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Report Finds Ohio State Doctor Abused 177 Students; Joe Biden Leading Democratic Presidential Race; Interview with Biden Campaign Manager; New Court Filing Shows Michael Flynn Helped in Obstruction Probe. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 17, 2019 - 15:00   ET



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Shocked because the day Brian, Al, and Debbie all went into surgery, so did 74-year-old Ed Kranepool, the last stop on this short chain of remarkable kindness.

He got Debbie's kidney.

And who is he?

ED KRANEPOOL, FORMER NEW YORK METS FIRST BASEMAN, KIDNEY RECIPIENT: I have had two good teams in my life, the Mets and my group today.

FOREMAN: That's right. Ed was the first baseman for those Miracle Mets so long ago.

ANNOUNCER: A home run for Ed Kranepool.

FOREMAN: A local hero.



COONEY: ... I feel like -- I feel like nothing's going to change that.

FOREMAN: But then they were all heroes this day, hitting a grand slam of giving.

AL BARBIERI, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER, KIDNEY RECIPIENT: With this transplant, I will be able to see my children -- I will be able to see them graduate, I will be able to go to their weddings, I will be able to see my grandchildren, and that's very special to me.


FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, New York.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're watching CNN, on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

Potential obstruction of the Russia investigation, that is what Robert Mueller said was a possible goal of people with ties to the Trump administration and to Congress when they reached out to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Those contacts took place just a couple of years ago, as Flynn was deciding whether he wanted to cooperate with the special counsel. Flynn not only helped Mueller with his investigation, but, as we just learned today, he also turned over a voice-mail from one of those people, a personal attorney of his, for President Trump, in the process.

CNN politics correspondent Sara Murray is in Washington.

And, Sara, these revelations came thanks to the judge who will be sentencing Michael Flynn. Is that correct? And did we even get here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, Michael Flynn has not been sentenced. He's been one of the sort of earliest and most valuable cooperators in the Mueller probe.

And this judge, who is going to the one who ultimately decides Flynn's fate, has pushed for more and more information about what exactly Michael Flynn was providing to the government that was so useful. And that is how we learned more about the extent to which people around the president and apparently around Congress were essentially trying to sway Michael Flynn's testimony.

Of course, this raises questions about why Mueller didn't find anyone else obstructed justice. Perhaps one of these people -- we know, for instance, a member of the president's legal team that was reaching out to Michael Flynn's counsel and essentially saying, tell us what you guys are telling the special counsel. It is a matter of national security.

So it is a little unclear why obstruction -- the obstruction lines didn't follow those people who may have tried to influence Flynn. But this judge is still pushing for more information. He says he wants the transcripts of this voice-mail between someone in the administration's orbit and someone in Flynn's orbit trying to sway his testimony.

He also wants the transcripts of Michael Flynn's phone calls with Russian officials. Remember, this is what got Flynn in hot water in the first place, that he was talking about sanctions with the then Russian ambassador and lying about it to the vice president and to the American people.

So we could still learn more about this case going forward.

BALDWIN: So want the transcripts. And wouldn't it be something if we eventually ever hear the voice-mail?

Sara Murray, thank you very much.

Let's analyze.

I have got Asha Rangappa with me. She's a former FBI special agent and CNN legal and national security analyst. And Frank Bruni is a "New York Times" opinion columnist and a CNN contributor.

And so welcome to both you.

Asha, you first.


BALDWIN: Does what we have just learned, this voice-mail, this communication, does that qualify as obstruction potentially?

RANGAPPA: It can potentially qualify as obstruction.

And I think it is important to point out that this is actually in the Mueller report. It is in volume two around pages 130, 131.

BALDWIN: Wow, you're good.

RANGAPPA: Not that I have photographically memorized it all.


RANGAPPA: But I think it just goes to the volume of information that is in there. He does say that this could be an obstructive act.

He didn't -- he says in the Mueller -- in the report that, because of attorney-client privileges, they did not pursue with the lawyer who made this call and left this voice-mail whether the president knew about it.

So, with the Flynn piece, he leaves it there.

BALDWIN: That is the key piece, because we don't know if President Trump knew about it or not.

RANGAPPA: Exactly. So, that's where the president is a little bit shielded, because they didn't want to go down that road.

But I think the lawyer here could potentially have criminal liability. And just because Mueller doesn't decide to include it, he might have just decided that is beyond the scope of his mandate.


RANGAPPA: And if he decided that could be pursued as a separate criminal referral, I think that that is still an open question.

BALDWIN: What about other people, Frank Bruni, because let me quote this?

Flynn described multiple times -- the quote is -- "He or his attorneys received information from persons connected to the administration or Congress that could have affected both his willingness to cooperate and the completeness of that cooperation."



BRUNI: No, and you're great to point that out, because we're talking about plural incidents. We're talking about more than one person.

So, there is one voice-mail that is from John Dowd, I believe, right?



BRUNI: And I think it's going to be interesting, because, if we hear this audio, that's a lot different than hearing a summary of what happened.

If it sounds a certain way, you know, this is -- because the judge has said he wants the transcript up, but he's also said he's going to listen to the audio, and he may make that public.

So there's the flavor of that, that I think could be meaningful for people. And then, as you said, we have heard descriptions of multiple attempts to get in touch with him to find out what he was going to say, to make sure he knew that he was in good -- good esteem with the president and not to -- presumably not to change that.

Who are these people?


BRUNI: What do these other attempts sound like? If this isn't obstruction, it is at least in the same time zone and probably in the same zip code.

RANGAPPA: Well, and some of these other people may be members of Congress.

BALDWIN: That's a thing.

RANGAPPA: And so I think we start to get to why it's so important for Congress to be able to get the unredacted material and also have hearings, because of this issue, that sometimes hearing it out loud, coming out from people's mouths or listening to a recording can be very powerful.

Nobody is going to read this 448-page report, but also because Congress needs to know who these people are to take action, even if Mueller decided not to. They have their internal ethics rules and other -- there's just transparency and accountability issues if members of Congress were involved in any of this.


BRUNI: And when we're talking about transcripts and audio, think about...


BRUNI: ... hearing Flynn on the phone with the Russian ambassador. Right? How chummy do they sound? What exactly is Flynn saying? That's worth a lot more than just knowing that he said don't worry about these sanctions, they will be taken care of once Donald Trump is in office.


BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

To add to all of this, President Trump has also now tweeted today that he had no idea that Flynn was under investigation and could not make a staff change because no one warned him.

And I sit here and I want your reaction to this first, because it's like, no one? Look at the faces on the screen, not former FBI Director James Comey, not former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, certainly not former President Barack Obama?

I mean, you tell me who else failed to warn him.

RANGAPPA: But he has the best memory, Brooke.


BALDWIN: Of anyone you have ever met on the planet.

RANGAPPA: Of anyone we've ever met.

He was warned repeatedly. And I think what is happening now is, as more evidence comes out, he does what he usually does, which is to try to distance himself. And I think it's not going to be long before Michael Flynn was just a coffee boy, running and getting lattes from Starbucks or something like that, and not the former national security adviser.

BRUNI: That's right.

BALDWIN: So, move over, Papadopoulos. You're saying he's going to become the new coffee boy?

RANGAPPA: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.


BALDWIN: That's what you're saying.

What do you think?

BRUNI: Michael Flynn? I don't know Michael Flynn. I have never met Michael Flynn.

BALDWIN: Who is that guy? BRUNI: Yes, who is he?

BALDWIN: And, by the way, why didn't you warn me? I mean, that's what he is saying.

BRUNI: Yes. No, I mean, he's always innocent. He reinvents history, and he's always blameless and everybody else should take the fall.

BALDWIN: Bill Barr is speaking out about his decision -- I see your face -- to investigate the Russia investigators, a rant we have certainly heard from President Trump repeatedly.

Listen to what he said.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have been trying to get answers to questions. And I have found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate. And I have also found that some of the explanations I have gotten don't hang together.

People have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we're -- if we're worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason, we should be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale.


BALDWIN: So the fact that you have the attorney general of the United States fueling these conspiracy theories, furthering Spygate, on the president's favorite news channel?

BRUNI: From the release of that ridiculous four-page summary through this, he seems -- he's utterly consistent. And he seems determined to protect the president and to feed any narrative that the president wants fed.

We know that this investigation had a basis. We know there were reasons that the campaign and people associated with the campaign were being looked into. And he keeps propping up this idea by the president it was a complete political witch-hunt and that Donald Trump is some political martyr.

He's not. He's actually the luckiest man alive.

BALDWIN: Frank and Asha, thank you both very much.

RANGAPPA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next here on CNN: Ohio State University has released a disturbing internal report that found one of its former team doctors sexually abused nearly 200 athletes, 200, for nearly two decades.

Hear the university's response to accusations that it did absolutely nothing to stop this alleged abuse. Plus, a powerful moment on the floor of the Missouri Statehouse, one

lawmaker reading a letter to her 2-year-old daughter after a bill passed that would severely restrict abortions in that state.

And Vice President Joe Biden's communications director joins me live. We will ask her about his campaign strategy to take President Trump head on.



BALDWIN: We're back now. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

To a disturbing story out of Ohio, an investigation revealing Ohio State University failed to act as a team -- failed to act -- forgive me -- as team doctor Richard Strauss abused at least 177 athletes.

They found that coaches and administrations did not speak up about this for two decades. In 1996, Dr. Strauss was removed from his role following an investigation. He actually died by suicide in 2005.

And when accusers started coming forward last year, I talked with Mike DiSabato. He was an Ohio State wrestler, and he says he was one of the athletes abused by Strauss. And this is what he told me one year ago.



MIKE DISABATO, ALLEGED VICTIM: There were conversations with a group of athletes who were complaining on a regular basis, not only about Dr. Strauss, but the conditions within Larkins Hall which forced us to take showers with not only Dr. Strauss, but other university faculty members and professors who had access to our shower facility, and on a daily basis were involved in lewd acts that included public masturbation, excessive soaping of their groin area.

And Dr. Strauss was one of those that took a lot of showers and soaked himself a lot.


BALDWIN: CNN's Polo Sandoval is reporting this out for us today. And CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson is here with some analysis.

But, Polo, first to you.


BALDWIN: I mean, I remember talking to Mike a year ago. And I know that there are so many complicating factors around this.

But what are you learning? SANDOVAL: So, before we get to what's in it, let me tell a little bit about it here, Brooke.


SANDOVAL: This report, it's an independent want that details sexual abuse against at least 177 former student athletes. And, also, it's important to point out, Brooke, it also gives credence to accusations made by dozens of former Ohio State University students that were sexually abused by the team doctor and their university, according to this report, failed to do anything about it.

This report was commissioned by OSU. It specifically concluded that school personnel who knew about complaints that Dr. Richard Strauss had been sexually abusing student athletes as early as 1979, and then failed to investigate or act.

Now, Strauss was eventually allowed to retire from the university in 1998. And that was two years after the university fired him from his job at a student clinic, and also the athletic department following students' allegations that surface back then.

But we should point out that he was never actually prosecuted. And, as you mentioned, he also took his own life in 2005. Now, along with today's report, current OSU president Michael Drake sent out a letter of apology to the university community, saying that each person who endured Strauss's abuse is owed that apology.

And he also said the institution at the time failed to prevent years of abuse and called it, in his own word, unacceptable. So, this report is really the end of a year-long investigation. It included hearing from various survivors, including one who spoke before school trustees in November.

This is what he had to say.


BRIAN GARRETT, ALLEGED VICTIM: I could get not the image of the predator's face out of my head, him standing over me while he sexually assaulted me in that clinic.


SANDOVAL: Now, you may also remember Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan and how he potentially ties into all this. You will remember that he repeatedly denied having any knowledge of any sort of inappropriate behavior during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at OSU, that despite several victims saying that he actually knew.

The report however, does not name him specifically, but says that investigators could not conclusively determine each and every allegation that was made about a particular coach's knowledge.

A specific portion of that statement reads -- quote -- "The investigators concluded what we have said from the beginning. And Congressman Jordan never knew of any abuse. And, if he had, he would have dealt with it."

We should point out that this report found that Strauss' behavior was basically an open secret, is how this report refers to this kind of behavior, especially as it looks at it now, Brooke, again, decades after these allegations began to surface, many of these victims now hearing what they were hoping to hear from their university.

BALDWIN: Just to think that this all apparently goes back to, you mentioned, 1979, decades of inaction, Joey Jackson.

What does accountability even begin to look like?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, accountability is very difficult, based upon the timing. And that is decades-long. How do you hold people accountable? Are they still there? Have they moved on? Have they passed away, as this doctor has?

I think there are teachable moments in life. And certainly this is a hard lesson to learn. You might remember the Larry Nassar case, right?

BALDWIN: I was just thinking about that, yes.

JACKSON: Absolutely, because there are so many parallels there.


JACKSON: Now he's gone away. He was alive and he was able to be prosecuted. He's gone away for a long time, both federally and state. And he is serving consecutive sentences. It's like 140 years or something.

And so the reality is, is that, what do we do, right? We know that we have this Title IX that protects -- supposed to protect students, and certainly university officials are mandatory reporters when it comes to having knowledge of any of this.

But I think, again, to the point of teachable moments, what do we do to prevent this? And I think there's a couple of things, right? The first thing is this independent report that Polo talked about and walked us through in terms of its finding -- findings, compelling, shocking, very disturbing.

But I think it's a wakeup call to schools, universities throughout the country that you need to be in line.

Now, we also know secondly, Brooke, that we have the civil lawsuits, right, the many civil lawsuits that are pending against OSU. And I think this report corroborates what is in those civil allegations.


And so, look, the only mechanisms the law -- the legal system has to compensate people is money. And that's -- I mean, it's a shortcoming. It's most unfortunate, but that's all that's there.

And to your -- the interview that you did that we just watched, I mean, how do you begin to repair, right? How do you begin?

BALDWIN: How do you begin to pay someone to just -- you know?

JACKSON: It's an awful thing, 177 victims.

But let's just hope, moving forward, right?

BALDWIN: That's it's over.

JACKSON: Not that this does anything, right, to address and affect the people who have been affected...


JACKSON: ... but that universities are in compliance, they address these issues, and that this doesn't happen.

BALDWIN: It's just stunning. It's like all these different stories.

I was watching that "Heart of Gold" documentary on HBO on Larry Nassar just last week, and that the pattern is that people are speaking, people are aware.

JACKSON: Thank goodness.

BALDWIN: And nothing is done until the very end.

We have got -- we have got to go.


BALDWIN: We will read more about your reporting, Polo Sandoval.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

Joey Jackson, appreciate you...

JACKSON: Thank you, Brooke. Sure.

BALDWIN: ... putting this in the spotlight, as it needs to be, for these men.

In the 2020 race, recent polls show Joe Biden with a huge lead, but, behind him, Senator Bernie Sanders seems to be dropping, while Senator Elizabeth Warren gets a bump.

Plus, it is an alarming revelation, two Florida counties hacked during the 2016 election, and we don't even know which counties they were, until now.

We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We now know one of the two Florida counties hacked by Russia during the 2016 election.

Washington County, a small county up in the Panhandle, saw its voter registration database breached, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with "The Washington Post." The FBI briefed Florida's governor and the state's congressional delegation this week, but they are restricted from telling the public which two counties were targeted.

The FBI says that information will remain classified.

Governor Ron DeSantis said that the breach had no effect on the Florida vote totals, but access to registration data could allow manipulation to voter eligibility.

A new poll solidifies Joe Biden's front-runner status so far in the Democratic race for 2020. He leads the pack with 35 percent support. Plus, the former vice president does the best when it comes to a head- to-head with President Trump.

But Biden is also finding, when you are the front-runner, it means your rivals can see exactly where to aim. And they are with slams on his backing of the 94 crime bill, the Iraq War, NAFTA, credit card companies, and his take on health care and climate change.

After entering the race just three weeks ago with a stronger-than- expected lead, Biden is set to deliver a speech at his first major 2020 rally tomorrow in Philadelphia. And we also just learned he's headed to Texas later this month.

So, Kate Bedingfield is Joe Biden's deputy campaign manager and communications director.

So, Kate, a pleasure. Welcome.


BALDWIN: Let's dive in.

So, since jumping in the race, we know that Biden has gone straight after Trump, right, with that video and beyond, as though the general election has already begun.

But we know, and you know, Kate, that he still has to beat 22 people in order to get there. And my question to you is, is he at risk of alienating certain parts of the Democratic Party if you guys continue to focus solely on Trump?

BEDINGFIELD: No. So I think, if there's one thing Democrats are unified behind, it's the notion that we have to get Donald Trump out of office.

And Vice President Biden has spent the last three weeks laying out the case for his candidacy, explaining to voters why he's running, to restore the soul of the nation, to rebuild the backbone of this country that we're -- the middle class, and then what he's going to turn to at his speech in Philly tomorrow, which is a belief that we have to unify the country, and that we are standing in our own way until we get past this place of division, and that, as a country, there's nothing that we can't do if we're able to come together and to find consensus.

So you will hear him in the birthplace of America tomorrow, and also the home of the Biden campaign, Philly, talking about the need to unify the country and his belief that that's fundamental, and that everything else flows from a sense that, when we work together, we can find solutions.

And people can feel again like government has their backs and like they have a president who understand their concerns, who is a leader with empathy and dignity. And so that...


BEDINGFIELD: ... those are the kinds of things that you will hear from him in Philly tomorrow.

BALDWIN: Sure. And I hear you on Democrats unified about beating Donald Trump.

But, again, back to those 22 others, speaking of one of them, Senator Kamala Harris, there's been all this chatter about her maybe becoming Biden's running mate.

And she responded to that this week. Here she was.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate. As vice president, he's proven that he knows how to do the job.


BALDWIN: Kate, your response to that?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, I think the most important thing here is, you haven't heard any of that running mate talk from Joe Biden or from anybody on our campaign.

So, he has nothing but the utmost respect for Senator Harris. But what you hear from him is his case for why he's running. And, again, that's about -- it's about unity. It's about rebuilding the backbone of this country. And it's about making a real change from the kind of leadership that we currently have in the White House.


And I know you mentioned Philly, and I know he's just jumped in a couple of weeks ago, and you're about to unveil all these policies. But, Kate, Senator Warren, take her, for example. Like, her whole -- her whole line is, "I have a plan for that," right? And she's already rolled --