Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Launches attack on A.G. Sessions; Trump: If Impeached, "Market Would Crash, Everybody Would Be Poor"; U.S. Imposes New Tariffs and China Retaliates; Victims of Priest Sexual Abuse Share Stories; GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter to Appear in Court. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 23, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:30:57] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump launching an attack on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, focusing on Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, something the president has said repeatedly and slammed repeatedly as an act of disloyalty and what he views as weakness.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jeff Sessions, never took control of the Justice Department. And it's an incredible thing. When everybody sees what's going on in the Justice Department -- I always put justice now with quotes -- it's a very, very sad day. Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn't have done. Or he should have told me. Even my enemies say Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself. Then you wouldn't have put him in. He took the job and then he said, I'm going to recuse myself. I said, what kind of a man is this?


HILL: Joining me now, CNN legal and national security analyst and former FBI special agent, Asha Rangappa.

Asha, listen, the rhetoric from this president, is it new? What kind of man is this? I don't know if that's questioning manhood or character. It's the same message. It's a constant drumbeat. Is it starting to have an impact on the rank and file at the Justice Department or even with your former colleagues at the FBI?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think so, Erica. You are right, this is Groundhog Day. Every day, he tweets about the witch hunt. At some point, he complains about Sessions. Then he or his layer, Rudy Giuliani, go on "FOX and Friends" and confess to a federal crime. I think it's actually being tuned out. I think the charges that you have seen from the southern district of New York, which is a part of the Justice Department, obviously, show that people, prosecutors and FBI agents are keeping their heads down, following the evidence where it leads, and bringing charges when it's warranted.

HILL: The president also said that Jeff Sessions has, quote, "no control at the Justice Department." Would you agree?

RANGAPPA: I don't agree. You know, I don't agree with many of the attorney general's policies or decisions. But I think that he made a very good decision when he recused from the Russia investigation. That was what was mandated by the Department of Justice rules about recusal.

I think what you have here, Erica, is President Trump's inability to understand the role of lawyers and their clients. He has been used to somebody like Michael Cohen, who operated on a loyalty principal. For example, the White House Counsel Don McGahn, his client was the office of the president of the United States, not President Trump personally. Similarly, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, his client when it comes to criminal investigations is the people of the United States, not the president personally. I think that either he has trouble grasping that or is gives him a sense of being out of control knowing that he is not the person to whom they are all loyal.

HILL: Asha, quickly, before we let you go, there were all these comments about Michael Cohen flipping and the president saying it should be almost illegal. I'm curious your thoughts on that.

RANGAPPA: Yes, it's astonishing that he would say that after claiming that he is the law-and-order president. You know, getting people to cooperate and provide truthful information is the way that investigators and prosecutors catch criminals. This goes from gangs to drug dealers to terrorists. It just seems that he is now upset it could impact him.

HILL: Asha Rangappa, always appreciate it. Thank you.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

[11:35:42] HILL: Coming up, a bold statement even by President Trump's standards, claiming, if he is impeached, the market would crash and everybody would be poor. That's next.


HILL: In a stunning new interview, President Trump making the argument that if he were impeached, the market would crash and, in his words, everybody would be poor.


TRUMP: You know, I guess it's something like high crimes and all. I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job. I will tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor. Because without this thinking, you would see -- you would see numbers that you wouldn't believe, in reverse.


HILL: CNN's Cristina Alesci is with me now. So the market is in this unprecedented bull run. We just hit a

milestone this week. Unemployment, historically low right now as well. Would all of those things disappear overnight? Would we be all poor, as the president said, if he were to be impeached?

[11:40:18] CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Of course not. In the short term, look, would the market take a hit if there were serious talks about impeachment proceedings if Democrats take control of the House and vote to impeach the president? Maybe. Maybe we'd see a pullback because Wall Street doesn't like uncertainty, the uncertainty that comes with a potential pullback of consumer business spending. But in the long-term, investors are going to look at corporate earnings, economic growth, and they will look at interest rates. All of those are moving in the right direction. So the long term, it's not going to derail the economy.

And the closest comparable we have historically, if you look at it, is Bill Clinton. During his impeachment proceedings in 1998 and 1999, we were in the midst of the longest bull run at the time. Those impeachment proceedings did not derail that bull run. You still saw it go. In 1998, the market finished up. In 1999, the market finished up. It's not a perfect comparable because he was acquitted. So not the perfect thing. What's interesting to me is you hear analysts talking about, OK, if President Trump were to be impeached, maybe we get Pence. Perhaps Pence is more stable and is a bigger stabilizing force and maybe taking away uncertainty around trade, for example.

HILL: Speaking of trade, you teed this up perfectly. Tariffs we talk about a lot. New tariffs on China. Wrap that up for me in terms of what we are seeing today.

ALESCI: The U.S. imposed tariffs on China on $16 billion worth of goods. China hit back with the retaliatory tariffs. These are the tariffs the U.S. put on Chinese goods, motorcycles, semiconductors, plastics, if you will. Look, there's a back and forth right now. The U.S. has a two-pronged strategy, the carrot and stick. That's the stick. The carrot are the talks happening this week between U.S. and Chinese officials. The Chinese are at the table. The administration can tout that as positive development. But nobody thinks there's a deal coming out of it.

HILL: All right we'll keep watching.

Always appreciate it.

ALESCI: Thank you.

HILL: Thanks, Cristina.

Coming up, they are survivors of horrific emotional, physical sexual abuse at the hands of priests who were supposed to be their spiritual guides. They are now sharing their stories with CNN in an effort to stop this from ever happening again. Our conversation with these brave survivors is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [11:47:05] HILL: The calls keep coming in, nearly 500 so far, to a hotline set up by the Pennsylvania attorney general after that grand jury report which detailed how the Catholic Church covered up the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by 300 priests for decades.

I sat down with four survivors and the parent of another victim. They are angry, numb and empowered by the support they have receive and the strength of each other. They are also demanding action.


JOHN DELANEY, SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ABUSE BY PRIEST: I would get high before I would have to serve mass so I could separate myself from what was about to happen to me. I was in charge of the altar boys. I had to make the schedule. I would schedule myself so that others didn't have to take it. I did. I did it so that other people didn't have to take it. I knew I was stronger. I knew I could disconnect.

SHANNON TELL, SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ABUSE BY PRIEST: My abuser used to say mass in our kitchen.

HILL: In your kitchen?

TELL: In our kitchen.

HILL: Where you grew up?

TELL: Yes. In our kitchen. I was abused for 20 years. You ask how I separated the two. I split. I had one of me that took handle of the abuse and the other one was just myself.

HILL: Arthur, you are here to speak for your son, who is no longer with us. But you can continue to give him a voice.

ARTHUR BREACKLE (ph), PARENT OF SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ABUSE BY PRIEST: What kind of a parent would I be if I didn't continue my struggle and fight for my son? What kind of a person, a man, any human being would even think about molesting a child, let alone somebody who claims to be a representative of God? These are the kind of people that the Catholic Church wants to represent them in the community? Spiritual incest, soul murder, that's what I say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Psychological abuse, physical abuse. All of the different abuses we have gone through, they stay with us. We continually think about it and re-abuse ourself in silence.

HILL: Why do you think this is such a problem in the Catholic Church? It's not just Pennsylvania. It's not just the United States.

JULIANNA BORTZ (ph), SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ABUSE BY PRIEST: I think it's gone on because it was allowed to go on. These guys knew they would be covered for, they knew they would be moved. They did it because they could.

HILL: Is there anything that the Catholic Church could do to regain your trust? (CROSSTALK)

BORTZ (ph): Not today.


HILL: Are any of you still -- do you consider yourself Catholics?

TELL: I'm Catholic.


BORTZ (ph): I go straight to God.

BREACKLE (ph): I'm not -- well, look, my grandparents were from Italy. I didn't have a choice.

[11:50:06] BORTZ (ph) It's in the DNA.


BORTZ (ph): Catholicism is in the DNA for some of us.

DELANEY: The Jesus I learned about in school would not turn his back on children. Not once.

BORTZ (ph): Everything they taught is a lie. I mean, there's no other word. There's no other word. So am I Catholic? Yes, I'm Catholic, but do I believe anything? Not anymore.

HILL: Would anything feel like justice for any of you at this point?

DELANEY: My day in court.

TELL: Yes.

DELANEY: My day in court. Like everybody else is supposed to get. And it's not about money. It's not about the money. I don't care about money. I never did this for money. I want my day in court. I want justice.

BREACKLE (ph): There's only one remedy for this, and that's to eliminate the SOL, the statute of limitations, and enact the survivor window. That's the only remedy. Prayers -- prayers are what God is listening to us.

HILL: If you had an audience with the pope, if you could sit down with him and speak to him face to face, what would you say?

TELL: I would say you need to clean up your act. You need to get your church in order. You need to take all of those priests that have been abusing children and put them in jail.

DELANEY: The way I feel now, prayers, penance, fasting, they're all words. I need action. BORTZ (ph): They're not listening to us. He is not listening to us.

So I think if Pope Francis wanted to do something, maybe that would be a good place to start.

BREACKLE (ph): I would tell the pope make Jesus proud of you and stop protecting the enablers and abusers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And take these people out of ministry. Make an example out of them.

TELL: People ask if I will ever get past this. I say no. There are things, there are signs every single day that remind me of my abuse. So no, this is until the end of my life. I will always think about this.

UNDIDENTIFIED MALE: This family's growing, and it's growing fast. And it's going to be an army. We're not going to stop. We're going to keep adding to it. And we're going to force the church to change.

BREACKLE (ph): And I know this, that you can't buy salvation. You've got to earn it.


HILL: Shannon Tell and Julianna Bortz (ph) suffered their abuse in the Allentown diocese, which sent us this statement, calling the abuse "devasting and tragic" for victims and survivors, and also asking for their forgiveness. The diocese of Erie and Philadelphia, where the other abuse occurred to the folks that we spoke with, did not respond to CNN's request for comment related to those specific cases.

We'll be right back.


[11:57:34] HILL: In less than two hours, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter will appear in a California court. He and his wife are facing federal charges. They're accused of using a quarter million dollars in campaign funds for their personal use. The indictment lists allegations of misuse including luxury vacations, travel for pets, household bills, shopping, sports, and theater tickets. Hunter, though, maintains his innocence.


REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R), CALIFORNIA: This is a good story for everybody. There's nothing illegal about being poor, OK? I don't think there's anything illegal about not having money in your bank account.


HILL: CNN's Sara Sidner joins me now.

Sara, put this in perspective. What exactly is Congressman Hunter and his wife facing? SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jumping off what he said, there's

nothing illegal about being poor. There's something illegal about taking campaign funds that people like myself and others in this country give to candidates hoping it's going to help them be re- elected. And that is what the allegations are here.

There are 60 counts against both Representative Hunter and his wife, Margaret Hunter. One of the most disturbing are when they used funds, according to prosecutors, and then turned around and used them for personal use, things like Hawaii shorts and tennis shoes and said, well, we actually used that to help wounded veterans. Those are a couple of the more disturbing details in this 47-page indictment I've been looking at. There's also huge amounts of money they were spending on vacations, according to prosecutors, $14,000 in Italy, $6500 to Hawaii, $2800 in Arizona. Those are some huge charges that they are trying to say, look, they spent that money for their personal use just for their own fun, and it was taken out of campaign funds.

HILL: Congressman Hunter has been really defiant, too, in terms of all of this, also attacking the Justice Department, Sara.

SIDNER: Yes, he's taking a page out of the Donald Trump playbook. He's saying basically that the Justice Department is after him, that this is a conspiracy, this is all about the deep state. He's absolutely planning on running. By the way, this should be noted, he knows that it is too late to take his name off the ballot. His name will be on the ballot when it comes to the midterms -- Erica?

HILL: Also interesting, too, the folks within his campaign had raised issues for some time.

Sara Sidner, appreciate it. Thank you.

Thanks to all of you for joining us today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with Nia Malika Henderson starts right now.

[12:00:12] NIA MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN HOST: Thanks, Erica.