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S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED

Dems Stump as Biden Stays Mum; Interview with Howard Dean, Former Governor of Vermont; GOP Governor Blasts RNC for Trump Campaign Merger; Interview with Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico; Prosecutors: Manafort's "Criminal Actions Were Bold"; Patriots Owner Faces Charges of Soliciting Sex; Interview with Donte Stallworth, Former NFL Wide Receiver; Interview with Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, Human Sex Trafficking Expert. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 23, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

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S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Welcome to UNFILTERED.

Who knew Saturday news could contain such multitudes?

I'll have the latest on former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, I'll have R. Kelly and Robert Kraft details in the mix as well.

Tonight's headline: it's 2020 right now. Don't adjust your clocks. It may say it's 2019 on the calendar but if you needed any proof that the 2020 presidential election is right here right now, just take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Government is supposed to be for the people, by the people and all for the people.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIF.: You know what's interesting for this group is I've been doing this for 30 years. I know what I'm doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don't respond to that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUPP: Well, that was California senator Dianne Feinstein getting schooled by children on the Green New Deal in a now viral video.

What's that got to do with 2020?

You'll be shocked to learn that an unedited version exists which in context makes the senator look less like the villain in Hansel and Gretel. It's just one example of Dem on Dem crime. In this case environmental activists confront the California Democrat, posting her edited and seemingly smug response on social media.

This kind of stuff is only going to heat up, as Democrats try to out- left each other and prove their progressive bona fides. This is a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. But may I remind you it's also supposed to be a fight for the White House.

Just take a look at the headlines from the campaign trail. Bernie once praised red lines 40 years ago. Amy Klobuchar ate a salad with a comb in 2008. Kamala Harris says she won't apologize for prosecuting child molesters. Reparations to become the new litmus test for Democrats.

If I'm Donald Trump, I'm feeling pretty good about my chances. As long as the media keeps zeroing in on these dumb plotlines and the Democrats keep talking about things that most Americans don't prioritize and candidates sound like they're running for president in 1950 Russia, Trump's got this one in the bag.

That should be worrisome to Democrats.

After all, President Trump is at record low approvals and he's facing a dozen different investigations. And yet Elizabeth Warren is talking about reparations?

The media is talking about Amy Klobuchar's salad comb?

A former prosecutor has to defend her record of prosecuting criminals?

This is all good for Trump, guys. Trust me. Here's the deal. Democrats have to seriously sort out their messaging.

Are they running for an audience of one, Amazon job killer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or running for all of America?

Will they kill each other in the primary to only set up a general election can't-win situation for the general election?

Do they want to heal the country or make the country pay?

One thing that would help them sort through all of this, four letters -- J-O-E, Biden, that is. He but whether he gets in or out is crucial figuring out what the Democrats are running on.

Biden's presence or absence in the Democratic primary will serve as a line of demarcation. If he's in, there's a clear distinction both in tone and substance between the far left candidates and a more moderate one.

Right now Klobuchar is sort of filling that lane but Biden would own it. If he doesn't get in, there's no real governor keeping the cars at a safe speed. Harrison and Warren will speed off pull the rest of the candidates with them.

And you'll have a primary that's unrelatable and a Democratic nominee that can't win a general election. That's my two cents, anyway but what do I know?

Let's ask an actual Democrat, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont. I appreciate you being here. HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Thanks for having me on.

CUPP: I laid it out. Let me get your take on Joe Biden. Is he a game-changing --

DEAN: I have to disagree with your --

[18:05:00]

DEAN: -- opening here.

CUPP: OK.

DEAN: It's good, it was interesting, I disagree with it.

CUPP: You're allowed.

DEAN: I think the real battle is not Left versus Right. The media is not being helpful with the silly headlines and neither are the bots taking potshots and edited videos.

But the truth is, the real battle in the Democratic Party is between young people and old people. The young people are winning. We got 40 seats, they were not particularly progressive. AOC gets publicity, as she should and I think she's right about a lot of things.

But the vast majority who won are much more centrist. All those Orange County seats, you can't win in Orange County unless you're reasonably centrist. So I don't worry about this. I don't think Biden is a game-changer. He has 100 percent name recognition, which is great.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: He will not be pleased to hear that.

DEAN: I'm staying neutral until this is over. I'm trying to get the data for the DNC. I have very strong feelings about not having the DNC put their finger on the scale.

I like Joe Biden, as does everybody else but he's at 29 percent. He has 100 percent name recognition. This is a wide-open race. In the next year or so, people will make their opinions about people right now, who they have never heard of. So there will be a lot more of this and I'm not the least bit worried.

CUPP: Let's talk about Elizabeth Warren. I know you support her policies --

DEAN: Some of them.

CUPP: I think the only thing that matters is who can beat Trump.

Do you think that Elizabeth Warren can beat Donald Trump?

DEAN: Sure, but we don't know yet. I think any of these people could beat Donald Trump but it's also possible they could lose to Donald Trump.

CUPP: Yes, those are the two possibilities, correct.

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: Right. We are 12 months out. Here's the nice thing about the system we're now in. The voters actually get to decide what they think, not you and I sitting here at CNN at 6:00 on a Saturday night.

CUPP: Don't I know it, Governor. Don't I know it. Let's talk about the AOC factor. She gets a ton of publicity. She also courts it. She is arguably trying to pull the party to the far left.

Do you worry that things like abolishing ICE or villainizing Amazon and an environmental plan that would abolish air travel is it a turnoff to the majority of the country and setting up a Democratic candidate up for failure in a general election?

DEAN: I don't agree. First of all, she's not going to abolish air travel. What she's talking about -- some of these things will be too expensive. She wants high-speed rail system that's going to make air travel mostly unnecessary. That's very different than saying she wants to abolish air travel.

We need somebody out where she is, starting to push us all, including Republicans, towards a solution to climate change. It's a serious problem.

So is she further out than most of the Democrats or most Americans?

Yes, but that's how you get to a better place. Anybody who thinking that climate change is not a really critical issue shouldn't be in office and she aims to get them all out. I agree with that.

Then what we do about it, we're going to have lots of discussions, lots of different points of view. I don't think it hurts to have somebody out on the edge saying why haven't you done anything about it?

CUPP: But what about sending children into a senator's office, to sort of harangue her, -- right this second, agreeing to, you know, pass a vote on the Green New Deal?

Is that the best look?

DEAN: I think -- well, first of all, I don't think the media ought to edited videos --

CUPP: No, no, let me just correct you, Governor. The media didn't edit it. The group responsible for the activists edited the video. We have been airing much fuller clips.

DEAN: No, I appreciate that. I'm saying the initial -- initially the media -- and it was actually social media first, put it up. That's propaganda. It may not be as bad as Alex Jones who just makes things up but propaganda is not helpful on any side. It would be nice to have a full airing of the facts. Some facts are

inconvenient. Dianne Feinstein is not wrong. We have to have compromises to get stuff. AOC pushes the envelope and I think it needs to be pushed, especially in Congress --

[18:10:00]

DEAN: -- which is the most resistant organization to change in the country but there are actually practical things like money that matter.

CUPP: Sure. Right. You said earlier the fight in the Democratic Party is between young and old, the energy is on the side of the young and I think that's right.

Who's got -- the ability to capture that group of voters?

You know, Bernie really was good at that the last go-around. Do you think he still has that in his back pocket?

DEAN: I think he has them but he's going to have a fight to keep them. What happened the past election is really interesting. Beto O'Rourke, should he run, had a huge outpouring of support for young people. There are other people on the ballot that we don't know yet how they'll do.

Elizabeth obviously has some significant support, so, yes, Bernie goes in with a big advantage. But he's at 15 percent in the polls in Iowa right now and anything can happen in this race.

CUPP: Yes.

DEAN: I think this is the time -- the voters will choose. They should not be chosen by people like me on television.

CUPP: Sure, yes.

Lastly, give Democrats your advice. How would you tell them to take on Trump, right?

That's the ball game here, getting through the primary is one thing.

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: The only way to take on Trump is to let Trump take himself on. Everyone is reminded, except for the 35 percent that would turn a blind eye if he shot somebody, as he famously said, he'll show you how much we distrust Trump. We do not need to do that.

What we need is a significant plan for the economy, particularly in the states that voted for Trump, to help all working people, just help people and get a better economy. We have a two-sided economy. One is for the people who have made all the money under Trump's tax cut.

The other is the vast majority. People are paying more taxes, they're now discovering, because Trump gave all the tax money to the rich people. That's our message, is we can have a better economy, we can start to tackle things like global warming. We ought to have a universal health care system.

There will be eight versions of Medicare for all. Let's just pick one that works. And you can't get rid of everybody's health insurance tomorrow. People are not going to want that. They don't like to be told by the government what to do.

We can come to a reasonable solution here. The thing is not for fall to Donald Trump's bait. He'll do plenty of that. We'll talk about what we'll do for the American people.

CUPP: Governor Howard Dean, thanks so much for your time tonight. Great talking with you.

DEAN: Thanks.

CUPP: Speaking of the crowded 2020 field, what makes Senator Kamala Harris she's the right Democrat to win back the White House?

She talks to John King tomorrow morning at 8:00.

It's not just the Democrats that need to figure out the 2020 path. The president has to campaign too. But not too hard if his own party has something to say about it.

Later I'm going to talk to a former New England Patriot about the story that everyone is talking about, including the president. Billionaire Robert Kraft ensnared in a sex sting.

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[18:15:00]

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CUPP: Moving from the primary to the general, the president has a campaign of his own. He reportedly can't wait to get started.

In an unprecedented arrangement, the RNC has merged their field and fund-raising programs with Trump's reelection campaign, a joint entity called Trump Victory. One Republican Maryland governor Larry Hogan railed against the RNC, saying, "I've never seen anything like it and I've been involved in the Republican Party for most of my life.

"It's very undemocratic."

The popular governor blasted the RNC for appearing to box out a potential primary challenger. He has flirted with a primary run and says he plans to visit New Hampshire in the spring. I hear it's lovely. Here he was on CBS earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LARRY HOGAN (R), GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: The chance of him losing a general election are pretty good. I'm not saying he couldn't win but he's pretty weak in the general election.

At some point, if he weakened further, Republicans would say we're concerned about whether or not he's going to win. If we're going to face a far-left nominee and will he take the rest of us down with him?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUPP: Primaries and incumbent presidents is not usually a winning battle but Trump has some weaknesses, low approval rating, unpopular national emergency, investigations, et cetera..

Here to discusses, Democratic strategist and co-host of "Rising on the Hill," TV, Krystal Ball and CNN political commentator, former Republican congressman, Charlie Dent.

Congressman Dent, would Larry Hogan have a real shot or is this a pipe dream for never-Trumpers?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Today I don't think he has a chance of winning a primary but the primary election is not today, either. We're still waiting on a Mueller report. There's a lot that can happen between now and then. I think Governor Hogan is right, the RNC shouldn't be putting such a heavy hand on the scale.

What are they afraid of?

Nobody likes a divisive primary but sometimes --

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: -- that point, too.

What are they so afraid of?

Republicans are fairly united behind Trump.

KRYSTAL BALL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: They are.

CUPP: It looks like it's coming from a place of weakness.

BALL: It does a bit but what Trump has made the Republican Party stand for, basically as one uniting principle, is being for Trump. It makes sense he would subsume the RNC. I would love to imagine that Larry Hogan has a chance. I'm obviously way further to the left.

But I respect the guy, he's a good governor, he has character, super popular, effective. I would love the idea of a Republican Party --

[18:20:00]

BALL: -- where he could be he helm.

CUPP: Sing it, sister. BALL: But it ain't happening.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: Charlie, we know that President Trump in some ways hasn't stopped running for president.

But do you think he can run the 2016 campaign on repeat or have things changed?

DENT: I think he will try to run it on repeat. I think he's incapable of doing anything else, rallies and tweets. You keep reading about trying to bring structure to the campaign and this corporate structure. They can bring all the structure they want but they will never bring message discipline. The president will say whatever enters his brain, on his Twitter feed or at a rally.

BALL: You know, what's so interesting and unusual about him and his real act is even after having been president for four years, he will still run as an outsider. He is still seen as an outsider. That's what makes him more unusual and dangerous than anything.

If you look at Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania --

(CROSSTALK)

BALL: He's still at 46 percent, 47 percent approval. He has a path to getting reelected. I hate to say it but it's true.

CUPP: Sitting presidents always face the same challenge when they run for reelection.

They want to tout their accomplishments, right?

But they can't say we did it all. They have to say there's still a lot of work to do. So this will be a challenge for Trump. He can't say we did it, America is great again. But he'll want to. That's his nature, to brag and boast.

How can he navigate that?

BALL: He's going to say, look at all that we've accomplished and the evil, scary socialist Dems will ruin it all and we've got to finish that wall.

DENT: He's going to say I've made great changes on taxes, regulatory reform; he's going to take credit, we stood up to China on trade. But he's going to say, you're right, but the wall is not done. That's why you need me for four yore years.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: I didn't get it the first two years when I had control but I'll get it. I'll get it next time.

Going back to the RNC and their decision to box out primary challengers and, really, you know, wrap their arms around this campaign -- I was remembering back, when the RNC like chased Trump down during the 2015 campaign cycle and like got him to sign a loyalty pledge, right?

That he would run as a Republican. One of my most shameful memories of that election season because it just looked so desperate and pathetic. Here is a guy who couldn't care less about the Republican Party. It doesn't matter to him. He's not concerned about preserving what it means.

Is the RNC making a similar mistake now?

DENT: I think they are. Look, everybody knows that Trump more or less engaged in a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. During the "Access Hollywood" issue, many in the RNC walked away from candidate Trump at the time. And now I think they have gone full bore the other direction and doing everything they can to muscle out any would-be challenger.

CUPP: Do you think Democrats have learned any lessons from 2016.

I know what that looks means, girl.

(LAUGHTER)

BALL: No, they haven't.

CUPP: They haven't figured out Trump.

BALL: No I don't know that anybody has figured out Trump. I don't want to be unfair but one thing that drives me crazy is we do get caught up where is the ideological spectrum. That's not how most voters approach this.

If Democrats want to win, they have to have someone who can come across credibly as a change maker and an outsider. You look at every election, swing, swing, swing, people are unhappy.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: Who is it?

BALL: I don't know today. I wish I could tell you.

CUPP: We have plenty of time. Krystal, Congressman, thank you.

The president heads to Hanoi this week.

Will the U.S. get anything other than a commemorative coin?

Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson will join me.

Later, an arrest warrant is likely to be sure for Robert Kraft on Monday. I'll have the details.

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[18:25:00]

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CUPP: The final major court filing in special counsel Robert Mueller's longest running case was released today. In the redacted sentencing memo for Paul Manafort, prosecutors argue that Manafort demonstrated a hardened adherence to committing crimes and a lack of remorse.

They add there's no reason that his guilty plea and agreement should help him get a lighter sentence, noting that his criminal actions were bold, some of which were committed while under a spotlight due to his work as the campaign chairman and later while he was on bail from this court.

A handy list of everyone Manafort deceived was in the filing, including tax preparers, bookkeepers, banks, the Treasury, the DOJ, the FBI, the special counsel's office, the grand jury, his own attorneys, members of Congress, members of the executive branch.

Factoring on all that, prosecutors told the judge his prison time in the cases can be stacked. He'll be sentenced in Virginia first, followed by two crimes' sentencing in D.C., for up to 25 and 10 years respectively.

We'll be back in two minutes.

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[18:30:00]

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CUPP: In the red file tonight, it's round 2 for President Trump and Kim Jong-un. The president is set to meet with the North Korean leader next week. Considering how little Kim conceded in the last meeting, hopes of the U.S. getting details on North Korea's nuclear arsenal, forget giving up its nuclear ambitions, are slim.

What should be complicating the situation are troubling developments on North Korea's latest human rights abuses. But President Trump doesn't seem all that bothered, telling reporters that he had a great conversation about the upcoming trip and he expects the meeting to be very exciting.

But a shocking report from North Korea's strategy center based on interviews with 20 current and former high-ranking members of the Kim regime reveals that Kim Jong-un has exiled, imprisoned or executed opponents of his outreach to the U.S. and South Korea.

It's anyone's guess as to whether this will come up. Former New Mexico governor, former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson joins me now to discuss.

Governor, what do you expect to come out of this second summit?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: There will be some pl, positives like, more remains recoveries, possibly --

CUPP: Like we had last time.

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARDSON: -- liaison office between the United States and North Korea, which will be good in terms of dialogue.

CUPP: OK.

RICHARDSON: But the big issue is going to be what will North Korea do on nuclearization that they have promised to do, which they haven't done.

CUPP: Right.

RICHARDSON: On missile curbs, on nuclear detonations, weapons of mass destruction. This is something -- I've negotiated with the North Koreans. They'll wait until the last minute. The big guy that Kim Jong-un has to approve things, people are negotiating I'm Hanoi before the summit. But we won't know until the Kim Jong-un and the president meet on Wednesday and Thursday.

CUPP: Well, the last one, people argued and criticized the last one for giving Kim credibility, which he craves.

Is this setting up the same scenario?

RICHARDSON: I think the last one Kim Jong-un did emerge as the winner. He got credibility. He got to sit with the president of the United States and he didn't concede much. But it did reduce tensions in that peninsula. I will give the president credit, tensions are less.

But they committed to complete denuclearization. But they have done little, almost nothing. They have shot up some nuclear reactors. They have reduced -- they've had no missile testing, no nuclear detonations.

But they have committed to allowing us to move ahead with finding out where their missiles and nuclear weapons are; secondly, curbing them, reducing them, destroying some, but they haven't done anything yet so we will see.

CUPP: Trump has been saying, look, I'm in no rush to get a deal.

Do you think that's his way of lowering expectations?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I think he's lowering expectations, saying, look, it will be a long process. I think as long as we establish a framework for negotiations, North Koreans reduce their nuclear, their missile activity, we reduce sanctions.

As long as we set some negotiating patterns and framework, I think the summit will be OK. Maybe on human rights issues, on remains of our soldiers, which is very important.

CUPP: Right.

RICHARDSON: If there's some progress, it would be mildly successful. It's not going to be a huge success but at least we're moving forward.

But you don't know until the last minute with Kim Jong-un, who will make the final decisions. The North Koreans don't like to make the first move. I think we made a mistake by reducing the presence of the U.S. in South Korean military in the last summit.

Let them make a move. They're very wily. I know them. They wait until the last minute, then do very little.

CUPP: Do you expect the latest report about the Kim regime executing opponents of his outreach, do you expect that to come up?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I think the president should raise human rights issues, religious freedom.

CUPP: But will he?

RICHARDSON: Well, I hope he does. I don't know if he will. We know Kim Jong-un terminates, executes, dilutes his opponents. We know that. That's standard operating procedure. He's still in a situation where he wants to keep his power.

But I think with the president, if he feels reasonably secure and if he wants this process to move forward, he's got to make some concessions on denuclearization--

[18:35:00]

RICHARDSON: -- on missiles, on weapons of mass destruction, saying, we're not going to do any more missile testing that affects the U.S. borders or Japan or South Korea.

But nonetheless, you know, tensions are less. But, you know, the president wants a big swagger, oh, I'm going to bring peace. It's still a long way forward.

CUPP: He wants that Nobel Peace Prize.

RICHARDSON: Yes, they guys give very little, especially at the very end and in a summit.

CUPP: Governor Richardson, thank you for coming. I appreciate it.

After the break, 100 men, two of them billionaires, one of them a Super Bowl winner, many times over, allegedly solicited sex. We'll have that next.

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[18:40:00]

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CUPP: The bombshell news that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is facing solicitation charges related to a prostitution sting in Jupiter, Florida, has certainly gotten everyone's attention.

As part of a months-long multiagency investigation into international human trafficking, law enforcement officials say Kraft, along with over 100 men across Florida engaged in sex acts with women who were brought to the United States under false pretenses and held as virtual prisoners.

Jupiter police say they have video of him being driven to the Orchids of Asia Day Spa and also from inside the room where he received, quote, "paid acts." The investigation that targeted massage parlors across Florida extends as far as New York and China and has swept up more than one billionaire.

Authorities in Vero Beach, Florida, plan to charge private equity CEO John Childs for solicitation. Childs has denied any wrongdoing. No surprise, both the New England Patriots, who won their sixth Super Bowl this year, and the New England Revolution, a major league soccer team that Robert Kraft also owns, they have separately issued the same statement on Friday, which said, quote, "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it's a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further."

Despite the denials, the news even got President Trump's attention. He had this to say about the charges to be levied against Kraft.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, it's very sad. I was very surprised to see it. He's proclaimed his innocence totally but I'm very surprised to see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUPP: Let me bring in former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth.

Donte, let's just get your reaction to the news?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: When I first heard it, being a former player for the Patriots, it was disappointing. You know all of the good things Mr. Kraft has done throughout his time as an NFL owner.

CUPP: Yes.

STALLWORTH: He's donated over $400 million to numerous charity causes. Honestly, he's one of the more liked team owners in all of the NFL, really in all of sports, from his players. So it was disappointing to see this.

He's categorically denied all charges but we'll see how it plays out, I guess, you know, starting early next week, when he's allegedly supposed to be charged officially.

CUPP: I got to be honest. It felt a little like overkill to me. These are misdemeanor charges.

Do you think it's fair that Kraft is being sort of blown up and really focused on for his alleged crimes?

STALLWORTH: I think it's a tough situation. Obviously human trafficking is a big issue. According to FBI statistics, it is the third worst crime in the world, the third crime that is --

CUPP: Growing at a high rate.

STALLWORTH: So it's obviously an issue. It's an issue in this country and an issue around the world. He is being charged with soliciting sex.

Now there are a lot of people who have come out and said, you know, that they personally -- some legal analysts actually on CNN have said they fell like it's been blown up a bit. I can't speak to that. I do believe that Mr. Kraft will have his day. He'll be able to speak on it more openly, more broadly.

I would like to hear from him and I'm sure the people of New England, who love him dearly, I know they would like to hear it as well.

CUPP: Talk to me about the NFL personal conduct policy. It applies to owners, too.

STALLWORTH: The NFL conduct policy states -- and Roger Goodell has said on numerous occasions, that he holds the owners to a higher standard than the players and they will receive harsher punishment than NFL players have. We've seen the harshest punishment maybe not in the NFL but probably in all of sports, was levied against the New Orleans Saints with the whole quote-unquote so-called Bountygate, where the NFL found the coaches were alleged to have paid players -- there's a pay for play kind of system there and where the head coach was suspended for the season.

The general manager was suspended for the first half of the season, which equaled eight games. Other players were suspended but were overturned. Those sanctions were huge. But, again, that was a system that the NFL said that was kind of --

[18:45:00]

STALLWORTH: -- rampant throughout the program.

So this specifically with Mr. Kraft, I don't know how the NFL will respond. I assume that Roger Goodell will fine him the maximum, which is $500,000, like he did with Jim Irsay, who had a DUI a few years ago. And I expect him to be suspended pending the allegations. CUPP: Donte, thanks so much for your perspective.

STALLWORTH: Thank you for having me. Happy birthday, by the way.

CUPP: Thank you. I appreciate it.

I may not care all that much that Bob Kraft solicited a prostitute but a part of this story that should be very disturbing to everyone, allegations of human trafficking. We'll discuss that next.

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[18:50:00]

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SHERIFF WILLIAM SNYDER, MARTIN COUNTY, FLORIDA: The women to my left, on the other hand, symbolized by those six shadows, are never probably going to have the color and the light that the men have because they came here in the shadows. They worked in the shadows.

And unless we're successful where others have not been, they are likely to stay in the shadows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUPP: That was Martin County, Florida, sheriff William Snyder, who initially unveiled the results of the multi-agency sex trafficking investigation at a press conference on Tuesday.

At the time it didn't draw much national attention but the sheriff indicated that eventually it most certainly would.

He was right. Robert Kraft now faces two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution. But for the women, whom authorities are treating as victims of human trafficking, the price is already so much higher.

Let me bring in Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, the author of "Hidden in Plain Sight: America's Slaves of the New Millennium." She's an expert on human trafficking.

Doctor, thanks for joining me. Everyone's talking about Bob Kraft but the story is so much bigger than that. It's about those women.

KIMBERLY MEHLMAN-OROZCO, SEX TRAFFICKING EXPERT: Absolutely. And I think that this is one of the things that I've noted. I was sort of surprised on why people were so taken aback that he was implicated because Mr. Kraft, if the allegations are proven true, really does fit the demographic profile of commercial sex consumers in the United States. He's affluent. He's educated. He's a prominent member of society

and, besides being a billionaire owner of a sports team, he fits that profile.

But these women, they are in the shadows. They are hidden in plain sight and oftentimes they don't have a platform to tell their stories. And I think that this actual situation will be one of those opportunities to find out what was actually going on in this particular case.

CUPP: Well, the authorities in this case said that the women involved are predominantly Chinese immigrants, who were brought here under false pretenses and sort of forced into this work.

What happens to them now?

The sheriff did not seem too sanguine about their future prospects.

MEHLMAN-OROZCO: Well, that description actually matches what I found on some of these commercial sex consumer forums. These guys are describing and providing anecdotes of these women, who have been recalcitrant to their sexual advances, sometimes not wanting to provide them, which I think is a huge red flag that they are possible victims of sex trafficking.

And unfortunately, in my work, I've seen, a lot of the times, these victims, after they are rescued -- and I write about this extensively in the book and in my opinion editorials -- they oftentimes find themselves back in the commercial sex industry.

They are re-victimized, sometimes erroneously criminalized. They're denied services. Oftentimes we can't find them residential placement. They aren't receiving the trauma-informed therapy that they need. And it's really a cycle that needs to be stopped.

CUPP: There is, in many cases, this one, for instance, a language barrier that prevents these women from speaking up. And they were, according to authorities, forced to sleep on massage tables, cook their meals out back. They never left. They were essentially prisoners.

And investigators say that the men who engaged this service are, in part, responsible for their misery.

Do you think it's possible that solicitors didn't know that these people were being sort of held against their will?

MEHLMAN-OROZCO: I think that's absolutely possible. This is a very clandestine crime that, as I write, it's hidden in plain sight. And it's difficult to discern a consenting sex worker from a sex- trafficked victim.

But there are certainly red flags. I just think that it's oftentimes overlooked, especially by the men who are purchasing services from them. CUPP: So 100 men have been caught up in this and arrest warrants are expected to be filed on Monday. Law enforcement doesn't typically go after the johns.

What message do you think they're trying to send here?

MEHLMAN-OROZCO: I think that a lot of anti-trafficking nonprofits have started to push for johns to be held responsible. And these men, they refer to themselves not as johns but as mongers or hobbyists. I think they're trying to go after the demand and hoping that going after the demand will help address some of the issues with supply and women being sex trafficked.

And I think that it is a Sisyphean task. I don't know if it will ever be accomplished but I think it's noble of them to try. And I think it's good they're criminalizing the men as opposed to commercial sex workers, whether they're consenting or not, or sex-trafficked victims. Because for far too long, we've seen these women criminalized.

So I think it's a good change of the tide.

CUPP: Real quick, I want to ask you about R. Kelly. He was in court facing his own set of sex crime charges.

[18:55:00]

CUPP: He's really being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security, which investigates sex trafficking.

What's your take?

MEHLMAN-OROZCO: Personally I don't see this as a sex trafficking case. I don't see exploitation in it and exploitation is a critical component. I didn't see him benefit from the work of these women.

With that being said, what was described in the documentary and according to publicly available information, he absolutely did use techniques that are used and I've seen used by sex traffickers.

CUPP: Doctor, I really appreciate your insight on this. Thanks.

That does it for me. Up next, Van Jones sits down with Congressman Joe Kennedy. Tune in to hear why Kennedy is backing Elizabeth Warren in 2020.

Plus political comedian Hasan Minhaj talks to Van about fighting censorship. Don't miss "THE VAN JONES SHOW." That's next.