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Trump Organization Asks House Dems to Stop Investigation for Now; Soon, Press Conference on Charges Against Robert Kraft; Democrat Candidate Dan McCready Discusses New Elections to be Held in N.C.'s Contested 9th District Race; Federal Judge Rules Male-Only Draft is Unconstitutional. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 25, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're saying because Kramer Levin has done work for the Trump Organization in the past, it's a conflict of interest and Barry Berke shouldn't be able to work with the Judiciary Committee. He's of interest because he's been writing basically about the road map for impeachment of Donald Trump, which is probably why he was attracted by the committee. So the Trump Organization is saying here this is a conflict of interest.

I just got a statement from the law firm, Kramer Levin, where they say that, "This complies with all ethics rules, that Berke is working in his personal capacity." And they say the Trump Organization grossly misstates the facts about the firm's relationship, saying, "no lawyer is currently working on a Trump-related matter" and that, in the past, they only worked on small issues, which is condo plans.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Is this a conflict of interest, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not with all they're done. Think about the idea of they're essentially trying to say, if any have ties to the Trump Organization, any firm capacity, we can't have anything to do with it. First of all, the House Judiciary Committee has several attorneys. One that was brought on as well. He and Berke have been working together to try to figure out what could be an impeachment or about an abuse of power or on the rule of law or other things. So notion that he is automatically excluded because his firm has a rapport with them is very different. Now if it turns out he has worked on matters himself and the way he can create the road map to his personal recollection or his professional rapport with the organization, then, yes, he should probably recuse himself from actually overseeing it. But as of right now, that's not the issue.

KEILAR: Of course, there would be conflict if he's been saying things, right?


KEILAR: Because He's someone -- they maybe would want to draw this out or throw a wrench in things, right?

SCANNELL: Right. The Trump Organization is facing a lot of investigations on Capitol Hill, as well as elsewhere, like the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan They've also been asked to supply documents to the House Oversight Committee. They replied to that committee saying, we already gave this to the special counsel's office, and the committee is saying that's not sufficient enough. There appears to be a little bit of an effort to slow-walk this by the Trump Organization as they're being inundated with requests and documents and subpoenas. We might start seeing people coming to Capitol Hill to testify.


COATES: -- thinking about the Trump Organization, thinking about conflicts of interest, they spent the better part of two years, at least Donald Trump did, deriding Jeff Sessions for having a conflict that was not respected where he actually followed through on it. So it's a little odd to have the organization talk about conflicts at this time or recusals.

KEILAR: That is a good point.

If you two can stand by for me.

We're waiting for a press conference from the state attorney in Palm Beach, Florida, to start shortly. Robert Kraft, the billion-dollar owner of the New England Patriots, is expected to be formally charged today for soliciting prostitution and a warrant issued for his arrest, according to the state attorney's office. Kraft is among nearly 200 people linked to several central Florida day spas and massage parlors that are suspected of being used for prostitution. Police say they have video of Kraft receiving, quote, "paid acts" in a room at the spa.

Laura, what happens after these charges are handed down?

COATES: After handed down, a warrant will be issued. He may not have to appear. Your lawyer can appear for you if it's a misdemeanor offense. In this case, about 60 days or so for each of the charges. He won't have to actually appear. He's also adamantly denied everything about this correlation. However, it's still an important charge. It's part of a greater ring about human trafficking. If this is a spa that's already being investigated for paid services, basically women who were forced into servitude for sexual acts, then his involvement is pretty important and pretty ridiculous and absurd and criminal. And so he'll have to account for it in some form or fashion.

KEILAR: His alleged participation, as well as, we said, about 200 people, right?


KEILAR: This is only considered a misdemeanor --and we know that this is something that goes on. This is something that happens everywhere, this human trafficking to supply forced labor, forced prostitution, really, at these kinds of spas.

COATES: And that's why they have these sorts of investigations. And they're widespread. This is one of the spas they were investigating. In addition to the 200-plus clients, there have also been receipts in the form of logs and ledgers in terms of what they've performed, how much they've been paid. Even though it happens in a lot of places, Brianna, it is still criminal. Because the idea of having people forced into sexual servitude



COATES: -- for some barbaric need is atrocious. If he's part of it, a misdemeanor doesn't sound high enough for many people based on what happened and what he's been charged with.

KEILAR: And it's astounding that it happens


KEILAR: -- and under other people's noses of so many communities.


KEILAR: It's really nuts.

COATES: And if he's aware --


COATES: -- as opposed to perhaps prostitutes who are complicit or consenting to it, which combines with the trafficking law, then we have a bigger problem.

[13:35:08] KEILAR: Or if that he's aware maybe there's a possibility, would that matter?



COATES: It would --


COATES: -- into something much higher.

KEILAR: Interesting.

Laura Coates, thank you so much.

COATES: Thank you.

KEILAR: North Carolina is ordering a new election in one district after election fraud was uncovered. The Republican candidate, you see him there, is now for this. I'm going to speak live with his Democratic opponent. Also, a rapidly escalating situation in Venezuela. We have new

details about U.S. reconnaissance flights off the country's coast. This all as Vice President Mike Pence is meeting with Venezuela's self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido.


[13:40:19] KEILAR: North Carolina's ninth congressional district race, part II. The State Board of Elections overturning the outcome because it determined that McCrae Dowless, a political operative working on behalf of Mark Harris, the race's Republican candidate, illegally collected absentee ballots in a voter fraud conspiracy.

The Democrat in the race, Dan McCready, ran against Harris in this race. He already declared he's going to run in the new election. And he joins us now.

Thank you so much for being with us.

Just tell us what your reaction was to this call for a new election.

DAN MCCREADY, (D), NORTH CAROLINA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, it was a great day for democracy in North Carolina to see, in this era of hyper-partisanship where it seems Democrats and Republicans can't agree on anything, to see a 5-0 decision by the State Board of Elections. Three Democrats joined with two Republicans all to come together and say this kind of corruption won't stand. This actual stealing of votes, this election fraud won't stand in North Carolina. It's a big victory for democracy.

KEILAR: So it's been months now at this point since the election. You initially conceded. And then upon realizing there appeared to be this significant discrepancy when it came to these absentee ballots, you retracted your concession. But then last week was when we heard all the details in this testimony before the Board of Elections. We heard from people, including one person who was paid to commit voter fraud. As you were hearing these descriptions, what were you thinking?

MCCREADY: Gosh, I just -- I had no idea. You know, we had heard allegations about this fraud during the campaign, but I had no idea how deep and how wide it went, and that it went all the way to the very top of my opponent's campaign. We saw the cover-ups of evidence that was not being submitted to the board under subpoena. We saw leaked early voting information from the local Board of Elections to their campaign. But more than anything, we saw actual systematic criminal activity where my opponent's campaign hired people to go to voters' houses and take their ballots, sometimes fill in choices for other candidates. It appears they threw ballots in the trash. There's nothing more sacred in our country than your right to vote. It's something that so many men and women have fought overseas and given their lives for. In uniform, people have given their lives for that right here on the home front in the battle for civil rights. Our right to vote is the most sacred rights as Americans, that was under attack, and we saw that came out last week. KEILAR: I want to be clear, we don't know -- there's a possibility

the ballots were destroyed but we don't. We also -- if you were to believe him, McCrae Dowless, the operative behind this, he didn't testify. We don't necessarily know the extent of it and then the board declared there would be a new election. When you know that your opponent in the last race, Mark Harris, he actually pushed to hire Dowless, this operative who was at the center of this voter fraud, despite warnings not to include him from his own son. Do you think he was culpable in this?

MCCREADY: You're asking about Mark Harris?


MCCREADY: Well, I --


KEILAR: Was Mark Harris culpable in this when he, knowing the reputation of this operative, even though his son said, dad, you shouldn't do this, he went ahead and said that Red Dome should hire McCrae Dowless.

MCCREADY: Well, absolutely. He built a culture of corruption on his campaign that represents the very worst of our politics. I started out in the Marine Corps where earlier in my career I had the honor of leading a platoon of 65 Marines over in Iraq. And in the military you learn that you're accountable for what your people do. Whatever happened to my Marines or didn't happen to them was my responsibility. In my campaign I tried the best I could to build a culture of integrity. Integrity is one of our values. We try to do things the right way. That's what we're missing in Washington. What we saw here was a culture of corruption that went all the way to the top, and who is suffering the consequences of that are the voters right now who have no representation.

KEILAR: So you are running. You're going to try for this again. Mark Harris has talked about having some health issues. Some folks have wondered, is he not going to run? What do you think? Do you think this is going to be a rematch?

MCCREADY: Well, a lot of people right now are taking a look at what the ballot is going to look like. I think Mark Harris, being on the ballot, he's going to need to ask for forgiveness from the voters. And ultimately, we live in a democracy, and it will be up to the voters to decide who to send to Congress.

[13:45:05] KEILAR: There was something else interesting that came out, and this was really stunning testimony last week. But there was an operative with a Democratically aligned group in Bladen County. They were also signing as witnesses a large percentage of accepted absentee ballots. The question is, what did they do with those ballots? There were two people who testified last week that operatives with that Democratically aligned group were collecting their ballots. That's illegal. Are you concerned that this could be happening on your side as well, because there were some unanswered questions in this?

MCCREADY: Anybody that does anything wrong, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent, concerns me. I think -- you also have to be careful, though, because there are a lot of politically motivated attacks being made right now. I think what was clear and came out last week was a widespread and systematic culture of corruption, actual stealing of votes, and actual election fraud, which is different than the kind of voter fraud that is often talked about. In this case, the voters were the victims. And I think the important thing last week is that the people are getting justice. The bipartisan board came together and said, 5-0, this won't stand, we're going to have a new election. And we care about our democracy in North Carolina.

KEILAR: What can you do to make sure that when it comes to, like, say this Democratic aligned group, that everything is clean on that side? That certainly would threaten the candidacy of anyone that it's aligned with. We've seen that certainly with Harris. Is there anything that you can do or that officials can do to make sure that this is just entirely cleaned up and everyone is deterred from taking any actions that even approach this type of behavior?

MCCREADY: I think what you do as a candidate is you try to do the right thing. You make sure that your people conduct themselves with integrity, that you have proper procedures in place. You try to work with good people, not shady characters that we saw coming out of Mark Harris' campaign, where he actually hired a known felon to head his absentee ballot program. Bladen County is a very small place. It's only 35,000 people that live there. You know who the shady characters are. But I also think it's important that people be held accountable. And that's why it is a big victory last week. I don't think, as you pointed out, that we know all the answers yet. I think we're going to learn more as the district attorney's office takes over. Hopefully, the U.S. attorney's office will take over. And people will be held accountable and brought to justice for the great amount of criminal activity that was conducted.

KEILAR: Dowless, that operative, was a known felon, felony perjury, because he had been caught up in taking out a life insurance policy on someone who was dead and collecting on it. I just want to add that context. It was pretty unbelievable.

Dan McCready, thank you for joining us from North Carolina.

MCCREADY: Great to be on with you.

KEILAR: And coming up, a federal judge ruling an all-male draft is unconstitutional. So what could change as a result of this decision?

Plus, we're moments away from a news conference where charges are expected to be announced against Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, for soliciting sex. Stand by.


[13:52:55] KEILAR: We are following a major decision from a federal judge in Texas. The new ruling finding that the male-only military draft registration is unconstitutional.

We have CNN legal analyst, Joan Biskupic, here to tell us about this ruling.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It has a real throwback quality to it, doesn't it? It comes from not the draft, but draft registration. We haven't had the draft since the early '70s. But men, 18-25, are required to register and give personal information, but women aren't. This men's group challenged it and said that's not fair, and a judge in Texas late on Friday agreed looking at the policy and saying, look, the 1981 Supreme Court ruling that had upheld a different treatment for men and women in terms of the draft and registration, was based on the fact men and women aren't similarly situated when it came to the military. Because, at that point, women were not in combat. The judge said, look at, since 2013, women have been involved in combat, allowed in, and the kinds of policy at the heart of excluding women or just saying men only release notions of what women want and what they can do. At one point, he says, it's based on archaic notions. And the judge said, sure, there are some women who might not be physically able for combat, but there are some men who aren't physically able for combat, too.

KEILAR: Yes. It's a very interesting point you made.

I saw your story and my eyes went wide open. This is something.

Joan Biskupic --


BISKUPIC: Can I just tell you quickly, it doesn't lift the injunction.


BISKUPIC: So the policy is there. Probably will be appealed. But for now, nothing actually changes in the practical world.

KEILAR: Conversation sure does.


KEILAR: Joan Biskupic, thank you so much for that.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

[13:54:43] KEILAR: Any moment, prosecutors are going to announce charges against New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, for soliciting sex. We're expecting details of what he's accused of doing.


KEILAR: Today in "HOME FRONT," my column on, where I tell stories of military families and we discuss the military/civilian divide and how to bridge it, we are talking about what it's like when moms deploy. When you think of a military spouse, you probably think of a woman, but there are also men and grandparents and friends who step in to care for children while their mothers deploy. What's it like to be a full-time stay at home dad to three kids while your wife is out to sea? What's it like to have your daughter flying missions half a world away, caring for your grandson while your friends are having different experiences as moms and grandmothers?