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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Rep. Eric Swalwell Drops Out of 2020 Race for President; Huge Fund-Raising Numbers For Elizabeth Warren; Jeffrey Epstein Indicted on Sex Trafficking Charges. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired July 8, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York.
Let's go to Washington.
"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, how many powerful men out there are right now really nervous because Jeffrey Epstein has been arrested and charged?
THE LEAD starts right now.
He has rubbed elbows with the likes of President Trump and President Clinton and Prince Andrew. And, today, the feds charge the multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein with running a network for the rape of underage girls.
And then there were 23. The Democratic field is about to start shrinking this hour, as another candidate shows she is not going anywhere with a powerful fund-raising haul.
Plus, friendly fire. The president hitting back after the British ambassador is caught privately trashing Trump. Is the special relationship on shaky ground?
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We begin with the national lead and a day of reckoning for a wealthy, well-connected alleged child predator. Jeffrey Epstein today pleading not guilty after federal prosecutors in New York revealed many disturbing details of how the politically connected multimillionaire operated a sex trafficking ring and sexual abused dozens of underage girls.
Among the evidence presented in court today, the discovery in a safe in Epstein's Upper East Side mansion of C.D.s containing -- quote -- "nude or partially nude" photographs that appear to be of underage girls with handwritten labels describing the C.D.s' contents as young name, plus name, or girl pics nude.
Say the prosecutors of Epstein: "He is not reformed, chastened or repentant. He is a continuing danger to the community."
The general accusations that the multimillionaire has preyed against girls have swirled around Epstein for years, though, he has avoided any serious punishment. Epstein previously avoided similar charges by securing a secret deal for a much lesser offense with prosecutors back in Florida in 2008, led by then U.S. attorney, now U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
"The Miami Herald" last year detailed how Acosta gave Epstein what they call the -- quote -- "deal of a lifetime," allowing the man connected to both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton to avoid spending the rest of his life in jail for years of preying on vulnerable girls, some allegedly as young as 14, while allegedly getting them to recruit other girls.
All the while, he allegedly traffic the victims for the purposes of rape, sexual abuse by him and others, according to his accusers.
But, as CNN's Brynn Gingras reports now, Epstein is now facing the very justice that he has eluded for decades.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, a registered sex offender, in court for the first time this afternoon, wearing a navy prison jumpsuit and pleading not guilty to two sex trafficking charges.
The U.S. attorney in New York saying, from 2002 to 2005, Epstein ran a sex trafficking enterprise, luring dozens of girls, some as young as 14, to his New York City and Palm Beach, Florida, homes. He would pay them hundreds of dollars to give him massages, and then the physical contact would escalate into sex acts, according to the 14-page indictment.
Epstein would allegedly pay even more money for the girls to recruit other possible victims.
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: This allowed Epstein to create an ever-expanding web of new victims. As alleged, Epstein was well aware that many of his victims were minors.
GINGRAS: Authorities also say FBI agents found pictures of young- looking girls in Epstein's Manhattan mansion, using the worth of that home and Epstein's overall wealth as an argument to keep him behind bars.
BERMAN: When you have two planes, and you live much of the year abroad, we think that's a very real risk.
GINGRAS: The 66-year-old made his money on Wall Street. For decades, Epstein handled investments for former high-profile clients like Leslie Wexner, who owns Victoria's Secret. His Rolodex of friends also includes Britain's Prince Andrew, former President Bill Clinton, and President Donald Trump, who in 2002 told "New York Magazine" this about Epstein. "I have known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to
be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."
And that's not Epstein's only connection with the current White House. Epstein invaded federal sex charges more than a decade ago, similar to the ones he faces now. The U.S. attorney in Florida back then was Alexander Acosta, Trump's current labor secretary.
Acosta cut Epstein a plea deal on lesser state charges, which sent him to prison for only a little more than a year and he registered as a sex offender.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really don't know too much about it. I know he's done a great job as labor secretary. And that seems like a long time ago, but I know he's been a fantastic labor secretary.
GINGRAS: Epstein's lawyers calling the new charges a -- quote -- "do- over of the Florida investigation," which is now being looked into by the Justice Department.
Berman said the agreement made in Florida has no bearing on the new charges.
BERMAN: That agreement only binds -- by its terms only binds the Southern District of Florida. The Southern District of New York is not bound by that agreement and is not a signatory to that agreement.
GINGRAS: And Epstein will remain behind bars, at least until his bail hearing scheduled for next week.
And when U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman mentioned this case, he mentioned the victims. He said they deserve their day in court. Well, Jake, I can tell you that the U.S. attorney's office says in the last 36 hours they fielded even more calls from potential victims and attorney -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.
Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams.
Elliot, you heard the defense attorneys for Epstein calling this indictment a "do-over" of the "very stuff that was investigated by the feds in Florida."
So explain. Is there a double jeopardy issue here? How can the Southern District of New York charge Epstein if he reached a non- prosecution deal with different federal prosecutors in Florida?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, the New York prosecutors were very -- if you read the indictment carefully, they were very careful in the facts they alleged.
They laid out conduct that happened in New York, and they charged sex trafficking there, and a conspiracy that touched conduct in Florida, which will pull in evidence of the past conduct. So they were actually very careful in trying to insulate themselves against this very charge.
You could have anticipated that they would have made this do-over argument, but it's actually quite a weak one, because prosecutor's offices when they strike these agreements quite often make clear that future or other prosecutor's offices can still bring other charges. They don't preclude other offices from doing so.
TAPPER: So this is a man accused of horrible, unconscionable crimes against dozens of young girls.
Are you surprised that this specific case is as of now just one charge of trafficking and one charge of conspiracy to traffic?
WILLIAMS: Well, again, future charges can be brought.
We know that there were photographs and other evidence seized today. We also don't know what else was found in his house today. Certainly, the prosecutors and the FBI knew that they had probable cause where there was actionable evidence in his house.
So who knows what comes of that? Often, that initial indictment is just one charge. And I want to be clear. This is one charge. If it's those -- frankly, the two charges, which carries I think up to a 45-year maximum.
So he could potentially still be looking at a tremendous amount of time in prison. But, again, more charges could still be added, more people could still be charged. So we will just have to wait and see what else comes from that search warrant.
TAPPER: Well, the FBI, as you noted, they urged any other potential victims to call them. The U.S. attorney's office say they have been contacted by people who allegedly have been victims of Epstein just in the last day-and-a-half or so.
Is that common to announce charges like this and then ask for the public's help and then you build even more charges?
WILLIAMS: It's -- this isn't a very common case. You just don't see circumstances where someone -- where the conduct is so egregious, but the deal is so sweetheart, which sort of seems to stem from his high- profile status in society or whatever.
So that's not very common. But, again, this case isn't very common. So, again, we will just have to see how it plays out.
TAPPER: All right, Elliot, thank you so much.
Let's chew over all this with our panel right here. Now, "The New York Times" has reported that Bill Clinton rode on
Epstein's plane dozens of times and reportedly visited Epstein's private island.
Christine Pelosi, one of the daughters of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Pelosi, tweeted -- quote -- "It is quite likely that some of our faves are implicated." She urged people to support the case no matter where it goes.
Is there a serious concern that there will be politicians whose names we know that will emerge in this case?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, in Bill Clinton's case, it's already emerged, because he's on the flight manifest, the actual written flight manifest that came out a few years ago.
So his role -- we don't know what the role was, but it absolutely is possible. And, as Christine Pelosi said, this isn't one of these things. It's important not to take political sides on this. These are young girls who were essentially thrown away by Florida prosecutors or federal prosecutors a couple years ago when they gave him that sweetheart deal.
TAPPER: Do you think Acosta is in trouble?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It's hard to tell. The president seems to still show support for him. We have heard the president. We asked him a couple questions yesterday on the tarmac in New Jersey about this, and he basically is taking a hands-off approach, saying, I know nothing about this. This was a long time ago.
But when it comes to members of Congress and people who have the power to sort of investigate this and show some oversight, it does seem like Acosta will be on the hot seat, because his role in this case almost a decade ago looks much worse now that we have new federal prosecutors coming in behind him and seeming to kind of clean up after him and doing what he was not able to do in Florida.
And the conduct that is described in these indictments is pretty outrageous. And it's some of the same conduct that Mr. Acosta was dealing with back in 2008. So he's going to be under a lot of pressure from Congress on this front.
TAPPER: And, of course, there's the horrible quote from -- in retrospect, the horrible quote from Donald Trump back in 2002, saying that Epstein likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.
Of course, he said that in 2002, before there were any charges known.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: But it suggests that he knows something is kind of sketchy about him. So, I mean, maybe he could say he didn't know that they were quite this young. But I don't know what he was referencing.
I will leave it to him to tell us what he was referencing in that quote. And it's the same thing with Bill Clinton. I think Bill Clinton will probably come back and say, well, I had no idea. I was just friends with him and I just flew on a plane with him 12 times.
And I think....
POWERS: Was it 26 times? OK, yes, so 26 times.
So it's a little unbelievable, and that you wouldn't be aware of this. And I think it's something that was -- I wouldn't call it open secret. But certainly there was a lot of questions around Jeffrey Epstein and what he was doing.
And so I think that -- and you certainly know that there was a case against him at one point. Wouldn't that raise some questions? Wouldn't you want to ask some questions about it?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I'm learning slowly, just when I think that politics can't get any more cartoonishly disgusting, to just up the ante a little bit, just expect that it will get worse.
But, look, there is a political element to this, which is that, yes, for years, it was somewhat -- this plea deal was something of an outrage on the right and sort of on in the online community because of this connection to Bill Clinton.
And now that it's emerged that Acosta -- or we knew it was the Acosta at the time, but because he's now tied to the Trump administration, it will be interesting to see who flips, as Christine Pelosi suggests we should not -- and we shouldn't -- flips their allegiances and who they think should get in trouble over this, because now that he has some connection to Trump, but it's just mind-blowing.
TAPPER: I'm sure we all agree. Get them all. Doesn't matter. If they did something wrong, Democrat, Republican, whatever, vegetarian, get them all.
TAPPER: Then there were 23. Changes under way in the 2020 Democratic field, as one candidate drops out and another one is touting a big new fund-raising haul.
Plus, a live look at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, where the U.S. women's World Cup champions are due back any moment. We will show that to you.
Stay with us.
[16:16:33] TAPPER: We're following two breaking political stories in our 2020 lead.
Just moments ago, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California became the first Democratic presidential candidate to drop out of the race since it seriously began. He announced his White House bid exactly three months ago, but Swalwell failed to gain traction in a very crowded Democratic field. The last CNN national poll showed Swalwell supported less than 1 percent support. Swalwell addressed the end of his campaign just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Today ends our presidential campaign. But it is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress, with a new perspective shaped by the lives that have touched mine and our campaign throughout these last three months, to bring that promise of America to all Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The congressman also said he's not ready to make an endorsement in the 2020 race.
Also this afternoon, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced a huge fundraising haul, $19.1 million raised in the second quarter. That's more than Senator Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris raised in the same time period. But less than South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, or former Vice President Joe Biden.
Let's talk about it.
Toluse, let me start with you. Senator Warren's fundraising numbers, one of the things that's striking about it is that she has not been holding these big-dollar fundraisings and she talks a lot about them on the campaign trail, and yet, she's out there with those who do.
OLORUNNIPA: Yes. She had a really good quarter, not just on the fundraising side, but also just sort of the energy. During the first quarter, there were a lot of people writing her off and saying that the whole Native America spat and the fact that she had built a huge campaign in terms of hiring a bunch of staff and not really being able to raise a lot of money. She started out putting out these plans and having her slogan "I've got a plan for that", and it really seemed to caught fire.
And now, we're seeing that it's caught fire among the small donor community as well. The average donation was about $28 and that is something that she could use to power her campaign for months to come because she could keep going back to that well, keep going back to those donors and asking for $25 here and $50 here, and it seems like she is really vaulting into the very top tier of the candidates that are out there.
KUCINICH: You know, it is also interesting, we haven't seen her go negative on the other candidates like we have -- like other candidates. I mean, she did benefit by being in the debate and being kind of the tallest person and the most well-known in the room. But while Kamala Harris clearly got a bump for going after Joe Biden, Warren seems to have just, by the merits of her argument, has attracted some of these small donors and built herself up without tearing anyone down. That said, it's early. It's totally going to happen but --
TAPPER: It's early, yes, but even when asked about Bernie Sanders who does seem to be her main competitor in the liberal lane, in the progressive lane, she has been: I love Bernie, he's great, I love traveling with him, blah, blah, blah. But she's really given him a run for the money. She exceeded him in fundraising this quarter and also in some polls.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, I mean, as you pointed out, because she's not taking money from major donors and isn't doing -- private events, that makes this all of the more meaningful because it's much easier if you are doing that. So, I think that it's -- it says a lot about where she is, I mean -- and I think she is obviously connecting with people through being very substantive and having policies and so, she's not taking the tack of I'll have that moment of getting in a fight with somebody, but she's showing people that I'm very substantive person and I thought about these issues a lot. And I think her campaign thinks in the long run that's going to help them.
But I think that voters also want to see, are you able to go up against somebody like Donald Trump, you know?
[16:20:03] And are you going to be able to, you know, get down and dirty with him, I guess, is what people are assuming is going to happen and they look at the situation where, you know, where the Pocahontas thing and feel like she got pulled into that.
POWERS: So, it doesn't mean -- I mean, it's obviously something she can overcome but I think those are sort of the things that she has to deal with.
TAPPER: Yes, I mean, I think it's fair to say these are the salad days for Elizabeth Warren. It's only going to get tougher for her, especially if she becomes the nominee.
HAM: Yes. I mean, she's not my ideological cup of tea but in the debate she looked in command and looked the part and people I think are looking for a fresher version of Bernie. Like some of the same policies but looking more modern, shall we say?
But on the Swalwell point, I will say some of the guys who are on the lower ends, they're trying to sort of make boutique campaigns. Governor Inslee has done an effective job on climate change. Swalwell sort of attempted to on guns but didn't go all in and I think if you don't do that on one of these ends of the spectrum, you're not going to -- you're not going to get much play. I'm enjoying the idea of all of the guys shopping around their endorsements with all of the clout of Jonah Ryan, right?
TAPPER: I love it.
HAM: I'll think about it.
TAPPER: Do you think others are going to be coming on his heels, other withdrawals from the race?
POWERS: I think others should be coming on his heels but I don't know if they will. I mean, it obviously was a good decision for him to drop out. I think that the field needs to narrow down. It needs to be, you know, people who are actually serious candidates.
And so, I think, you know, we'll see. I think we'll see what happens with the next debate probably. I think after that we'll see people out.
KUCINICH: Being in the debates is a big deal.
KUCINICH: I mean, and you can't -- if your not going to make the debate into the second one and the third one, it's kind of time.
TAPPER: You know, the interesting thing is this new poll from ABC News/"Washington Post" shows how top 2020 Democrats would fair against President Trump if the general election were held today. Again, it's early. This is a national poll, et cetera, et cetera.
But that said, Joe Biden still has the clear head-to-head match-up advantage against President Trump versus all of the other candidates and one of the main reasons is he beats Trump with moderates and other Democrats don't.
OLURUNNIPA: That's the reason he's the front-runner right now. It's not that he's had a great performance on the campaign trailer. It's not that he's been able to not have gaffes as he has had in the past. But people believe him to be the best option they have for beating Trump.
So, that's one of the things that other candidates are trying to chip away at, sort of chip away at his invincibility against Trump but right now, the polls show that he is sort of strong in that position. It is early but the polls show him very far ahead of Trump in the head-to-head match-up. And as long as he could take that to voters, take that to moderates and say, listen, we could beat President Trump. We're not going to go too far to the left, he's going to continue to have a good calling card for victory and I think other candidates are going to try to take that on.
TAPPER: Senator Kamala Harris is back on the campaign trail and she's courting South Carolina voters this afternoon hoping to capitalize on her post-debate momentum, but as Kyung Lah now reports, the senator faces some criticism that she's struggling to explain to voters what exactly she stands for.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kamala Harris on a campaign swing through South Carolina.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And this is a fight we will win.
LAH: Seeking to sustain her post-debate momentum after her break-out moment taking on front-runner Joe Biden for his position on school busing and seemingly nostalgic comments about his work with segregationist senators.
HARRIS: I was actually very -- it was hurtful.
LAH: This weekend, after three weeks of pressure, Biden relented and addressed those comments.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I regret it. I'm sorry for any of the pain or misconception I may have caused anybody.
HARRIS: Well, he says he's sorry. I'm going to take him at his word.
LAH: Hardly a clear victory, though, as Harris was pressed in the aftermath of the first debate to explain her own position on federally mandated busing.
HARRIS: Busing is a tool. Among many that should be considered when we address the issue --
LAH: Those comments appeared to be at odds with her stance in the debate in which she seemed to suggest federally mandated busing was needed in the 1970s, leading her to clarify the next day that she does not support such a mandate in 2019.
HARRIS: I've been very clear where I stand on busing. There is no ambiguity whatsoever.
LAH: Harris also had to clarify on health care.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?
LAH: Changing her answer the next day, saying she misinterpreted the question.
HARRIS: So the question was would you be willing to give up your private insurance --
INTERVIEWER: That is not how it was asked. That is what you heard, right?
HARRIS: OK, that is certainly what I heard. And in terms of -- I'm supportive of Medicare-for-all.
LAH: Biden pointing to the differences on health care to open a new line of attack on Harris.
BIDEN: I believe what we should do, we have to improve Obamacare and add a public option, not throw it out.
[16:25:03] A number of the folks that I'm running want to get rid of it.
LAH: For some South Carolina voters, Harris' approach is not a deal- breaker. Yet.
(on camera): Does that clarify? Does that hurt her in your eyes?
KANDACE BETHEA, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I do hope as we continue to move forward, it would be less of having to clarify.
LAH: Harris has not brought up Biden unless she's asked by reporters on the trail. Reporters have also asked her about her second quarter fundraising number that is under $12 million. She said of that, Jake, quote, steady as she goes -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah with the Kamala Harris campaign in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Thanks so much.
The next Democratic presidential primary debate is right here on CNN, on July 30th and 31st. My colleagues Dana Bash and Don Lemon will be joining me live in Detroit, Michigan. We'll be moderating both nights.
Coming up, President Trump now said he will not work with the representative of one of America's closest allies. That escalated quickly.
Plus, a live look at Newark Airport in New Jersey where the red carpet is out for the U.S. women's soccer team. They're touching down soon after the World Cup win.
Stay with us.