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Prosecutors: Jeffrey Epstein "Was Well Aware" Many Victims Were Minors; Trump: We Are Exploring Other Ways to Add Citizenship Question; Joe Biden Apologizes for Comments on Working With Segregationists. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired July 8, 2019 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: --Not only to the victims, but to society at large, that this kind of behavior is no longer going to be turned a blind eye to, as it was in the past. And things are changing and this isn't going to stand anymore.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Berman said the villains here are the adult--
STELTER: --perpetrators. He used the word perpetrators plural. Right now we are only talking about Epstein--
[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You can't run the sex traffic - sex trafficking ring--
STELTER: By yourself--
BOLDUAN: By yourself. There were employee one, two and three that are listed and there's a minor victim one, two and three, and that's all that is listed in this indictment as well. You can see just from what you heard from Geoffrey Berman. They have - they are looking for victims to come forward.
They're laying out in that poster behind him - laying out the number to call, because they want to offer more help. They're looking for assistance from more victims. Let me go back inside the room, Shimon Prokupecz was there for us throughout. Shimon, what stuck out to you.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So certainly when the prosecutor Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney here stepped off the podium, walked towards the photo of Jeffrey Epstein, pointed to the photo discussed saying if you know this man - do you know anything about him call us. I think that was a signal that they want victims, obviously.
But there was more there. It's him saying you know what, enough is enough of people in power getting away with stuff, getting away with things and it's time for people to come forward and for us to bring justice.
The other thing is I want people to keep in mind is that this this U.S. attorney's office is the same U.S. attorney's office that prosecuted Michael Cohen, that is investigating the Trump association, that is investigating other issues associated with the President.
So we know that this office - they're not afraid. If they see something is wrong, that they see that there may be something going on here that's illegal, certainly that's going to affect victims. That is in any way going to give people an advantage and some people a disadvantage because of power. They are going to go after them.
And I think that was what was so significant, is how they turned this into about the victims. So many of the victims that we've heard from in the Miami Herald, from all of their great reporting, said that they were stunned that this plea agreement that he ultimately got, and how they never thought that they would be able to get a chance to go into court to have their voices heard. Well, now it's very clear that that is going to happen.
And finally, it's very, very clear that this investigation is not over. They want more victims to come forward and that is going to happen. And with the FBI now behind this case, it tells you that this investigation will go wherever it needs to go, whether it's in the U.S., whether it's outside the U.S. but things are going to rev up here pretty quickly.
And I think it's really a day for the victims, so many of them who never thought that they would be able to have their day can now finally say, you know what this U.S. attorney, this FBI decided to go ahead and pursue this case and now have their day.
BOLDUAN: Some of the things that we heard in that press conference, Geoffrey Berman saying, "The alleged behavior shocks the consciousness". In this indictment the vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, he worked and conspired with others including employees and associates, who facilitated his conduct and also so he could maintain a steady supply of new victims to exploit.
In the press conference, Caroline, he said this line and so many things shock that consciousness these days. But ever expanding web of new victims - talk - we can talk about the wild political connections here to what we cover every day. But at its core is this appalling acts - allegations of appalling acts committed against dozens of girls as young as the age of 14.
POLISI: Yes. And this was really a sophisticated criminal enterprise and you read that line by line in the indictment. Not only would he pay hundreds of dollars for the victims, but then he would turn his victims into recruiters to get other victims. And that's how he perpetrated this massive scheme.
You know one point I just want to make that we heard there at the press conference, it's about the victims. One of the reasons floated for this - we heard deal back in 2008 for why they gave him the non- prosecution agreement was that they had issues with victim's credibility, so sort of victim blaming victim shaming maybe. You know I don't even know what their thought process is there. But that's not going to cut it anymore. I think what you heard the Southern District saying there's these victims are victims, let's call them what they are regardless of - whatever was going on in their lives. They were exactly clearly vulnerable to abuse and let's call it for what it is.
BOLDUAN: You noted the judge that is assigned to this case.
BOLDUAN: What do you know about him?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Judge Berman no relation to the U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman. I've had cases in front of him. I've tried cases in front of me. He's very fair. He will give the defendant a fair trial.
He has a very good, sort of, meter for right and wrong, simply put and he's a tough sentencer. He doesn't mess around. He's not interested in sob stories if you commit horrific acts like Epstein allegedly has. You are in for a world of hurt.
BOLDUAN: Brian, just kind of your final thought as we're looking at this. I mean this is the beginning of a very long legal process. But the fallout here, I feel like could reach - it could reach much further.
STELTER: And those two words that were mentioned in the press conference "Willful Blindness", who did turn a blind eye and why?
[11:35:00] And how different is the world now than it was in the mid- 2000s?
BOLDUAN: It's not like I'm talking about 1950.
STELTER: That's absolutely right. This is something that was happening a decade ago - somebody was having a little bit more than a decade ago when this man--
BOLDUAN: 2008 when Barack Obama became President. This was not - we know - when we weren't - not an evolved society.
STELTER: That's right.
BOLDUAN: I just think this--
STELTER: I would like to say that in this MeeToo generation that something has changed.
BOLDUAN: That's exactly right.
STELTER: That's something is evolving. But it's not as if we didn't know these things were crimes a decade ago. There are a lot of people who need to answer for this, and hopefully they will. Hopefully, they are not going to hide in the shadows anymore when it comes to this case.
BOLDUAN: Do you really think, though you said "it shocked and shock me". But I always value your perspective Elie when you think - that you think it is impossible that the Labor Secretary could survive something like this. Do you - what kind of answers does he need to provide now?
HONIG: Look, I think Congress needs to look deeper into this plea agreement. I just think there is no way he can defend it. We've seen the clips of him at his confirmation trying to defend it and it is so weak and it doesn't stand up to any scrutiny.
BOLDUAN: Have you seen anyone who said that this - this is - whatever - non-prosecution agreement made sense?
BOLDUAN: Have you met anyone--
POLISI: The Justice Department.
POLISI: They've defended it.
HONIG: Yes. I mean it completely trampled the rights of the victims. Even the detail of the plea agreement that they immunized the co- conspirators around Epstein, that is - I have never heard of that. That's not a thing that doesn't exist.
Why are you covering up for the co-conspirators of the person you're dealing with? There are some serious questions here. I don't think he has good answers and Congress really needs to dig in, unless he resigns. But this is a stubborn administration. I think he's going to have to be forced out.
BOLDUAN: Unbelievable. All right. Much more to come here. Number one, I'm very thankful for investigative journalists today - very thankful.
Guys, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for helping us walk through that in an amazing morning that we've already been witnessing.
But still ahead for us the President is not backing down from his battle to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. How Attorney General Bill Barr is helping him keep up this fight. That's ahead. Stay with us.
[11:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOLDUAN: Is Attorney General Bill Barr trying to bail out President Trump, inserting himself right in the middle of Trump's fight over the 2020 census. This weekend the Justice Department announced that they are switching up the legal team handling the President's fight, bringing in a whole new group of attorneys.
This is after last week's major setback when the Supreme Court rejected the administration's reasoning behind wanting to add a citizenship question to the survey. And as we have seen as of last week, the President is not backing down saying this just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're spending 15 to $20 billion on a census. They are asking everything expect are you a citizen of the United States. How ridiculous is that? So, we are moving forward. We have a couple of avenues. We can do a memorandum, we can do an executive order. We're looking at different things. But there are other alternatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But are there. Joining me right now is a former Secretary of Commerce Larry Locke - Gary Locke. He oversaw the 2010 Census. He's also the former Governor of Washington State. Has been appointed by Washington's current Governor Jay Inslee to monitor how the 2020 census in his home state is being conducted.
Secretary, thank you for being here.
GARY LOCKE, HEADED 2010 CENSUS FOR OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: You have you have ran and directed a census before - the 2010 census. If you were in the middle of printing the survey, which is happening now, in the midst of a legal battle over adding a question and the Government's legal team arguing this in court is taken off the case. What do you think is going on?
LOCKE: Well, just mass confusion. And if I were in the Commerce Department right now I wouldn't know what to do. The Commerce Department, the Justice Department, the White House has said all along they needed to start printing it July 1. I'm hoping that they're telling the truth.
But if you delay the printing of the census forms it will throw off the entire schedule of the census. And there are laws that require the results to be in by a certain time. And so the administration is going to miss that deadline and violate the law.
BOLDUAN: When you see that the legal team is being swapped out. Do you think that is in any way the Attorney General trying to help the President or as some have also suggested, do you think that is - I don't know, Justice Department attorneys on the case saying, "We can't argue this. We can't defend this".
LOCKE: Well, I think some of those lawyers are in a very difficult position having told the judge that the administration was going to accept the results of the Supreme Court, that they were giving up the fight, they had no legal reason by which they could somehow continue to fight the ruling and that the census would be printed.
For them to now go back into court and say, "Oh, sorry we made a mistake or we now have new instructions". Their credibility and their own integrity has been undermined. So I'm not surprised that they're putting in a new legal team.
BOLDUAN: The President list has listed out options a couple of times what he says he thinks is still available for them - an addendum to the census or an executive order. What do you think of those options?
LOCKE: Well I don't know exactly what an addendum would be.
[11:45:00] Are we sending two forms? Two pieces of paper or two forms in the house? Will they get lost? I mean - or is it a second mailing that's going to go out. That's very, very hard to understand.
But the most important thing is that having it included in the census - 2020 census that all households receive is completely unnecessary. We've not had the citizenship question that for all households since 1950.
The Commerce Department sends out different surveys every single year in which they ask the citizenship question along with questions like, "Where did you go to college?" "Did you graduate from college?" "Do you own a home?" "Do you rent?" "What's your commute time?"
A huge questionnaire that goes out to about 3 million households, which really gets you out about - gets you to almost 9 million people answering it or covering 9 million people in America. And it's about all the information that helps determine the profile of America.
So having the citizenship question, for whatever reason the administration wants, is not necessary to be included in the 2020 census. They get that information by other means without impacting the quality or the accuracy of the 2020 census.
BOLDUAN: And secretary that is important, because that is not what the President is saying. He has said multiple times now and he made it - he - I would say the clearest case yet he made last week saying basically, if we are spending $20 billion to - and the way he put it is, find out everything about everybody with the census. Why wouldn't you ask the question "Are you a citizen?" And you say that's wrong.
LOCKE: We asked the question in a different type of survey. That is very, very accurate and the census or the Commerce Department's own census people say that if you include this in the 2020 census people are going to be so afraid to answer it, you're going to actually have an in accurate count.
And so if you're really looking for accuracy, including this question on the 2020 census going out to every household, is the wrong way to go. So if I really want accuracy there are other ways to do it.
BOLDUAN: Well, secretary, governor, ambassador, you've got a long resume. You've been around politics a very long time. At the end of the day then do you think this is more about asking the question about citizenship or do you think this is just about a fight over which the President thinks is beneficial to him?
LOCKE: Well his own advisers and people who are close to the campaign as he came into office were urging the administration to include this on the 2020 census - the citizenship question with the express purpose of suppressing response and reducing the number of Hispanics that would respond and people primarily in the urban districts - urban parts of the country, so that they would not respond. And that would definitely benefit Republicans. So there was a clear political motive for doing so.
The second thing is that some people want this question so that they can actually draw congressional boundaries based on the number of citizens, not the total number of people living in that community.
Some even argue, and some of the Republicans have been saying, that the congressional districts and districts for state legislatures should be based only on the number of voting age U.S. citizens.
And the president has even said, "Well why shouldn't we know how many illegals are in the country?" The citizenship question, first of all, doesn't distinguish between legal or illegal. In fact, there are more non U.S. citizens who are eligible to be citizens. They are permanent residents, their Green Cardholders they've been living here for 20, 30 years. They far outnumber the illegal non-citizens that are here.
And so, having a citizenship question does not actually get you the answer as to how many illegal people are here illegally. Second of all, it makes an accurate count and that is contrary to what the census is all - have been all about since 1790 when George Washington--
BOLDUAN: 1790 when it began--
LOCKE: --asked the question.
LOCKE: That's right.
BOLDUAN: And forever one - for everyone, this coming from the man who ran the last census in 2010, just so we're all clear. Secretary, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate your perspective.
LOCKE: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. From apologize for what to I'm sorry. Joe Biden apologizes for his comments about working with segregationists in the Senate in the past. Is this the end of the issue?
[11:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BOLDUAN: The question this morning is it ever too late to say I'm sorry. For weeks Joe Biden has been facing criticism from his Democratic rivals about his comments that he's made about working with segregationists in the Senate in years past - decades past. This weekend at a campaign event in South Carolina he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Was I wrong a few weeks ago to
somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was. I regret it and I'm sorry for any of the pain or misconception I may have caused anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Heard the applause there. So why now? Joining me now is CNN's Arlette Saenz who is following the Biden campaign. Arlette, what are you hearing? Why now? Why is Biden saying that this weekend?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Kate this apology was about three weeks in the making. And yesterday I had the chance to ask the former Vice President what changed and why he had waited three weeks to make this apology. Listen to what he had to tell me in Charleston yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: If any comments I made were taken in a way that people took offense from them, then I am truly sorry for that. This is about the future. It's not about the past. And I'm proud of my past.
Have I made mistakes? Yes. Do we grow? Yes. But the fact of the matter is that's why I chose here in South Carolina and chose an audience that in fact is - would be the most likely to have been offended by anything that was said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: So Biden's apology came before a group of mostly black voters, but it's also worth noting that Biden had been in South Carolina just a few days after he had initially made those comments.
Now Corey Booker is one of those who had criticized him calling on him to apologize. He said that he was hurt by those initial comments, but he's grateful that the former Vice President has now said I'm sorry.
Kamala Harris also said she was hurt by those comments and she stopped short of fully accepting the former Vice President's apology saying that he can't rewrite history and also pointing out that they still have some major differences.
Biden was asked about that yesterday. He said they do have differences between him and Kamala Harris, he said on health care. So it's clear that Biden is ready to turn the page from this and also willing to make some distinct differences between himself and colleagues - opponents like Kamala Harris. Kate.
BOLDUAN: Arlette, thank you so much. Let's see where the campaign trail takes us next. I really appreciate it.
And also this important note for all of you, don't miss the next Democratic debate is happening in just three weeks. July 30th and 31st CNN will be broadcasting those live from Detroit. You'll see it right here on CNN, also will be broadcast all around the world.
Debates will be hosted by CNN's Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper. 20 candidates vying for the White House will be able to participate with 10 taking the stage each night to face off against each other, answer questions from our moderators, of course.
Before that CNN will also be conducting a drawing to determine which night each candidate will be appearing. The drawing will happen and we'll air live on Thursday, July 18th in the 8:00 hour right here on CNN.
[11:55:00] It's something that has definitely not been done and it's very exciting that CNN is doing this. They're going to draw - we're going to see the drawing live on what night each candidate will be placed and we will really be airing that for full transparency so everyone will get to see it all for themselves. We'll be right back.