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CNN NEWSROOM

Klobuchar Releases Trillion-Dollar Plan on Infrastructure; Donald Trump Jr. Won't Rule Out Run for Office; Puerto Rico's Governor Says Trump Treats Us as Second-Class Citizens; Pentagon Begins Scouting Sites for New Wall Construction; Ex-Yale Women's Soccer Coach Pleads Guilty in College Scam; Students File Class-Action Suit Against Universities. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 28, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We know that the senator plans to pay for this by increasing in -- the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, closing the tax loopholes.

Can you just rate this for me? How realistic is it?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, look, I do think infrastructure is a really rare sort of endangered species kind of an issue in Washington, and that there is some bipartisan support for doing something about crumbling roads and bridges. Nobody likes it when they're hitting a million potholes.

The difficult thing is how do you pay for it? What are the specifics of the plan? Can it actually get through Congress? But, look, this is all very theoretical. I mean, not only is Amy Klobuchar not President yet, she hasn't even gone through the full primary. We're still almost a year away from the first round of voting. But I think what this tells us is that she is picking an issue that isn't something that's sort of a liberal dream. Like Medicare for all or the Green New Deal, but an area where they're sort of pragmatic, there's some bipartisan support and that's how she wants to cast her candidacy in this race.

BALDWIN: You said pragmatic. She's known as one of the more pragmatic of the more left leaning of Democrats up for this nomination. But she has raised red flags about the say the mega Green New Deal. She wanted to take a step back and think about how others are going to pay for their plans. And here she is though now pitching this $1 trillion mega infrastructure proposal.

LERER: Right and what her aides will say when you talk to them is that this will be fully paid for and she's not going to do that classic Washington thing where you take these pay for -- these tax increases and use it to pay for another theoretical plan. During this is something that will be funded. But of course that is if this became a reality where the fight would come from. I mean, I do think all the Democrats in the field see a bigger role for the federal government and Senator Klobuchar certainly among them. But perhaps the role she sees is not quite as expansive as some of the other candidates in the field. She's raised questions, as you point out, about Medicare for all, about the feasibility of free college. So she's trying to strike a slightly different note in this race.

BALDWIN: And a total right turn in my questions, I have to ask you about this. That the President's son, Don Jr., just said this about a future in politics. Roll it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR.: As for the future, I never want to rule it out. I definitely enjoy the fight. I definitely like being out there and I love being able to see, you know, the impact and the difference that it makes on these people's lives that I get to see all over the country. Like I said earlier, I'm not just trapped in that New York City bubble.

I never want to rule it out but I'm not saying I'm doing it either. We have a lot of time. You know, my father decided to get into politics at 68. I'm 41.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Don't want to rule it out. What are you hearing when you hear that?

LERER: I mean, who wants to rule out anything, right? He's the one who attracts big crowds, he has a lot of support from his father's base, that's for sure. But this seems like it's a long way away and I think it's really an open question. There's no question now that President Trump has taken over the Republican Party, but eventually he will no longer be President. He'll either lose re-election or he'll finish out a second term and the party will have to move on and it's not clear what Republicanism looks like after President Trump. So it's really hard to say whether there's a role for his son, but hey, why rule it out?

BALDWIN: Why rule it out?

LERER: Why rule it out?

BALDWIN: Why rule it out. Lisa Lerer, thank you very much.

Coming up next, Puerto Rico's governor fighting hard to get disaster aid and in this exclusive interview with CNN he is not mincing words when it comes to President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLO, PUERTO RICO: If the bully gets close, I'll punch the bully in the mouth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Tensions are escalating between the governor of Puerto Rico and President Trump during a closed-door meeting with Republicans. President Trump complained about the amount of disaster relief going to the island in the wake of hurricane Maria and in this exclusive CNN interview the governor of Puerto Rico is giving a clear warning to President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Does it feel that way sometimes? Are you dealing with a bully?

ROSSELLO: If the bully gets close, I'll punch the bully in the mouth.

ACOSTA: Just like that?

ROSSELLO: Just like that. I don't -- it would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: It has been a delicate dance for this governor as he continues to push for more funding for recovery efforts on the island. CNN chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, was the one who scored that exclusive interview. And, Jim, what else did governor say?

ACOSTA: Well, Brooke, the reason why the governor said that, they're frustrated inside his office. There were aides over here with the governor's office just yesterday at the White House talking to officials over here about setting up a meeting between the President and Ricardo Rossello. And according to these officials with the Puerto Rican government, they were essentially lashed out against.

And that top White House officials, including Peter Navarro, were telling them, listen, all of these cries coming from you guys and the governor that this is, quote, f'ing things up.

[15:40:00] They did not take too kindly to that and as you heard the governor there say he's not going to tolerate his officials being bullied.

Now I will tell you, Brooke, that the governor's here in Washington trying to promote this idea of Puerto Rican statehood. There's a new bill being introduced in the House to that effect today. Because the governor says, listen, the reason why they received such short shrift from the government is because they're a U.S. territory. Even though they're American citizens, they don't have the same kind of political leverage that a state has. And in the words of Governor Rossello, they feel like second class citizens. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Do you think the President treats people of Puerto Rico as citizens?

ROSSELLO: Well, you know, treats us as second-class citizens, that's for sure. And my -- you know my consideration is, I just want to have the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information that he's getting is wrong. I don't think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the President does any good. I don't think anybody can beat the President on a kicking and screaming match. I think that what I am aiming to do is making sure that reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails and that we can have a discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, Brooke, officials over here at the White House have told us, you know, they're pushing back. They're saying that the governor's team was not threatened over this issue of a meeting between the President and Rossello. But they are not at this point committing to setting up that kind of meeting between the President and the Governor Rossello. They're saying that they hope to get a meeting for the governor sometime in the near future but not necessarily with the President.

And we should point out to our viewers, despite the fact that they suffered one of the biggest hurricanes, one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, they've only received a fraction of the tens of billions of dollars that that territory needs to get back up on its feet. They're still languishing down there in Puerto Rico waiting for help from the federal government and it's just not coming and they're really frustrated with all of this and I think you're seeing some of that play out in that interview we had with the governor earlier today -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I would punch him in the mouth, that is quite the sound bite. Quickly, Jim, have you heard anything back from this administration on that?

ACOSTA: Not yet. Now the President is about to leave in just a few moments. He's going to be head to go Michigan for a rally later on tonight. I suspect he'll be asked about some of needs concerns coming from the governor's office and we'll wait and see.

But remember, Brooke, he was on Capitol Hill earlier this week really diminishing the need in Puerto Rico for the kind of money that they need to get back out on their feet. And the President was essentially saying we've given too much to Puerto Rico already, why are we given them so much money? And Rossello is saying that that is basically treating the people of his island like second-class citizens -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BALDWIN: Also just in, another CNN exclusive interview here. The Pentagon now scouting sites for the construction of the President's new wall. We will tell you where.

And the New England Patriots owner charged in sexting has just filed a motion to keep an alleged video tape from the public. But will it work?

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: We have gotten some exclusive new details here at CNN about President Trump's efforts to build the wall. We have learned the Department of Defense has begun scouting sites along the southern border and CNN's Ryan Browne has the details. He's at the Pentagon for us right now. And so Ryan, what do you know?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Brooke, we're being told by defense officials that there are two teams currently on the southern border in Yuma, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas, and they're currently scouting sites for where a potential border wall could go into place. Now President Trump recently made the decision to shift about a billion dollars in defense funds from various accounts into a what's called the counter drug account to be able to pay for 57 miles of border wall down on the southern border.

And we'll be told that these officials, these small teams about ten members each, ten members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are down there on the border kind of taking a look, seeing what kind of walls would go into place down there, how that might look. And their hopes to get a contract awarded to build that wall as soon as April we're being told. So a lot of movement to kind of get this done very quickly.

Now the decision to move that money is proven very controversial in Congress, several key lawmakers on Capitol Hill have actually said they have sought to deny the Pentagon's efforts to move that money. But the Pentagon says what they're doing is legal and that they're going to go ahead and go through despite the controversies of putting that money towards building a border wall there on the southern border.

BALDWIN: Ryan, thank you. Ryan Browne at the Pentagon.

It is the cheating scam involving celebrities, their kids and colleges and now students who were rejected from schools are now suing saying they're the ones who were cheated.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, the former Yale women's soccer coach has just pled guilty to wire fraud charges as part of that massive college admission scam. Meanwhile, the scandal has prompted two more students to sue as part of this whole class-action lawsuit. Both say they were rejected by some of the schools involved in this case despite having pretty impressive resumes. For example, plaintiff Nicholas Johnson had a 4.6 GPA, a 1500 on his SAT, he was varsity hockey player and the star of his school math team. And they're accusing the schools of being, quote, negligent and careless. They claim that they had known the system was worked and rigged -- had they known it was warped and rigged, they would never have applied.

This alleged-ring leader of this cheating scam, Rick Singer, is also named in this suit. The students are asking for unspecified damages, including their college application fees. Jennifer Taub is a professor at Vermont Law School and her research includes white-collar crime. I mean, just when you think there's all these twists and turns in this story. And I'm just wondering if you're looking at these students, they say they've suffered a concrete and distinct injury, that they didn't get what they paid for. Should they be taken seriously?

JENNIFER TAUB, PROFESSOR, VERMONT LAW SCHOOL: Well, Brooke, that's a great question. And I think that cases where individuals bring a claim against the schools are potentially more successful than the class actions.

[15:55:00] Because the class action lawsuit requires the court to first make a determination that all the members of the class, everyone applying to particular schools, have common issues of law and fact and that's going to be difficult. When it comes to individual plaintiffs though, then they would actually have to proof, as you said, what their injury was. But they're going to have to somehow show that they would have otherwise been admitted. And that might be difficult. Perhaps if you found somebody who was a star athlete and maybe they have evidence that they were the next one on the list who might have been admitted, had this person who had falsified their application not done so. But I would have to actually see the allegations and the facts.

BALDWIN: How would it play out? Because you think about colleges, and that whole application process and you think about, OK, there was legacies and people could pay a lot of money to donate to a building and that may be separate from their kid getting in on paper. But, you know, seems a little -- how would it play out? If the students are saying that they suffered concrete and distinct injury and they get what they paid for.

TAUB: You know, I think that if they're suing to say I want my application fee back. I mean, honestly, the school should just give back their application fee. If they're saying we thought this was a fair process and we paid $90, and I want my fee back. That's not the same thing as I'm trying to claiming that as a result of not being admitted that their whole life is ruined and that they were going to make a fortune. I mean, these kind of --

BALDWIN: Got you, it's a big difference.

TAUB: There's a big difference in what they're asking for.

BALDWIN: The schools also claim that they're the victims here. Do you think they could be held liable for simply not knowing what was happening?

TAUB: That's such a great question. In my white-collar crime class we study the question of enterprise liability. And there are times when an institution, whether it's a corporation or in this case a private school can be held criminally accountable for the actions of their employees. We call that vicarious liability. But in this instance, at least when I look at the facts of a school like Yale, there's no evidence that the school benefited from this behavior or that they knew about it, or really even that they were negligently supervising this particular coach. I should add that I'm an alum of Yale, and very disappointed. I

believe I got there on my own merit. But, of course, my parents did not bribe someone to take my SAT test or build a building. But, of course, one of the sad things is that I came from a family that could afford to pay for private lessons, send me to a private school, supported me. And all of that, all of those advantages that were all given is already creating an unlevel playing field. It's really just shameful that folks wanted to add more to cheat to try to get this achievement, as if it is -- as an access to education is of a status symbol only as opposed to some benefit where you're engaging in a community of scholars. I mean, it's very disappointing.

BALDWIN: Just think of the kids who didn't even know their parents were doing this behind their backs, paying all this money to get them in, or that they played soccer or what have you. To me it's still -- it's still totally mind blowing.

I still have a little bit of time. I want to ask you about this story that's just come in about a different issue, because we just got new details about the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. So here's a story. Prosecutors say they have video evidence to prove that he solicited prostitution at this Florida day spa. He has pleaded not guilty. But he's just filed a motion to suppress that video evidence claiming the police warrant that allowed that surveillance was too intrusive. Do you think that will hold water?

TAUB: You know, it's a great question. He's trying to suppress two different things. The video evidence of at least two encounters he had with a masseuse at that spa and he's also trying to suppress the evidence of a traffic stop. Because it's the traffic stop --

BALDWIN: That linked him.

TAUB: That linked him after he was leaving the spa. They were able to look at the license plate and I think maybe ask for his own driver's license so they could identify him. Because apparently, people don't use their real names or credit cards at these organizations. He's challenging, in particular, the video because he's saying even though the authorities got a search warrant, his lawyers are claiming that it wasn't done properly, that it was in violation of the U.S. constitution as well as Florida law. Because they could have used less drastic measures in order to prove that there was prostitution going on there.

They're claiming that this is a low-level offense prostitution but the allegations are that it's human trafficking, which is obviously not a low-level offense. We have, for example, our President -- one of the reasons he wants to build the wall is because of human trafficking. So clearly that's not a low-level offense. But the problem apparently with the search warrant is that they didn't have probable cause. This is what his lawyers are claiming, of the human trafficking.

BALDWIN: Sure. We'll follow it, Bob Kraft, and as it relates to this Florida spa in Jupiter. Jennifer Taub, a pleasure, thank you very much.

"THE LEAD" starts right now.