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Author E. Jean Carroll Interviewed about Her Accusations of Sexual Assault against President Trump; Army Secretary Mark Esper to Take Over as Acting Secretary of Defense. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 24, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] E. JEAN CARROLL, AUTHOR, "WHAT DO WE NEED MEN FOR?": Deny, deny, deny. So that's just control.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The book, E. Jean, is called "What Do We Need Men For, A Modest Proposal."

CARROLL: What do we need men for, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Listen, that's a longer story.

CARROLL: Name one thing.

CAMEROTA: I need men to be my co-anchor. There's a lot of good men. There's a lot of good men. I know a million of them. And then there are some bad apples. And that's what this conversation for the past three years has been about, that stopping those guys, because they make all of the great guys -- I don't know, seem worse, too, somehow. And that's not fair.

And so E. Jean, thanks for sharing your story. We look forward to hearing what happens next. The book, again, is "What Do We Need Men For?" I really appreciate you being so candid with us this morning.

CARROLL: Thank you, Aliysn.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you.

John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Alisyn.

So we just heard this remarkable story, author E. Jean Carroll tells the tale of being raped by Donald Trump in a dressing room at a department store back in the 1990s. She didn't use that word, rape, but that is what she says happened. That is the situation she described. And the question this morning is this, now that the story is out there and, frankly, has been out there a few days, how can this just be another Monday? Why isn't this a bigger deal? This is what Carroll told Alisyn just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

E. JEAN CARROLL, AUTHOR, "WHAT DO WE NEED MEN FOR?": He pulled own my tights. And it was a fight. I want women to know that I did not stand there. I did not freeze. I was not paralyzed, which reaction that I could have had because it was so shocking. No, I fought. And it was over very quickly. It was against my will 100 percent, and I ran away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: The president denies those allegations and accuses the author, E. Jean Carroll, of trying to sell her new book. So joining us now to talk to about this is Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House correspondent, Julie Hirschfield Davis, CNN political correspondent and Congressional Correspondent for "The New York Times," and Bianna Golodyrga, CNN contributor. Bianna, you're here in studio. You've been watching E. Jean Carroll tell her story, which is just very, very intense. All of it, what happened to her, what happened in the dressing room, how violent it was, and how she's been processing it over these years.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It might as well have just been yesterday, and it happened how many, 20-something years ago to her. You saw all of the emotions that she's gone through in just the short period of time in the interview with you, notwithstanding what she's gone through over the past few decades.

This is a position that I don't think we should ever become comfortable with, especially in dealing with the president of the United States. He dismisses it. He denies ever knowing her, ever seeing her. But you see in maybe a larger sense of what thousands of women across the country go through every single day when it comes to issues not relating to the president of the United States, but to their own interests, and women in their lives as well, and how it enrages them. It makes them feel like maybe they perhaps did something wrong themselves. They feel angry. They ask why we need to have men at all, which obviously is -- we know the answer to that. We always need men. Men will be here to help us solve the problem as well. But I think you just can't dismiss the fact that this charge is related to the president of the United States.

BERMAN: And one of the things you said is that we can't be numb to this, but we can't deny there is a numbness to it at this point, because we've got the details from this. We didn't hear from her directly like we did in that remarkable interview, we got the details about this on Friday. So it's been out there three days just sitting there, and relative crickets. And Julie, I don't want to bring politics too much into it, but it's not far, obviously. George Conway, who is a fierce critic of the president, comes at this from a very interesting perspective in that he was a lawyer working against President Clinton in the 1990s to publicize many of the accusations against him then. He says Republicans or conservatives who promoted Juanita Broaddrick's charges of rape against then President Clinton would be hypocritical if then failed to champion Carroll and condemn Trump. And again, he doesn't just have to be talking about Republicans there, because there is this general societal numbness, I think, to these accusations.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's right. And it's not just a societal numbness, but it seems to be a numbness when it comes in particular to the president of the United States. And I think there are a couple of reasons for that. One of them certainly is a political one. Another one, though, is that, of course, he denies these allegations. They're old allegations. There's no way for any of us to substantiate them except if you listen to Miss Carroll's story as you just played, it's very difficult to imagine that this did not happen to her.

[08:05:03] But the third reason is that, we have all known, the public has known for some amount of years the way in which President Trump has talked about women, has boasted about his treatment of women, his mistreatment of women. And so I think that really contributes here to the sort of subdued reaction. A lot of this does not seem new to people, and that in and of itself is shocking.

CAMEROTA: And Kaitlan, part of why it's plausible, her story is quite plausible, is because there's this record of 15 other women describing a similar M.O. So that's part of why it feels familiar to hear this again. And because President Trump himself in that "Access Hollywood" interview that everybody listened to described his M.O., and I'll just remind people and read it. "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. It's like a magnet. Just kiss? I don't even wait." He's describing nonconsensual accosting of women. And so it's just not that hard to believe her story at that point.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And people who worked on the campaign say easily that was the darkest moment of the campaign. When they were doing debate practice, and that is when that story broke with the president on audio making those remarks.

And of course, this woman, Mrs. Carroll, says she has people that can back up her claim, that she told at the time of the alleged assault. She says she informed them about it. So there are people she says that can corroborate this claim. But then also she is willing to go on television to detail this account. And that's what the question is going to be here, because yes, so many women have accused the president of sexual assault, and I think that's how you see this delayed reaction, or people, allies of the president, Republicans, ignoring the allegation altogether.

But now that it's playing out on television and the woman is on camera describing what she says happened to her 20 years ago with President Trump, that is going to maybe potentially reignite what the scrutiny over these claims against the president, because, of course, this is a president who is focused on cable news coverage, he regularly watches it. Now that he has seen this women coming on TV, the president has already denied it twice, once in a statement provided by the president from the White House on Friday night, and then again on camera as he was leaving the White House, where he said he had never met this woman initially, but then once the photo of the two of them surfaced with each of their respective spouses, the president simply dismissed that photo, saying it was in a greeting line. You can see them there, the president looking towards Miss Carroll and her husband there.

So the question here is this is going to reignite the scrutiny on the president, and the allegations who are facing him from more than a dozen women who have credibly accused him of sexual assault.

GOLODRYGA: And if you go back to the "Access Hollywood" tape, remember, that was one of the few times the president has actually apologized, or at least expressed remorse about something that he said. And now we know looking back that he has outraged that he in fact apologized for that and has questioned whether that was even his voice in the tape at all.

BERMAN: He's basically trying to retroactively deny something he admitted to.

GOLODRYGA: He was angry that he admitted that that was him.

BERMAN: It gets, Julie, to something -- Jeff Greenfield put this out over the weekend, it's an old quote from Stalin, which is that one death is a tragedy, 10,000 deaths are a statistic. At a certain point, as you get more and more of these accusations, how do you process them all?

DAVIS: That's been the case on a number of fronts with this president and this administration. People were shocked and surprised the first time they heard an allegation like this, certainly when the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, as Kaitlan points out, that was a very low point in the campaign, and everyone took a step back, including many elected Republicans who really had to grapple with the question of whether they were going to continue to support Donald Trump after that emerged.

But ultimately, they decided they would. And so I think we're in a spot now where none of this seems surprising. And as that quote points out in a very sort of sinister way, the more these kinds of accusations mount, the less people appear to care about him, certainly the less that Republicans who have steadfastly supported this president, seem to be willing to take him on even on this issue.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, that's so true. After the accusations mount, we do get, as John said, numb and immune to them, but this one, E. Jean Carroll's, does go further. This is the furthest, in terms of legally, it's rape. It's unambiguous rape. He accusation is of rape. She was having a hard time saying it because she thinks it carries a connotation of victimhood she doesn't want. And again, her generation, I think, as she described there, has a hard time saying that. She blames herself, et cetera, et cetera. We've heard this, we've heard women processing this out loud for the past three years so forcefully. But if you read her description, in the law, it is unambiguously rape.

[08:10:02] COLLINS: Yes, and that's why when I was saying earlier that over a dozen have accused of president, some of that is groping, some of it is unwanted kissing. But this is a woman who, as you said, is going the furthest in her allegation against the president, further than we've seen several of the women who have accused the president go.

And of course, listening to her talk about why she's telling the story comes amid a broader conversation about Me Too and how that has completely up-ended the political scene we see. But then of course then we have over a dozen women accusing one person who now sits in the White House of this, and the question is what is the reaction you're going to hear from allies of the president, from Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill?

And I think you get a taste of it when you look at what George Conway, whose wife, of course, works in the West Wing and someone who represented Paula Jones says is that if Republicans were pushing and highlighting Juanita Broaddrick's claims against President Bill Clinton, then they should not be ignoring her claims against Donald Trump.

BERMAN: They're going to say, why did it take so long? Why did it take since the 1990s? They're also going to say why didn't she come forward, and you pressed her on this, why didn't she come forward in 2016 when this was out there and part of the campaign discussion?

CAMEROTA: Her answer was that she thought there were so many other women doing it that she didn't have to. And it is unpleasant to come forward, and she feared what would happen next. And she feared that she would be made fun of and ostracized and death threats and attacked, and he has lawyers, and all of that stuff that she now feels like and says she's confronting.

BERMAN: And also you can hear it in that discussion that you had with her that she's trying to process this herself, because she doesn't feel as if she was a victim, I think, or she doesn't want to be portrayed --

CAMEROTA: She has ambivalence, obviously. She blames herself, as so many women in this situation do. But the truth is, as we all know and all have learned, you are allowed to have a playful conversation with a man in a department store when you're helping pick out a present for his girlfriend and not be raped. But it's taken her a while to come around from that feeling.

GOLODRYGA: And her outlook has even changed from Friday, right. She said, when I first came out with the story, I had one perspective, and now I'm questioning how I feel about this, the gravity of this all obviously, having to deal with this being the president of the United States. I do think he's quick to dismiss it, but from a political standpoint, he should be focused on the women vote as well and how women will react to stories like this. Clearly those who are diehard supporters will say that this is all political, why didn't she come out sooner, and defend the president.

But we know many women who voted for the president in 2016 changed their view on him in 2018 going into the midterms, and it's allegations like these that a lot of women especially will find hard to digest going into 2020.

DAVIS: And I think that could be a potential issue for other elected Republicans as well because they're going to be asked presumably about whether they believe this woman, what they think should happen now that her story is public, and there's the real potential for there to be a divide, a partisan divide, which should never be the case in a situation like this, between Republicans saying we're not really sure if we believe her, the president denies it. And Democrats, who already are really seizing on this to say we knew who President Trump was. This just really bears it out. And that divide can really obviously affect the president's reelection chances, but also Republicans across the country.

CAMEROTA: Ladies, thank you very much for having this important conversation with us this morning.

Moving on, Army Secretary Mark Esper, President Trump's pick to head the Pentagon, takes over as acting defense secretary. It comes as global threats are growing, including Iran. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more. What's the latest there, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Mark Esper arrived here earlier this morning, walking up the steps for his first day on the job as Acting Secretary of Defense. Now, if he gets the formal nomination from President Trump, one of the most bizarre things about federal regulation right now, he will have to step down until he is confirmed. Another person is going to have to take over as a new acting defense secretary. It's likely to be the Navy Secretary, Richard Spencer. That will give us something like four defense chiefs in seven to eight months. So right now stability at the Pentagon all important.

And everybody is watching Esper. He's well known. He went to West Point. He's a former army officer. He has known Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, for a number of years. But where will Mark Esper fit into the national security apparatus in this White House? Will he align himself with Pompeo, a well-known Iran hawk? How will he work with John Bolton? A lot of people say that Esper will be very anxious to please the president, to get that nomination, to get confirmed and please President Trump. But the real reality is right now nobody knows once he is confirmed, if he is confirmed as secretary of defense, how Mark Esper will really feel about possibly getting into more wars. This is something we just don't know about him just yet. John?

BERMAN: Indeed, we don't. And the real issue is the challenges facing the United States, the very proximate, real challenges facing the United States all around the world. Barbara Starr, thank you so much for your reporting.

On that note, President Trump called off a strike against Iran. He is calling off I.C.E. raids just as they were about to begin. We're going to get a reaction from a Republican lawmaker, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: The White House is set to impose new sanctions on Iran today, days after President Trump abruptly halted a military strike that was in retaliation for Iran's downing of a U.S. spy plane.

An Iranian official tweeted just a short time ago, "Mr. Trump, until the sanctions are suspended from Tehran, only the military forces will talk to you." Joining me now is Republican congressman Michael Waltz. He is a

combat decorated Green Beret veteran from Florida. Thank you very much, Congressman for being with us today. Are you glad the President halted this military strike when the planes were in the air Thursday night?

[08:20:10] REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): Sure, John. Well, I don't think we know exactly when -- I mean, there's been mixed reporting on exactly when we halted it. But the end of the day, I think the message from the Iranians is clear that they are going to continue to push, they are going to continue to provoke, and they are going to continue to try to create crises abroad, because the sanctions at home in Iran are working.

Oil has decreased from two and a half million per day, down to less than 400,000. The Iranian currency is inflating through the roof. We have near daily labor strikes and unrest throughout Iran, and what they have typically done over the years, when their economy is in trouble, and the regime feels like it's in trouble, because the thing it cares about the most is its own pocketbook, is it creates a crisis abroad, whether that's Beirut, the attack against 200 Marines and against Lebanon, whether that's killing Americans throughout Iraq, in the 2000s, or now.

So what they truly want is sanctions relief, and they are seeking to create controversy in the United States, so that we will back off our policy. And I think what the President has shown is he is willing to double down on the sanctions, and I think that maximum pressure campaign is absolutely right.

BERMAN: But just to be clear, you don't think military action at this point is warranted?

WALTZ: Well, actually, to be clear, I think we should have responded, and I think we should have responded proportionately, whether that is oil platforms, some of the ships that have been attacking tankers, or those missile batteries.

Of course, it's the President's absolute right as Commander-in-Chief to pull that back, but I think what we're seeing from the Iranians today is that they are going to continue to push. I think we should have carried out the strike, yes, I do.

BERMAN: Okay, you do. So what message does it send about what the line is for the United States to take part in military action at this point? If you're Iran, if you're another country right now, what do you take on what the President said?

WALTZ: Well, not just Iran, but Russia, North Korea and others. I think they're seeing -- which is, I think, ironic, to many of his critics, I think they're seeing that this President is not a warmonger, this President seeks to avoid conflict, and seeks for very limited proportional response.

My point, though is Iran historically has been emboldened by perceived weakness, or perceived latitude, and will continue to push, like kind of like a schoolyard bully who is going to keep pushing and keep taking kids' lunch money until they are faced with force.

BERMAN: Let me play you --

WALTZ: And I think --

BERMAN: I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt but the President --

WALTZ: No, no, that's okay.

BERMAN: The President -- one of the issues is will there be a dialogue between the United States and Iran? And I want to play you some sound from how the President suggested it might happen next.

WALTZ: Right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here it is, look, you can't have nuclear weapons, and if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise, you can live in a shattered economy for a long time to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Isn't the irony, though, that under the nuclear deal, which I know you were against, and many people say was imperfect. But there is general agreement that they weren't producing nuclear weapons that headed effectively stalled for the time being nuclear production.

The President saying you can't have nuclear weapons, won't Iran just say, "Well, we don't, and we didn't."

WALTZ: But John, what you're missing there is there's many facets to a nuclear weapon program, and possibly Iran had hit the pause button on one discrete portion.

However, we couldn't check these military sites that wasn't in the deal. And we had to give so much notice, you know, it's like having a search warrant on a criminal's home, but you can't check all of the bedrooms, and you have to give them a month's notice before you're coming. What do you think's going to happen?

Secondly, it didn't cover its ballistic missile program. It didn't cover terrorism, and importantly, Iran was still taking Americans hostage, while the deal what's going on.

What my point is, the President is seeking leverage to drive them back to the table, not start a war, not put 500,000 American troops on the ground like many are accusing him of, but to drive them back to the table to get a better deal that actually covers all of those different programs.

You know, a deal just for the sake of it, or for President Obama or John Kerry's legacy, isn't in necessarily in America's best interest and the message that it sent to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and many others in the region were that they essentially had less than a decade to get their own nuclear program, because Iran had only possibly hit the pause button.

It was an incredibly flawed deal, and the President, I think, is getting to a point of maximum leverage with the Iranian economy, with the maximum pressure campaign to get them back to the table for a more comprehensive agreement.

BERMAN: We'll see right now. It doesn't seem like they're close to this discussion. We just had E. Jean Carroll who is an advice columnist on -- who wrote a book that came out Friday, and she tells a story in her words of being sexually assaulted tantamount to rape in a dressing room on Friday. Now you -- in the 1990s. The book came out on Friday.

[08:25:07] BERMAN: You, you know you weren't in Congress in 2016 when the President was running. I guess my question to you is, in your view, how should accusations like this be handled because this woman is coming forward with an accusation of rape now? So what should one do with that?

WALTZ: Well, look, I think if you take it to the appropriate authorities, and they decide it's merited, and it should be investigated. Fine.

Look, I don't think sexual assault -- look, it's unacceptable and it's despicable. I grew up under a single mom who had to deal with this her entire life. I'm the father of a young girl that I don't want dealing with this for a second. So I think men who carry that out are despicable and need to be held to account.

At the same time, throwing out accusations years later, I think we have to take a look at. So, look, I mean, there has been accusation after accusation thrown out at this President. If you take it to authorities, and they look at it, and they say it, it, it needs to be looked at or it has merit, then, fine.

BERMAN: Congressman Michael Waltz from Florida. I do appreciate the discussion this morning. Thank you.

WALTZ: All right.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, swing voters in Rust Belt states sound off on President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: How many of you -- show of hands -- think that President Trump stands a chance of not being reelected this time? Four of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Okay, so how do these folks plan to vote and what issues are driving them to the polls? We get the pulse of the people, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Okay, time for part two of our NEW DAY voter panel with the

all-important swing voters. This is a group of self-described lifelong Democrats, or at least they were, until 2016. That's when the majority of them switched to vote for Donald Trump.

Now some of them regret that and they plan to swing back to vote for a Democrat in 2020. Why such drastic swings? I'll let them explain. Here's our Pulse of the People.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Show of hands. How many people plan to vote for Joe Biden at the moment? At the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not Trump.

CAMEROTA: You'll vote for anybody not Trump. Who no matter who -- is that your motto? Okay, so you haven't decided who? But you're just not going to vote for Trump.

DAVID SOBOROWICZ, SWING VOTER, WISCONSIN: Exactly. I am not Trump. I will not. No.

CHUCK HOWENSTEIN, SWING VOTER, PENNSYLVANIA: I think Joe Biden is the one, it comes down to electability. He is the only one to me that's going to be -- to be able to be Donald Trump.

[08:30:09]