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9/11 First Responder: "It's Been 18 Years and We're Still Fighting"; Trump Invokes Executive Privilege as Dems to Hold Contempt Vote; Trump Jr.: There Was Nothing to Change About My Testimony; Judge Sentences Ex-Stanford Coach to 2-Years Supervised Release; U.S. Women's Team Pushes Back Against Critics After 13-0 Win. Aired 3:30- 4p ET

Aired June 12, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] MICHAEL O'CONNELL, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER WHO'S BATTLING SARCOIDOSIS: -- they couldn't get to them.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Emotionless firefighters.

O'CONNELL: That's it.

You're there days, weeks, in a dust cloud that was ground zero doing your job.


BALDWIN: How did you get sick?

O'CONNELL: In 2007 didn't really know what was happening, just knew something was wrong. And got to the doctor and he did a chest x-ray and from -- they told me later they couldn't see the lungs anymore. That the limp nodes were so swollen around the lungs that it was definitely a in advance case of lymphoma and most likely I didn't probably have that much more time to live. So, very emotional but fortunate also because a few hours later a doctor came into the room and basically said that it was a mistake.

BALDWIN: It was a mistake.

O'CONNELL: Yes, just a big mistake. You're not having surgery. You have something called sarcoidosis. We're not cutting you open and we're going to live a long healthy life. So within that few hours I'm staring or looking at my wife whose got a belly out to here, six months pregnant with our first. She's crying her eyes out and just saying listen, we'll get through this.

BALDWIN: So you go from thinking you may be not wouldn't see that child be born to knowing you would have some more years and now you have three children?

O'CONNELL: Exactly.

BALDWIN: How is the money that the funding from this fund so important for you specifically and your family? How does it help you? O'CONNELL: Well, as a firefighter, or a police officer as I was, you

have a pension. But like anything, I was 32 when I retired. So as time goes by that pension gets smaller and smaller as the cost of living goes up. So just like anybody else that lives in New York knows that there's issues when it comes to living here and taxes. And the victim's compensation fund was going to be needed to know that I can get myself, my wife and my three children through life and now here we are 18 years later --

BALDWIN: Here we are.

O'CONNELL: I've been duly compensated and my family is fine and taken care of and I'm sitting next to a young girl who's her 30s from Stuyvesant High School. Who went there during 9/11. Was sent back there to go to class and drink the water and everything is fine, go back. And now she's riddled with 9/11 ulcers. I'm sitting next to a widow who just lost her husband two weeks ago and her children are sitting right behind me. And they are being told me that funds are depleted and you're going to have a 50 or 70 percent cut on the fund that we would be giving your husband losing -- losing his life.

BALDWIN: That's what I want you to address. Because I know Congress has been re-upping this every five years.


BALDWIN: You want this for many, many more years to come.

O'CONNELL: Permanent.

BALDWIN: Permanent. Look in that camera and talks to those members of Congress that can control that.

O'CONNELL: It comes down to this -- never forget. That's what we live by. We never forget the people that lost their lives on that day and what happened on that day. You should still never forget the people that are still sick and dying. This is something that needs to be refunded and not just for five years. We've proved that it works. It works so well that its being depleted. It's proven that it's being depleted because of so many people that are people are getting sick and there's a lot more to come. And we need your help and we want you to fully re-fund the Victim's Compensation Fund permanently.

BALDWIN: Here's my last question for you and it's just on something entirely separate just in doing my homework on you. Your helmet was stolen. Could you just briefly tell the story and have you gotten it back.

O'CONNELL: No, it never made it back.

BALDWIN: This is the helmet as a firefighter here in New York.

O'CONNELL: I was granted that helmet when I became a firefighter. That is the helmet I wore on 9/11 through the 11 years of my career on the fire department. It means something. Every firearm or police officer would tell you your badge, your helmet is part of you. So it's something I want to pass down to generations. I have two sons and a daughter. It would be a nice for them to have. But you know what? Major things came out of that story.

The helmet never made its way back to me but the world opened my eye to realizing there's so much good than bad. So many people called. Somebody sent me a helmet, a replica. Somebody else made a little orange statue with the helmet. It was an amazing story that got out there that I didn't expect to. Unfortunately it never came back but I got a lot more out of it.

BALDWIN: Michael O'Connell, thank you for coming by.

O'CONNELL: Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Coming up here on CNN, a big fight over the census. The President invokes executive privilege as the House panel gets ready to hold a contempt vote against two top officials in his administration.


BALDWIN: Drama in D.C. today as a face-off brews between the House and Justice Department. First, documents related to that controversial citizenship question on the 2020 census. The House Oversight Committee wants to see those documents and threaten contempt charges for Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for withholding them. But this morning the President made a preemptive strike. Before the House could vote on contempt, he announced he was invoking executive privilege to keep the documents under wraps. The committee, though, is still planning a contempt vote in a couple of minutes.

The other big piece of news today, the President's son returned to the Senate Intelligence Committee to clarify his earlier testimony in the Russia investigation. This morning Donald Trump Jr. was all smiles on his way into and out of this closed-door session. All told about 2 1/2 hours of testimony. CNN senior correspondent, Manu Raju, is up on Capitol Hill. And so Manu, what do you know about what happened behind closed doors.

[15:40:00] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The committee wanted to know about discrepancies between his past testimony and what the Mueller report revealed. Particularly about how he approached that June 2016 meeting which he attended with Russians who had promised dirt on the Clinton campaign. As well as his pursuit of that Trump Bower/Moscow project by the pursuit of the Trump organization of that project. And what he knew about those efforts when he initially downplayed that when he testified previously back in 2017.

The Mueller report showed that according to Michael Cohen's testimony -- the former Trump fixer who's now in jail -- that Donald Trump Jr. knew more about that effort to get the Trump Tower/Moscow project. The Mueller Report also shows that Donald Trump Jr. spoke to other individuals in the Trump orbit about a lead on possible dirt on the Clinton foundation before that Trump Tower meeting undercutting what he had said previously before this committee.

Now that's what he said behind closed doors, we're told by a source close to Donald Trump Jr. Is that he said that he never -- he doesn't recall or that -- anything other than Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort who he told about that meeting that occurred at Trump Tower. Also he denies what Michael Cohen has said -- alleged, one of the things that Michael Cohen alleged that he told his father, President Trump, about that meeting before it happened. But he said he never whispered anything into his father's ear and also, he dismissed Michael Cohen's allegation he was briefed extensively on that Trump Tower/Moscow project. Now, Brooke, when he came out of the meeting, I asked him directly, did you change anything in your testimony and he said no.


DONALD TRUMP JR.: The reality is there was nothing to change. If there needed to be clarification because Michael Cohen who let's not forget who is serving time right now for lying to these very investigative bodies, I'm happy to do that. I don't think I changed anything of what I said because there was nothing to change. I'm glad that this is finally over. We're able to put some final clarity on that. And I think the committee understands that.


RAJU: Now the chairman of that committee Richard Burr who actually issued a subpoena for this appearance that Donald Trump Jr. initially fought. He would not comment while leaving the hearing. Neither would Mike Warner, the vice chairman of that committee. One Senator who is on that committee, did offer some comment. That's Kamala Harris, the Presidential candidate. She said she wouldn't comment on the meeting that happened today, but she told me there are unanswered questions that they should continue to explore -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: What about also this contempt vote coming up in a couple of minutes. The House oversight, why hold the vote in the wake of the White House's executive privilege claim?

RAJU: This is all setting the stage for who what could be a protracted legal fight between House Democrats and the Trump administration. Something we are seeing time and again from a number of committees. This, of course, over the addition of the citizenship question on the 2020 census. Democrats believe that the administration has withheld information critical to their probe. They believe that they've not been forth right, the administration has not, with the investigation. The administration has pushed back. Said this information is confidential. This is privileged, covered by executive privilege. But essentially what this will do is lead the courts to ultimately sort this out like we're seeing in one fight after another, Brooke, and in the aftermath of that vote yesterday to give House committees more power to go directly to court. Expect Elijah Cummings, the chairman, to take advantage of that new authority. Something that could lead to a court fight in the coming days ahead here -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Manu Raju, thank you very much. And with two branches of the government battling each other, what does

it mean for the third? Especially the Supreme Court. CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig, is a former federal prosecutor. Elie, big picture this for me. Because this is an issue whether or not in the census the question over whether or not you're a citizen is something that the U.S. Supreme Court is already dealing with and should issue some sort of decision by the end of the summer. So what is happening with Congress and how may that impact their decision?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So there are two separate things happening here that could collide soon. The Supreme Court, like you said, they're in the process of deliberating about that question. Will we see the citizenship question on the census for 2020? I think it's going to be a very close decision. I would bet it is going to be 5-4 one way or the other. At the same time Congress, Representative Cummings committee is investigating what went into this decision. Why was the citizenship question added back in? When it had been gone from the census for many decades.

And really the legal question there is, did it serve some legitimate purpose or was it really a political effort to suppress the counts to suppress the vote and to sort of influence the way the districts are divided.

BALDWIN: Which affects representation in Congress which --

HONIG: Exactly. Hugely important stuff.


HONIG: If the -- the question where they could collide is, if there is some smoking gun document that Congress gets. Then will that cause the supreme court to say, hold on, we have new information. We need to stop here. So it's a little bit of a race against the clock.

[15:45:00] BALDWIN: So well explained on why this is such a huge deal with -- talking about this question and the census. The other piece of this as we just mentioned the White House has invoked executive privilege on this, too. How is this case of executive privilege different from other Congressional subpoenas?

HONIG: This is White House has already been extremely aggressive in their use of executive privilege. Every White House has used it at times. This White House has been way more aggressive than prior administrations and this indication of executive privilege on the citizenship question goes really a step beyond. They're treating executive privilege like a magic wand. It is not just something that the President gets to say, I don't want it turn it over because I'm President.

It is supposed to be a very narrow exception. It was laid out in the Richard Nixon case, the Supreme Court there said it is really supposed to be reserved for your top secret, your military secrets, your intel, your national security. It is not this magic wand that you could make subpoenas go away with.

BALDWIN: Elie Honig.

HONIG: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

The U.S. is celebrating a huge win in the first round of the Women's World Cup. It was a record-breaking game. The team winning 13-0. Why are they now having to defend themselves against critics? Why? We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Some breaking news. The first sentence in the college admissions scandal has just come down and it is a big break for this defendant. Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer faced 13 months in prison for his role in taking bribes for bogus sailing recruits. Brynn Gingras is our CNN national correspondent with the judge's decision. What did he get?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The judge's decision is no time behind bars.

BALDWIN: No time.

GINGRAS: No time. Now, let's backtrack, right? He took a plea deal, right. He admitted to his part, one federal conspiracy charge, for trying to get two people into Stanford through the sailing team. He's the head coach or was the head coach of the sailing team. It's important to note because this is something that the judge was really considering right before she handed down the sentence that he never profited from this, he never took any money, spent it on himself.

BALDWIN: He put it back into the school, right?

GINGRAS: He put it back into the school. Exactly. And also, the two students that he tried to pave the way for never actually went to Stanford. So the judge considered that. Actually said, it's hard to monetize what's the loss and the gain here. But there was a lot of factors before she made her decision. Let's say -- let me tell you, though, he is going to have two years supervised release and a $10,000 fine.

BALDWIN: So it's not nothing.

GINGRAS: He's not scot-free, but no time behind bars is a big deal, I mean considering the widespread 50 people charged in this case. It's certainly going to be a way that sort of paved the road of what's going to happen next. And that's the big question here. But one of the things that's so interesting is before this happened today, on Friday, the judge received 27 letters from family, former student athletes, parents, all supporting Vandemoer, saying he's a good guy, his wife saying, he has two children, please don't send him to jail.

And she said that was extraordinarily impactful. How much of that in her decision, who knows? But she also said, he wasn't culpable. It was Singer, it was the mastermind who was really the guilty one here. So this was just stunning. So we're going to have to see how this plays out for others. Will more people take a plea deal, the people who have not pleaded guilty yet? Will that happen because of this?

BALDWIN: Such a great point.

GINGRAS: What's going to happen to the other people?

BALDWIN: Will a judge not throw the book at others? Lori Loughlin, who's in a much different situation? How will she be affected? Stay on it for us.

GINGRAS: And there's other judges in this case. It's not just her. So you've got to factor that too. But we'll keep you updated.

BALDWIN: Brynn Gingras, thank you so much. Thank you.

Ahead on CNN, the U.S. team makes history at the Women's World Cup with a dramatic win against Thailand, so why are these ladies being criticized right now? Stay here.


BALDWIN: The U.S. Women's World Cup soccer team kicking major butt in crushing Thailand in a blowout victory, showing the world why they want pay equity with men's soccer. That said, criticism now coming in that the U.S. women went too hard, scoring 13 times and over- celebrated every goal scored. Just a quick reminder, the U.S. women's team is the team to beat, the reigning champs looking to defend their World Cup title. And all of this criticism and talk of over- celebrating is not going over well with star forward soccer player Alex Morgan.


ALEX MORGAN, FORWARD, U.S. WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM: I think it's disrespectful if we don't show up and give our best and play our game for 90 minutes. It's disrespectful to the Thai team and I believe they wanted us to play, play them straight up. And for the celebrations, these are goals that we have dreamt of our entire life. I mean I'm going to celebrate Mal Pugh's goal. I'm going to celebrate Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle. This is their first World Cup and I'm so proud of them.

And so every -- and I couldn't have dreamt of scoring five goals in a World Cup. So it's -- you know, it's incredible for us all. And I'm happy just ignoring those comments.


BALDWIN: Christine Brennan is CNN sports analyst and "USA Today" columnist. Christine, goal differential matters. It is the World Cup. This isn't a friendly game. These are professional women here. What do you think of this whole thing?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Well, absolutely. First of all, everyone's talking about the U.S. women's soccer team, so that's great.

BALDWIN: That's a good thing.

BRENNAN: And people are talking around the world about it and 13-0 is now part of our lexicon. This is all a win for the U.S. women, although the pressure is going to be on big time now, because when you win 13-0, when there is a controversy, now everyone is gunning for you, watching you. They were already the favorite, so now they'll have a little more than that. I'm sure a lot of them just say, bring that on.

But you're right, the goal differential. For those of you who don't understand soccer, Sweden could beat Thailand 14-0, unlikely, but could happen, in which case everyone would be saying, there you go. U.S. team does not want to take their foot off the pedal on that one and on the gas and keep going through the whole game. So the celebrations, personally, I could have at the 9th, 10th, 11th goals, 12th, 13th, I might have said, tone it down a little.

That's just me. But certainly, this is a team that is joyful and is a leader and always, Brooke, on the field of play and off and they're playing like it right now. That's for sure.

BALDWIN: My producer, Rivera reminded me back in 2002 in the Men's World Cup that the Germans beat the Saudis 8-0, do you remember anything back then, anyone then saying that the German men went too hard on the Saudis?


BALDWIN: Anyone.

BRENNAN: And in fact, exactly, Brooke. And in fact, there is -- listen, FIFA and the game of soccer, the engrained sexism and misogyny is out there for all to see, and that's what I think this last 24 hours has been set against that backdrop. But when people say, well, the U.S. men, what if that happened? Well, the good news for the U.S. men is, it's never going to happen. It's taken literally 54 weeks, a year and two weeks for the U.S. men to score 13 goals.

And the U.S. women did it in 90 minutes. So the men will never be in this situation in terms of international goals scored. And I think that certainly highlights one of the differences with the team and why, again, it's such an important conversation about pay equity for the women's team, vis-a-vis the men's team.

BALDWIN: To that point, I was talking to your pal, Julie Foudy, yesterday, you know, two-time World Cup champ, and we were talking about this lawsuit, right, all these ladies are fighting for pay equity, launching the lawsuit on of all days, International Women's Day. I was just reading some of the stats. So these women actually make a third of what the men make, and that's when the women are winning and the men lose. 20 seconds. Do you think these ladies in France feel like they have a little something extra to prove?

BRENNAN: Without a doubt. First of all, this is the first game of a World Cup, they're the defending champs and they want to keep going. I also think they've -- this team always, going back to 1999 and Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm, Brooke, they have always been about more than soccer. They've always been about staking out this ground for equality for girls and women, coming after them, as well. And here again, they're doing it on the field of play and they're making it a lot of fun to watch, as well.

BALDWIN: We'll be cheering them on there in France. Christine Brennan, thank you very much.

BRENNAN: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: And thanks to all of you for tuning in. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.