for your time, as well. And thanks for having me.

HARLOW: All right. And again, we all remember Heather Heyer. The foundation set up in her name, the Heather Heyer Foundation. I'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:53] HARLOW: All right. So, this morning a Florida family wants answers. And they want answers from Frontier Airlines, after they say their two young children ended up spending a night in a hotel room with an employee from the airline. According to the reports, the children, 7 and 9 years old, were flying unaccompanied as minors from Iowa to Orlando when their plane was diverted to Atlanta because of bad weather.

Let's go to our aviation and government regulation correspondent, Rene Marsh, who joins me now. I mean, there are a lot of questions, right? I mean, was it protecting the kids to have them stay with an adult in a hotel room, or are they arguing that there was something that happened to these kids in that hotel room?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right. That is the big question. I mean, the parent, at least the father, is raising this concern that this airline employee spent the night with the children in the hotel. But it's unclear. Is he insinuating that something happened during that time? And exactly what is upsetting him? Because I did speak with people within the industry who say that it appears the airline went above and beyond, making sure that these minors were accompanied at all times. I'll tell you that the flight was from Des Moines, Iowa, and it was supposed to go to Orlando. It was diverted to Atlanta, due to bad weather.

Now, the father of the children told our affiliates that he did not hear from the airline throughout the whole process. And the only way that he received any notification was from another unaccompanied minor who had a cell phone and let his son use the phone. The father also, said that he was troubled that the airline employee drove in their personal vehicle and spent the night with the children in that hotel.

Now, the airline is pushing back. They're saying that they followed their policy to provide a hotel in this sort of situation for the unaccompanied minors and provide a chaperone at all times. They also, say their "records show that the children were in contact with their mother before being transported to the hotel and with their father the following morning," Poppy. So, the airline for their part saying they followed all the policies that they have on the books for these unaccompanied minors, but this dad, not too happy.

HARLOW: No. All right. Keep us posted. Rene, thank you for that. And thank you, everyone, for being with me today. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning. "At This Hour" Kate Bolduan starts now.