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AT THIS HOUR

GOP Senators Buck Trump on Federal Reserve Board Pick; GOP Senators Publicly Oppose Trump on Fed Picks, DHS Purge, Obamacare, National Emergency; Soon Key Player in College Scam Expected to Plead Guilty; Loughlin & Husband "Not Ready" to Make Plea Deal; Dr. Sanjay Gupta Visits an Owl Cafe in Tokyo in "CHASING LIFE"; Amazon Admits It Pays People to Listen to You Through Alexa. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 12, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:08] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump is not getting what he wants. Today's edition of that, it appears is one man he wants to put on the board of the Federal Reserve. I'm talking about Herman Cain.

Here's the president's take on Herman Cain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Herman is a wonderful man. He's been a supporter of mine for a long time.

Herman has already sat on one of the Fed boards. And he's just somebody I like a lot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But that's not the view from even his own party on Capitol Hill right now. Four Republican Senators are now coming out to say they will vote no on Cain's nomination if it came before him, effectively sinking his chances. The reservations surround past allegations of sexual harassment and concerns that he's too much of a partisan for the post.

That's not all. Example after example of Republicans saying no. Here's just the last few weeks. On health care, you'll recall, the top Republican Mitch McConnell telling Trump he made it clear to the president that despite what the president wanted, Republicans were not going to take up that debate, at least not right now. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley coming out against the staffing purge at the DHS, saying the president was pulling the rug out from the people trying to help him. And a dozen Republicans voted against President Trump's national emergency declaration over the border. What is going on here? A blip or have Republicans been pushed to the brink?

Joining me are two people who spent the past two years writing, interviewing, and dealing with this issue, the relationship between Congress and the presidency. The book is called "The Hill to Die On, The Battle for Congress and the Future of Trump's America." Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, of "Politico," are here with me.

Great to see you guys.

JAKE SHERMAN, SENIOR WRITER, POLITICO & AUTHOR: Likewise.

BOLDUAN: Disclosure, we're good friends. They were the people when I arrived on Capitol Hill to show me the bathroom.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Herman Cain, what does this mean? What does this tell you that Republicans are saying -- the fact Mitch McConnell had to come out and give advice on how the White House should handle nominations, what does this tell you?

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO & AUTHOR: What you're really seeing is a power struggle where Senate Republicans have, more so than the House, been hesitant to stand up to the president on a variety of issues. You named some more recently where they're starting to get a backbone. But confirmations and putting people who are qualified for a position, as important as the Federal Reserve, is something they take seriously and clearly are not afraid to say, no, Herman Cain, who really doesn't have the qualifications that anybody, any previous people on the Federal Reserve board have. He's just unqualified is what they're saying.

BOLDUAN: When you come to the laundry list of things where there's been a departure in them standing up, do you see this is something new, that it's more of the same? Or it's been building for a while, this standing up to the Republican president from Republicans in Congress? What do you think?

SHERMAN: McConnell has done it more than anybody else and has more leeway than anybody else. And McConnell, as we detail in the book, for 400 pages, is maniacally focused on winning, on preserving the Senate majority, on doing what he needs to do to win the seats and keep the majority. When it comes to candidates who are clearly having issues with garnering support on Capitol Hill, he's going to stand up and say, you need to talk to me before you nominate somebody to a post, don't just send up Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, two people who marginally don't pass the straight-face test when it comes to the Federal Reserve, according to Senators, not according to me.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

SHERMAN: Tell me. Talk to me beforehand and we can work this out.

BOLDUAN: These relationships matter. This relationship, publicly and privately, it matters very much. It also matters between the top Republican and top Democrat in the Senate. Even that relationship between Schumer and McConnell seems to have soured. Has it gone to a place that people are surprised it could go that low?

PALMER: Our colleague had a really good story about this. And oftentimes when you think Washington can't get more dysfunctional, can't get worse and, all of a sudden, we hit a new low.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

PALMER: What we spent two years reporting on was that factor. How do these relationships bend or change in the era of Donald Trump? It's not just Donald Trump versus Congress. It's Republicans versus Democrats in Congress, and it really seems as though we're hitting rock bottom.

BOLDUAN: That's what I was wondering. What was it you guys saw that made you want to write -- what did you see happening that you thought we needed to dig deeper into this, more so than you're able to do in a daily basis through the "Playbook?"

SHERMAN: Trump was a change candidate. And Washington is a town that's steeped in tradition, in customs, in rules. And the ultimate question we sought to answer, not as an academic matter but this is a book about stories, about people, about the exercise of power, and what we sought to answer is, would Donald Trump change Washington or would the Washington, D.C., rise up and fight against him. And I guess the answer is probably a little mixed at this point. But we tell the story through Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi and the Freedom Caucus mostly, and the struggles that the president has in dealing with all of those people and how they react to the president and how they exercise their power in the capitol.

[11:35:14] BOLDUAN: It's a fascinating read. You're amazing reporters and friends and I'm really excited for you to have this. And you also have to have -- there's going to be a sequel because it's not over yet.

SHERMAN: I hope so. I hope so.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

Coming up for us, a key player in the college admissions scandal gets ready to appear in court as new details emerge about another defendant, Actress Lori Loughlin. Why isn't she entering into a plea deal? More on that next.

First, this week's "CNN Hero" is working to provide safe housing to homeless teenagers. The number of kids living on the streets is staggering, about 1.3 million. That's why the charity, Starting Right Now -- that's what it's called -- wants to find homes for struggling teens and help them find love, a sense of belonging, and an opportunity for a brighter future.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICKI SOKOLIK, CNN HERO: There's a lot of shame that goes with being a homeless unaccompanied youth. They hide what's actually going on with them, so they really become this very invisible population.

Most people don't even know these kids exist.

(SINGING)

SOKOLIK: The transformation of these kids is monumental. They come in so broken. And I'm just one person telling them I'm going to help them.

They become softer. It's just great they can be happy and they're able to be kids again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: To see one young woman's journey from living without electricity for a year to trying to become a lawyer, and to nominate you think should be a "CNN Hero," go to CNNheroes.com.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:32] BOLDUAN: In just a few hours, a key player involved in the college admissions scandal is appearing in court. Prosecutors say Mark Riddell was one of the main players, taking standardized tests on behalf of students, fixing incorrect answers and taking bribes to do it all.

On top of that, CNN also learned new details about why Actress Lori Loughlin hasn't yet entered into a plea deal for her role in the scandal.

CNN's Brynn Gingras in on all this for us.

Let's start with the court appearance, Brynn, with Mark Riddell. What are you expecting?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are -- we know U.S. attorneys have put on Twitter he's going to plead guilty. We knew he decided he was going to take a plea about two weeks ago. He was indicted over a month ago. But he is so fascinating with this entire scheme. My colleague and I, we just can't stop talking about it. He is literal brains behind this whole college admissions scheme. When we talk about the fact of people taking the route of having their kids' test scores altered -- let's keep separate the athletic side.

BOLDUAN: Right.

GINGRAS: For this side, he would get $10,000 from William Singer, the mastermind behind this entire thing. He would fly into a test taking place where one of these students were. Remember, they usually got a doctor's note, a special privilege to take the test separately. So it's not like he was in a big room of all these students. And he would either help that student correct answers or that student would write the answers on a different page, not circling in any bubbles and Riddell would change those answers to get them to be more accurate. BOLDUAN: Did he know the questions?

GINGRAS: He didn't know the questions. He's just a smart guy, a Harvard graduate.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

GINGRAS: Yes.

BOLDUAN: There's that.

GINGRAS: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Then there's also Lori Loughlin. And taking a different path than we have seen at least with a lot of other parents who paid money for this scheme. What do you know about why she hasn't tendered a plea deal yet?

GINGRAS: I talked to attorneys about this and they say she shouldn't. There isn't enough evidence against her. You never know. But the federal government, we know they're big, so it's hard to win a case against them. Statistics show that. However, we're hearing they don't want to take a deal yet. They're not ready. They want to see how this goes through the justice system.

We also know Olivia Jade, her daughter, has been a big part of it, one of the girls who went to USC as a crew recruit even though she never rowed that sport. She, according to reports, told to CNN she's devastated, not even talking to her parents because she's so upset by this. Remember, she lost some big partnerships. She's a social media influencer and she lost big partnerships because of this.

BOLDUAN: More than money, it's the trust with your parents, which is devastating for a lot of students who didn't know their parents were doing this for them.

GINGRAS: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Brynn. This story is crazy.

[11:44:04] Coming up for us, stressed out? Aren't we all? Would an owl help you relax? Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Augie and Bobby, there, joining us next with a special guest to explain what this is all about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: You know him as CNN's chief medical correspondent and renowned trauma neurosurgeon. Now, in his new CNN original series, "CHASING LIFE," Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on a new mission, a fascinating one, a journey across the world to find the secrets to living better for the mind, body, and soul. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Against my better judgment, I'm going to try the latest trend. (on camera): Those are real owls.

(voice-over): This is one of at least 10 owl cafes in Tokyo, where customers come to unwind by watching, petting, and holding these birds of prey.

(on camera): I'm not really scared of a lot of things, but birds creep me out a little bit.

These are raptors. These cute little guys will rip your eyes out if they could.

(voice-over): Somehow, they're supposed to melt away your stress.

(on camera): Like this? OK. He's tied to me, great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gaya.

GUPTA: Her name is Gaya?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GUPTA: OK.

Gaya. Be nice, Gaya.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

[11:50:12] BOLDUAN: Joining me now is Sanjay Gupta.

(LAUGHTER)

You still are not right from that experience.

GUPTA: Just watching that is a little unnerving.

BOLDUAN: Before we get to that, can I ask you, the whole first episode is about Japan and stress and deadly levels of stress, and such a difference in that they're experiencing in that country. What did you find?

GUPTA: It's really interesting. It's a juxtaposition because the mainland of Japan is one of the most stressed countries in the world. I think a large part of it is the explosive growth they had for decades and the demands on the younger generations. Suicides have gone up. They have this term, karoshi (ph), which is illness or death from overwork. And then you have Okinawa, where people live to 100 more likely than any other place in the world. They're coming up with all these strategies to deal with stress. They're such a cutting-edge country, so they have adult swaddling, rage rooms, forest bathing, and as you saw, the owl cafes.

BOLDUAN: So let's talk about the - let's talk about the owl.

(LAUGHTER)

It was not, did not look stressless to you.

GUPTA: I know. It's funny, even now, I have like in some - because I think birds, the flight, right?

BOLDUAN: Yes.

GUPTA: So obviously, somewhat --

BOLDUAN: I wonder why.

GUPTA: -- unpredictable. But you know what, Kate?

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: I thought you should experience this as well.

BOLDUAN: On live television?

GUPTA: On live television.

So we invited Augie and Bobby to join us.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here.

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: I can feel Sanjay's energy right now.

You talk to me about what these owl cafes are about.

GUPTA: Well, I mean, a lot of it animal therapy, there's been a lot of data around animal therapy, dogs, cats, spending time with animals to lower your blood pressure, heartrate. And --

BOLDUAN: His eyes are mesmerizing.

GUPTA: Yes, yes, very mesmerizing. But I do still see it as a bird of prey. I can't help it. And I wonder what it's thinking.

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: Look, I have covered wars.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

GUPTA: I have teenage girls. Very few things scare me. But for some reason, I don't know why --

BOLDUAN: Do people have this reaction often, Bobby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not too often, no. Quite the opposite. Most people look at him as -- they want to talk to him and pet him. BOLDUAN: Do you get -- I mean, this whole episode is about how --

Augie is supposed to be one of the reasons -- one of the ways to help relieve stress.

GUPTA: Yes. What I would say is not everything works for everybody, right, in terms of stress relieve so, clearly, I think these cafes do work for a lot of people. And you're seeing all these various strategies to try to relieve stress.

I'm going to try something -- I actually didn't even bother touching this. This is big for me. Very soft.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: May I? May I? Are there any rules?

GUPTA: Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: There are no rules to touching owls?

GUPTA: No breathing loudly.

BOLDUAN: One thing about owls is their wingspan is enormous. Is there a way we can see Augie's?

Oh, my god.

GUPTA: It is big. It's beautiful. Wow.

BOLDUAN: Oh, my god.

GUPTA: It's incredible, yes.

BOLDUAN: I agree, as I'm looking at his -- I think we call them talons. Also showed that he's a bird of prey.

But Bobby was saying he's raised Augie since Augie was a baby, baby, baby bird, and raised to be around humans.

Just so you know, Sanjay.

GUPTA: No, I believe it. And Augie, Augie's not stressed, right? That's one of the things I worry about, despite what's happening to me. The bird is calm?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was bred in captivity and was raised in our house around kids, dogs, cats, the doorbell, cars. So he's been exposed to a lot.

BOLDUAN: Despite what Sanjay is experiencing, I'm actually feeling some relative stress relief going on right now.

GUPTA: That's good to hear. BOLDUAN: That says something.

GUPTA: If my stress can cause you stress relief --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I wish you all could feel Sanjay's energy right now. I'm not kidding.

GUPTA: I'm shaking.

BOLDUAN: Bobby, thank you so much for bringing him in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Augie, thank you so much, you beautiful creature.

Sanjay, I'll hug you after the segment.

(LAUGHTER)

We'll get through this together.

A reminder. Join Dr. Sanjay Gupta as he goes across the world to find the secrets for living better for the mind, body and soul. I, for one, clearly need it because, if you know me on a daily basis.

(CROSSTALK)

[11:54:19] BOLDUAN: It premieres tomorrow right, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Hey, Alexa, are we alone? According to "Bloomberg," when you talk to your Amazon Echo smart speaker, a global gaggle of Amazon workers is actually listening in and taking notes. Seriously.

CNN's Alison Kosik is here.

Alison, what are these people doing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You sound surprised. Why are you surprised? This is kind of confirming --

BOLDUAN: Because this is everybody's fear.

KOSIK: It has been everybody's fear. According to "Bloomberg," it's not just Alexa listening to you. Thousands of Amazon employees are listening to voice recordings captured from Echo devices. Why? Well, to help improve Alexa's understanding of human speech and to help it better respond to commands. It shows humans, they still have to train the robots. So who are these workers? It's a mix of contractors and full-time

Amazon employees working around the globe, from Boston to Costa Rica to Romania. And they transcribe as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift. But an Amazon spokesperson says the company respects privacy, saying this. "Employees do not have direct access to information that can identify the person or account as part of this work flow." Amazon adding that, "Customers can always delete their utterances at any time."

Now, no audio is stored unless Echo detects and is activated by your wake word. But here's the thing. Sometimes Alexa records background conversations. And even a woman singing in the shower. The "Bloomberg report says sometimes listeners hear users discussing private details like bank details. Creeped out yet? Well, if you are, you can always opt out of Amazon using your voice recordings to improve the software. If you go to the privacy settings, the privacy setting section of the Amazon Echo app.

BOLDUAN: Just real quick, is Amazon going to change this?

KOSIK: That's a really good question. I think not. I think in our conversations with them to get their statement they didn't mention that. They still have to improve the way Alexa works and needs conversations.

BOLDUAN: Geez Louise. Great to see you, Alison.

KOSIK: You've got it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

And thank you all so much for joining me. Wild day today.