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CNN NEWSROOM

Interview with Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT); National Butterfly Center on the U.S.-Mexico Border Loses Lawsuit Against Federal Government; New HBO Documentary Sued by Michael Jackson's Family, to Air New Sexual Abuse Allegations This Weekend; Pakistan Returns Pilot to India This Morning; Governor Jay Inslee Announces 2020 Candidacy. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 1, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: It is not over yet for Michael Cohen. He will be coming back next week to answer more questions from the House Intelligence Committee after seven hours of closed-door testimony yesterday.

With me now is one of the members of that committee who questioned him, Republican Chris Stewart of Utah.

Thank you for being with me and good morning.

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: Good morning.

HARLOW: So he's coming back next week. You will have more questions, I'd assume, for him. I know you said you didn't really learn anything new, Congressman, from Michael Cohen's public testimony this week. And I'm interested if you learned anything new yesterday.

STEWART: There were a few things, although honestly not a lot. And, Poppy, you know we can't speak in great detail about it. It's in -- it's in classified, it's an executive session.

I think one thing worth noting is that the format gives such a better process. I mean, it's not all these individuals with five minutes, and they spend four and a half minutes of it making a statement -- and generally a political statement -- and 30 seconds asking a question.

This is where the minority and the majority are each given an hour. Anyone can speak. You can take as long as you want or as short as you want. And it alternates back and forth.

And it was apparent, as we started this process, we probably weren't going to finish in one day. That we would have to have Mr. Cohen come back.

We look forward to him coming back. I wish I could tell you that there was some dramatic revelation. There really wasn't. It was adding some clarity, some detail on some things he'd told us before. Trying to distinguish what did he tell us before that was -- turned out not to be true, and to try to get -- kind of more down on that a little bit.

But I thought it was a successful hearing, and generally helpful.

HARLOW: So what did you not get to ask him yesterday that you plan to ask him on March 6th?

STEWART: Well, again, I hate to go into a lot of that. I would say we pick it up with some of the details regarding his employment with the president, or with the campaign.

I want to follow up with some things he said about -- about some of his business practices, and find out, you know, how unusual they really were, or were they fairly common in the industry.

I'd like to try to understand just his frame of mind, his thinking. I mean, he has called -- in open hearing, he called the president a racist, a bigot, a con man. And I would like to ask him, "Why did you continue to work with him? Why did you defend him? Why didn't you tell us those things two years ago?"

Now, are those terribly important to national security? I don't think really. But are they important in understanding in the context of his relationship with the president? I think they're worth asking.

HARLOW: And -- and therefore you think that goes to his -- his credibility, I'd assume?

Let me ask you about this. You voted yea last year on nuclear sanctions against North Korea, on a piece of legislation called the Otto Warmbier Nuclear Sanctions Act.

We have just heard from the parents of Otto Warmbier, condemning the Kim regime, blaming them solely for the death of their son Otto.

After the president, shockingly this week, says he takes Kim Jong Un's word over that of the intelligence community, on the death and condition of Otto Warmbier. What is your reaction to the president doing that?

STEWART: Yeah, I haven't seen the president's remarks or seen the tweet that -- you mentioning here is the first --

HARLOW: Well, we -- we have it. No, I just --

STEWART: -- time I've heard --

HARLOW: -- OK. So let's take a moment because this is really important. And guys in the control room, let me know when we have the president's remarks pulled up.

Because Otto's parents just said, "Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto." They go on to say, "They're responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity." But here's what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly. But he knew the case very well. But he knew it later. And, you know, you've got a lot of people. Big country. A lot of people. And in those prisons, in those camps, you have a lot of people.

And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why -- why are you --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: But he tells me -- he tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Congressman, should President Trump take Kim Jong Un at his word on that?

STEWART: I can tell you that everything that I know about that case, what the president said initially is true. This was an absolute murder. It's torture and murder. I think that the North Korean regime should be held accountable for it.

I think it's extraordinarily unlikely that the president of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, was holding one of the very few Americans that have been held over history, and that he wasn't aware of that person or aware of his treatment and his conditions.

Now, look, I understand the president is trying to develop a relationship with Kim Jong Un. I know he's trying to develop a positive relationship where they can move forward on a very, very critical issue.

But at the same time, we can't turn a blind eye to how this young man was treated. And short of other intelligence that would indicate otherwise, I think once again, the North Koreans tortured and murdered this young person. And I think it's unlikely that Kim Jong Un wasn't aware of that.

[10:35:00] HARLOW: Did the president turn a blind eye to that with that statement, Congressman?

STEWART: Well, I think what the president's trying to do is, again, develop a relationship with someone that we need a relationship with in order to hopefully move forward on an incredibly important and dangerous situation. That's North Korea having nuclear weapons that can reach almost every city in the United States.

I understand that's his motive. But we have to also frame it in what we believe is true --

HARLOW: Yes.

STEWART: -- and what we think is important regarding American values.

HARLOW: Right. Our values are our interests and our interests are our values. Sounds like you're --

STEWART: Yes.

HARLOW: -- reiterating that now-famous line.

STEWART: Yes.

HARLOW: Congressman Chris Stewart, I do appreciate your time and all of that this morning. I hope you'll join us again, perhaps next week, after you question Michael Cohen again. Thank you.

STEWART: I'm sure we will thank you.

HARLOW: Thanks.

Now to this story. A butterfly sanctuary, of all things, is fighting for its future at the U.S.-Mexico border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNA TREVINO-WRIGHT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NATIONAL BUTTERFLY CENTER: If there were a national emergency, why would I drive to work here every day?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Coming up, how all of this, this fight, found itself in the middle of the battle over the president's border wall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:40:41] HARLOW: All right. Another top Republican, ramping up pressure on the president to withdraw his national emergency declaration. Senator Lamar Alexander, warning of a potential Republican revolt over the move. The Senate will vote on this in the next two weeks, after the House passed a resolution to kill the emergency declaration.

But the battle to stop this emergency is not just being fought in the halls of Congress. Our Bill Weir is with me.

It's being fought in a butterfly sanctuary.

BILL WEIR, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Now, this is an amazing, fascinating example of eminent domain fights.

HARLOW: Yes.

WEIR: That's where the government can take land -- private land -- in order to build a road or a pipeline or a wall on the border. And back in the '90s, Donald Trump tried to do that, to take a little old widow's house so he could --

HARLOW: Right.

WEIR: -- put a parking lot for limos next to his casino. That little old lady beat him in the New Jersey Supreme Court --

HARLOW: That's right.

WEIR: -- and now of all the eminent domain fights between Elon Musk's launchpads to go to Mars and ranches and Native American sovereign territories, there is a butterfly sanctuary that is plaintiff number one to stop the wall.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEIR (voice-over): On the banks of the Rio Grande sits a hundred-acre pocket of life unlike any in North America.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: For butterflies, it's like that movie "Fantasia." Everything's in bloom in the fall and you have to walk and talk with your hand covering your mouth so you don't suck in a butterfly.

WEIR (voice-over): The National Butterfly Center is the tip of the funnel for these beautiful little migrants, like the monarch which flies thousands of miles, back and forth, from Mexico to as far as Montana and Wisconsin.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: You've got the little skipper right there --

WEIR (voice-over): As director, the only thing Marianna Trevino- Wright used to worry about was pointing them out to school kids. But these days, she gets hate mail.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: -- get a whole lot of "(INAUDIBLE) you and (INAUDIBLE) your butterflies. I hope MS-13 rapes you." A lot of ignorant, awful, hateful stuff.

WEIR: For the butterfly people.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: For the butterfly people.

WEIR (voice-over): Living here, she's quite used to border security.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: So this, I'm sure, is somebody from the Department of Defense or somewhere else, coming to check out this area.

WEIR (voice-over): But the summer after President Trump took office, things changed.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: They were cutting down our trees and mowing down vegetation and widening the road. I said, "Who are you and what are you doing?" And they said, "The government sent us to clear this land from here to the river for the border wall."

WEIR (voice-over): The plan calls for 18 feet of solid concrete topped by 18 feet of steel bollards, right through the middle of their property.

Then they saw what this machine was doing to a neighboring wildlife preserve.

WEIR: And that's what they're using just west of you?

TREVINO-WRIGHT: On the forest. On the national wildlife refuge.

WEIR (voice-over): When they realized how devastating the so-called enforcement zone would be to their habitat, they sued. And last week, they lost.

WEIR: So what are you going to do now?

TREVINO-WRIGHT: I understand from the lawyers, we'll be appealing or refiling.

WEIR: We asked, but the Border Patrol does not comment on ongoing litigation. But in this letter sent to local stakeholders, they're arguing for 30 new miles of wall around this area because the Rio Grande Valley typically leads the nation in arrests of illegal immigrants.

What it doesn't mention is that those numbers nationwide are way down since 2000. And Marianna says she has witnessed three illegal crossings in the last six years.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: We absolutely are in favor of border security. If there were a national emergency, why would I drive to work here every day? We have six children. Why would they allow Mom to report for duty on the banks of the Rio Grande River every day -- unarmed -- to receive schoolchildren and birders and butterfliers from around the world?

WEIR (voice-over): Congressionally approved plans would have spared this place. But the president's emergency order trumps all that.

TREVINO-WRIGHT: So we're just watching and waiting every day, to see if that machinery shows up here.

WEIR (voice-over): And all the while, these little guys flutter, oblivious to borders and politics, with no idea how fragile their future might be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[10:45:07] WEIR: Those folks also worry about endangered species like the Texas tortoise, which could be drowned as the Rio Grande floods up against that concrete wall. It's basically ceding many square miles to Mexico on the south side of the wall.

So Marianna says this isn't making America great, it's making America smaller.

HARLOW: Smaller.

WEIR: And what's interesting is, President Bush tried to use eminent domain to build a wall years ago, and those legal battles take six, seven years. So lawyers get rich. And usually, conservatives get very upset. This is something they resent, big government coming to take private land --

HARLOW: Except maybe in this case?

WEIR: -- but -- yes, you never know.

HARLOW: Fascinating. Bill, thank you very much.

WEIR: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Let us know where it goes, OK?

WEIR: You got it.

HARLOW: All right.

This story, I'm sure you've heard about this. Michael Jackson's family now responding to very disturbing allegations made in this new film, "Finding Neverland." What's the family saying? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:50:22] HARLOW: A new HBO documentary airing this weekend reveals new details of sexual abuse allegations against the late Michael Jackson.

Two men allege they were victims of abuse by the pop star in the '80s and '90s when they were children, of course, and now they're speaking out. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told me if they ever found out what we were doing, he and I would go to jail for the rest of our lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secrets will eat you up. You feel so alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be able to speak the truth as loud as I had to speak the lie for so long.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Wow. Powerful. The Jackson family denies these allegations and is suing HBO for $100 million for breaching a non-disparagement agreement. Let's go to my colleague Stephanie Elam. She joins me with details.

Wow.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. Despite controversy, HBO says its documentary, "Leaving Neverland," will air this weekend. The two-part series details the stories of two men, now 41 and 37 years old, who say they were molested by Michael Jackson when they were children.

Now, in the four-hour program, Wade Robson and James Safechuck describe in graphic detail what they say was years of sexual abuse they experienced by Jackson in the late '80s and early '90s, claims the Jackson family denies.

After the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the Jackson estate responded immediately, calling it a, quote, "public lynching," and Jackson's accusers, quote, "admitted liars."

Previously, Robson had made statements in support of Jackson to investigators, first in the 1990s. He then testified under oath in support of Jackson at his 2005 trial, where the singer was acquitted of child molestation and related charges.

Safechuck at one point also denied he was molested by Jackson to investigators. CNN spoke to members of the Jackson family about the documentary. And superstar's nephew Taj Jackson had this to say about Robson's allegations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAJ JACKSON, NEPHEW OF MICHAEL JACKSON: He was the star witness. He was the first witness in the trial, you know? Which, if you're molesting someone for seven years, you wouldn't put someone that you molested on the stand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: Now, in a statement to CNN, HBO said, quote, "Despite desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of 'Leaving Neverland,' the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves."

TEXT: Despite desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of 'Leaving Neverland,' the two-part documentary, on March 3rd and 4th. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.

ELAM: And one side note, Poppy, I should mention that CNN and HBO share the same parent company, Warner Media.

HARLOW: That's right. Stephanie, really interesting. We'll follow this. Thank you very much.

We do have breaking news out of Pakistan. The Indian pilot captured after being shot down, his plane shot down, was just delivered across the border back to India.

Look at this remarkable video in to us, just moments ago. There you see the fighter pilot who had been held in Pakistan for a number of days, since his plane went down, crossing over.

[10:53:27] We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right. Welcome back. The Democratic presidential field just got a little bit bigger. This morning, Washington governor Jay Inslee formally announced he's joining the race for 2020. And he is making climate change the central pillar of his campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY INSLEE, WASHINGTON GOVERNOR: I'm Jay Inslee and I'm running for president because I'm the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's number one priority. We can do this. Join our movement. This is our moment."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: He is the first governor to officially jump in the race. And he's up against some serious Washington heft. A new poll from New Hampshire shows Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden -- who, by the way, hasn't even announced a run yet -- leading the field of declared and likely Democratic candidates.

We'll see if that climate change pitch works for Inslee. We'll be watching it.

Thank you all for being with me today. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim will be back in the chair next to me on Monday morning. Have a great weekend. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.

[11:00:03] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN: Hello everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.