Return to Transcripts main page
Condition of American Detained in Russia May Be Deteriorating; Interview With Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); Women's World Cup Match Between England and the United States to Air Tonight. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired July 2, 2019 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:33:32] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: The U.S. embassy in Moscow says the condition of an American detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, is getting worse. It comes as Whelan's twin brother, David, is now calling on Russia to free his brother, which he says will help improve relations with the U.S.
Whelan was arrested last December on espionage charges, and is being held in a Moscow jail. He has denied being a spy and says he was in Russia for a wedding. CNN's Matthew Chance has more.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For six months now, Paul Whelan has languished behind these grim walls of the tough Lefortovo Prison in Moscow. He faces the daunting prospect of 20 years more, if found guilty of the espionage charges that he denies.
For months, U.S. diplomats have been expressing concerns for the former U.S. Marine's welfare. Whelan himself spoke of alleged mistreatment in a recent brief court appearance.
PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I have been threatened. My personal safety has been threatened. There are abuses and harassment that I'm constantly subjected to. There is a case for isolation. I have not had a shower in two weeks. I can't use a barber. I have to cut my own hair. I can't have medical treatment. I can't have dental treatment.
CHANCE (voice-over): It was at this upscale hotel in central Moscow, where Whelan was detained last December by Russia's Federal Security Service, the old KGB.
[10:35:00] Details remain murky, but his state-appointed Russian lawyer confirms Whelan was arrested shortly after accepting a flash drive containing classified information, which could have been planted, he said, on purpose.
An acquaintance put that top-secret information into Whelan's trousers, his lawyer told reporters last month. He had known that person for 10 years, the lawyer added, and regarded them as a friend.
Indeed, it seems Whelan cultivated a range of social media friendships with Russians, including former and active members of the Russian military, regularly posting photos and messages in Russian online.
His family says he was in Moscow to attend a wedding, to help show American guests around the city he knew so well. His friendships, his job in corporate security, his multiple passports from Britain, Canada and Ireland as well as the U.S., seemed to have flagged Whelan for special attention. He regards himself as a hostage.
WHELAN: I want to tell the world that I'm a -- you know, a victim of political kidnap and ransom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) and (ph) when (ph)?
WHELAN: There's obviously no credibility to the situation. This is retaliation for sanctions. There is absolutely no legitimacy.
CHANCE (voice-over): It's been speculated, Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist imprisoned in the U.S. for acting as a foreign agent, could be swapped for Whelan. Or Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer dubbed "the merchant of death," sentenced in the U.S. to 25 years behind bars.
Earlier this week, the Russian foreign ministry raised yet another possibility, that this man, Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted in a drug-smuggling conspiracy in 2011, could also be returned in exchange for any American national held in Russia. This so-called small step, as the Russians phrased it, could be Paul Whelan's best hope of getting home soon.
Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.
SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Paul Whelan's brother, David Whelan.
David, we appreciate you joining the show this morning.
DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF RUSSIAN DETAINEE PAUL WHELAN: Thanks for having me, Jim.
SCIUTTO: First, I want to ask you, what is the latest on your brother's condition? What do you know of it? Is it getting worse?
WHELAN: It's unchanged since the embassy raised its concern about his medical conditions. We don't really know. I think that's the issue here.
The embassy has requested an external doctor to be able to look at Paul and to be able to assess his condition, one that can speak to him in English, and to communicate with him about what his health conditions are so that we can get an actual assessment. Right now, that isn't happening. He's only getting a first aid level of help inside the prison. SCIUTTO: Now, as you're aware, a Russian official is raising the
possibility of a quote-unquote "prisoner swap" here. As we just heard in the story leading in, your brother considers himself the victim of a political kidnap and ransom. Would you support --
SCIUTTO: -- a trade, in effect, for your brother's freedom?
WHELAN: I would support almost anything to get Paul home, back to his family in Michigan. I think Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov's statement is a clear statement, that Paul is a political pawn and that they are hoping to extract some sort of value from the United States by trading him for something.
And so whether --
WHELAN: -- that's a person, I don't know, or whether it's the properties that they mentioned, the two Russian properties in the United States that were taken by the Obama administration.
I think the -- the concern is that they trade for a felon who is held in an American prison for an innocent American tourist in Russia, isn't a fair trade and puts other Americans at risk --
WHELAN: -- for future swaps.
SCIUTTO: Yes, yes. Does it -- does it incentivize it, in effect, I suppose is the worry.
SCIUTTO: As you know, I mean, you've pleaded, your family's pleaded with President Trump to help free your brother. President Trump, of course, met just face-to-face at the G20 -- I was there -- with the Russian president, Putin.
We don't know -- in none of the readouts, did it say that President Trump raised this issue directly with Putin. I suppose it's possible that in private, but they haven't said that he did. Are you disappointed that the president didn't mention him in public at least, or confirm that he had brought it up personally with the Russian president?
WHELAN: I'm surprised rather than disappointed. We know that Paul's case has been escalating in the American government. My sister met with Ambassador John Bolton. And so we know it had gotten to that level, that they're aware of Paul's issue.
And so we're assuming that it's being spoken about at Secretary Pompeo's level, perhaps at President Trump's level. And to not have a public statement of support, that Paul is wrongfully detained in Russia, is hard to -- is hard to bear.
SCIUTTO: Yes. No, I hear you. Final before I let you go, just how is your family doing? I can only imagine, having a loved one being held under these conditions, you know, in effect, as a political hostage here. How are you doing on this end? How are you handling it?
[10:40:09] WHELAN: It's a struggle. You never know what's going to happen. You wake up on Monday morning and the deputy foreign minister is suggesting a swap. And so you have highs of hopes that something can happen, and then lows when you sort of figure out that there are realities that go along with that.
SCIUTTO: Yes. I hear you. Well, listen, we wish you the best. We wish your brother the best. We hope that there's a good outcome and soon. Thank you, David Whelan.
WHELAN: Thank you, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Coming up, Democratic candidate for president Senator Cory Booker will join me live. How he plans to virtually eliminate immigration detention at the southern border. He's got a plan. And that's coming up.
[10:45:39] SCIUTTO: This morning, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker is out with a brand-new plan to overhaul immigration and fix the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, if elected president. Joining me now is presidential candidate Cory Booker.
Senator, thank you for taking the time this morning.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm really grateful you're having me on, Jim. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: All right. So in brief so our viewers are aware, your plan will do a number of things. Proposes to end family separations, expand DACA protections -- of course the president repealed those -- decriminalize border crossings, accept more refugees.
TEXT: Sen. Cory Booker's Immigration Reform Plan: Restores and expands DACA, DAPA & TPS protections; Eliminates requirements for detaining refugees & asylum seekers; Shuts down DHS detention facilities that don't meet high standards; Plan carried out by executive actions
SCIUTTO: I wonder, just briefly here, how would this address the rising influx of asylum-seekers at the border?
BOOKER: Well, part of the plan is actually to focus on those Northern Triangle countries, appoint a special envoy, work with our regional partners to start doing the opposite of what Donald Trump is doing. He is literally pulling back resources from those countries. We need to not only lean in, but we need to work with our area partners to stop the root cause that's pulling -- pushing people to come to the northern border.
Remember, this is a crisis that Donald Trump has created through executive action, not through the things that Congress has done. He started and created a crisis with executive action. I will end it with executive action, doing things that reflect our values.
Right now, as we speak, there are expecting mothers, nursing moms, elderly folks, vulnerable populations being held in detention unnecessarily, doing permanent damage to children -- literally, Donald Trump's own administration reports are talking about the permanent damage they're doing to kids.
And this is not about our safety. We have had lots of examples of lower-cost things that we can do that have more effective means with which dealing with immigration, and that don't violate our values and permanently harm vulnerable populations. We can do this. We have the capacity.
SCIUTTO: Fair enough. We have the deputy commissioner of the CBP on last hour, and he said that, you know, if these accounts are true, that they will -- that there will be consequences.
Let's drill down some, now, more deeply on some of your proposals here. You, for instance, support decriminalizing border crossings. I wonder -- and just for folks at home, why shouldn't it be a crime for people to enter the country, or attempt to, illegally?
BOOKER: Well, let's assume (ph) -- do it from a very selfish perspective. This is -- that's a far more expensive way to deal with it. It actually sucks up a tremendous amount of law enforcement resources, where we need our law enforcement to be targeting and focusing on the real threats to our nation, high-priority cases.
By dealing with it in the civil courts, like the American Bar Association and others -- American Pediatrics Academy, others -- show that we can do this in a way that still keeps us safe, that actually has a higher rate -- when you provide, like my plan does, legal representation -- has a higher rate, nearly a hundred percent rate of people staying within the system, showing up for their court dates.
I mean, this is the -- Donald Trump's tough bluster, trying to criminalize people, sucking our resources, taking away law enforcement from doing the things that they should do, focusing on people that are really no threat to us.
And if we create a really supportive system, they will stay there. They'll go through their court cases, they'll be evaluated on whether they need asylum or qualify to stay in our nation.
SCIUTTO: OK. Another proposal, your plan would effectively virtually eliminate the detention centers. And we're well aware of the sometimes horrible conditions that are being reported by some of your fellow lawmakers who have gone down to witness, but also others, outsiders.
I'm curious, as the numbers jump, of asylum-seekers -- it was up some 30,000 from this time last year -- where will those asylum-seekers go if those -- if those holding facilities are gone?
BOOKER: No, I appreciate that. And as somebody who's gone down to the border, met with asylum-seekers, visited these awful private prisons that should not exist, where there's a profit motive -- literally, these are folks that often lobby the federal government for these policies that help them to create profit off of the imprisonment of others.
Again, so many of these people that are coming through the system, they need an effective evaluation. Do they pose immediate threat. But we do not need to be doing what the Trump administration has done, a 40 percent increase in these detentions, of people that pose no threat and that we have evidence-based measures to ensure that they continue to work through the process of asylum.
[10:50:04] We are a nation based upon this ideal. We literally have asylum laws that are being violated by this administration because --
BOOKER: -- people are not being able to present themselves for asylum. They're violating the Flores decision. That's the thing. I don't understand why we don't see more of a sense of urgency to address these inhumane conditions, to end the profiting off of people's incarceration, and to treat people with human rights that are not surrendered when they come to --
BOOKER: -- our border.
SCIUTTO: OK. Let's talk about another issue because this kind of combines two of the biggest issues in the 2020 cycle, both immigration and health care. You, as several of your fellow competitors for the Democratic nomination, support government-funded health care for undocumented immigrants.
Now, if we look at the polling, that is supported by a majority of Democratic voters. But independent voters, by a two to one margin -- 63 percent -- they say no. Of course, most Republicans, against it.
TEXT: Govt. Health Care for Undocumented Immigrants? Democrats: Yes, 66 percent; No, 31 percent. Independents: Yes, 34 percent; No, 63 percent. Republicans: Yes, 10 percent; No, 88 percent.
SCIUTTO: I -- one, why should people who enter the country illegally get taxpayer-funded, supported health care? And are you concerned that as a candidate here in the primaries, you're staking out such a progressive position that will damage you or another Democratic candidate in the general election?
BOOKER: First of all, this is not a progressive decision. It's a common-sense thing. I was the chief executive of a city. Do I want someone who gets sick with a potential communicable illness, to not be able to go to a hospital and get treated, to potentially threaten to infect others? Do I want kids not to get vaccinated, that are in my country?
We've got to have some common sense here because we may think that shutting off people having access to any kind of health care, is some kind of tough stance. But really, what it does is it endangers our own populations, if we don't have some pathway for people getting some kind of support.
That's why when I was mayor of the city of Newark, I just said when it comes to emergency services, policing services, hospital services, undocumented immigrants here are part of our community. They have access to those things.
We have a president right now that is --
BOOKER: -- enforcing things that make us less safe, not only in a health care way but in a criminal capacity. Because now we have a climate in which immigrant populations are afraid to even report crimes --
BOOKER: -- because they feel like if they come forward, because of a program called 287(g), they will be -- risk deportation. It makes us all less safe.
Let's not make this a partisan issue --
BOOKER: -- let's make it a common-sense issue.
SCIUTTO: Before I let you go, two of your competitors have recently released numbers. Pete Buttigieg, nearly 25 million bucks in this most recent quarter. Bernie Sanders, $18 million. Can you give us a sense of where your fundraising will be in that crucial second quarter? You're locked in a very competitive race here.
BOOKER: Yes. I'm very excited that we're still in that top six of the people for the nomination from our party. And we released yesterday. We had -- since the debate, and people got to see me, you know, 20 million Americans-plus, we've just been enjoying our best fundraising week we've had in a long time. So we're --
SCIUTTO: How about for the quarter?
BOOKER: -- really -- we're excited. Well, we'll announce the quarter numbers very soon. But I'll tell you, so many people have been going to CoryBooker.com, people who believe in my campaign. And since that debate and people saw my performance, standing out on that debate stage, we're seeing a lot of momentum. And I hope it continues, and I hope more people will consider supporting our efforts, keeping my voice in this very important primary.
SCIUTTO: Well, Senator, we wish you good luck. Good to have you on the program. We look forward to the next time.
BOOKER: Thank you.
[10:53:33] SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.
SCIUTTO: Today, the U.S. women's soccer team faces England, fighting for a spot in the World Cup final. But there is a controversy ahead of this epic sports showdown. CNN sports anchor Amanda Davies joins me now from Lyon, France.
So, Amanda, England's coach is accusing the U.S. team of spying. Is there anything behind this? Tell us what the story is.
AMANDA DAVIES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, Jim. I'm not going to use the word on television that the England boss (ph), Phil Neville, used to me to describe his feeling towards the two U.S. team representatives who were spotted going into the England hotel when his side were away training.
They say they were there scouting out the hotel as a possible new base if they knock England out in just a few hours' time. The U.S. coach, Jill Ellis, very much played it down. But publicly, I have to say, Neville was pretty damning. He says he feels it's just not etiquette. He did say he feels it will have absolutely zero impact on the bearing of the match.
But it certainly adds an extra element of spice, doesn't it? To a game which has got the defending champions, the favorites, the USA up against the pretenders to their crown, really, England, looking for their first-ever World Cup Final.
And across the board, we've got here the tournament's three top goal- scorers so far, on the field. England have Ellen White, the USA have Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, all with five goals each.
While today might be Morgan's 30th birthday, she said she does not care who scores the goals, as long as it's the USA. She said, "Birthdays come once a year, but a World Cup is only every four. It's all about the business."
And, Jim, this is a World Cup that has broken television audiences for the women's game so far over the last couple of weeks. The numbers have been incredible.
If there's any U.S. fans worried about how they're going to watch with the afternoon kickoff, they've been given a little bit of help from a couple of the players, Kelley O'Hara and Allie Long, who've drafted a note to give to their bosses, saying, "Do you want to be the boss of the year?