Return to Transcripts main page
An Angry President Governing By Tweet, Throwing His Own Administration Into Confusion; Epstein Indictment Raises New Questions; POTUS Admits Detention Centers Are Crowded; President Retweets Fake Reagan Quote; White House Dis-inviting Kim Darroch To Dinner; Joe Biden Sitting Down With CNN. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired July 8, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[22:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: It would be a great thing for this president, the team, women and the country. Simple argument, that's it. Thanks for watching. "CNN TONIGHT," we've got D. Lemon right now.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Why do you start -- why are you trying cause trouble already? I just got back from vacation and you're trying to cause trouble saying the president should invite them to the White House. You know what's going on.
CUOMO: What's going on?
LEMON: He is fighting with -- he is fighting with Rapinoe.
CUOMO: Get over it. That's my argument.
LEMON: I'm not going to the White House.
CUOMO: Get over it. Surrender the me to the we. If she doesn't want to come she doesn't have to come. This is America. She scored a hell of a goal on that game, our first goal. But bring them and then he should go and say, hey U.S. soccer you don't want to get on my bad side. Pay these women what they're worth. What a big win for him. What a win for everybody.
LEMON: Oh, Chris. That's so quaint. You're so positive about it.
CUOMO: You know, you are really something. You come off a weekend where everybody is loving up on you. You got your family around. Your mom will overtly says I'm better looking than you are.
LEMON: She did not say that.
CUOMO: And now you go right back into the hole.
LEMON: She did not say that. She did not say that.
CUOMO: She did say it.
LEMON: She did not.
CUOMO: She said it at me. LEMON: Can we get back to soccer?
CUOMO: Why all the hate?
LEMON: I'm not hating.
CUOMO: Oh, you're hating, you're hating on my whole argument.
LEMON: I'm not hating, I'm just saying that you, you know, you're being quaint. You are like, listen, just it would be great. But do you think, I mean, you know, you're a little bit naive. It would be great if he did that, but you know he is not going to do it.
CUOMO: I do not know that he's not going to do.
LEMON: OK. Maybe he will. Maybe he'll invite them and they all sing Kumbaya in the West Wing.
CUOMO: No, no, no. What if he invites them and some don't come. And he says, you know what, I don't care. You don't have to come. I'm very happy for the team.
LEMON: Well, that's fine. I think that's fine.
CUOMO: And I say to U.S. soccer, pay them equally. They deserve it. They are our best.
LEMON: OK. So, you're going to -- so you may think people at home are going to say wow, oh my gosh, I think if he has a right to be upset. If someone said that. Like, I'm going to the -- you know what -- White House. He has the right to be upset and if someone said that about me. I'm not sure I would invite them into the place that I was living.
CUOMO: You're not the president.
LEMON: I know.
CUOMO: Not yet.
LEMON: I'm just saying, I'm saying what I would do. Not yet.
CUOMO: What I'm saying is, but he has a stewardship of the whole country.
LEMON: You're right.
CUOMO: And he is played this out before and he sees how it plays with the media. This time it could be different. I know I don't like what they said about me, but the team won, congratulations. Come. Get a little behind the scenes. Make sure that most of them are going to be there. That is not the story. And then even if it were going to be the story, you steal the story by saying, hey, U.S. soccer --
LEMON: Pay them.
CUOMO: -- make this right.
LEMON: OK, so, I want to talk about the equity. What do you think? Listen, there's a lot of school of thought on equity in general with pay and then also gender equity when it comes to pay. Now, listen, we had been talking about Megan Rapinoe. She is one hell of a player. There are a number of ladies on that team who are -- but everybody on the team plays as well as everybody on the team. Does everybody on the team get the same amount of money?
CUOMO: Well, they have different performance bonuses. Here's the big sticking point. And I don't like this sticking point, because I believe it's a distraction of the cultural bias that's at play. Their collective bargaining deal is different than the men.
CUOMO: The men are all bonus related. The women have a base, salary. And the legal arguments are that, hey, look, blame your union. All right, this is about what's going on there.
LEMON: Part of the negotiation with their attorneys too.
CUOMO: A little bit. But here's the thing, but there is a culture of bias.
CUOMO: It is so hard to show that U.S. Women's soccer is so much less valuable than the men's soccer. That at least in the world cup sphere, that they should be paid as little as they are.
LEMON: Well, I say this, maybe you have the argument a couple years ago. You certainly don't have it now with the performance of these women. Listen, I even said -- we postponed our trip to hang out yesterday to watch this, to watch this game.
CUOMO: The whole country was watching. The ratings were huge and rightly so. So dramatic, so well played. And I love their swagger and their edge. But here's the thing, it's a culture. Women don't get paid what men do, because they haven't been valued the same way. And it's great to see this. And even though they're close, right? Some of the estimates put them in about 90 cents on the dollar. Why aren't they 100 percent on the dollar?
LEMON: Same thing happens it's not just gender too. It's also race.
CUOMO: Right, and you can't have that weird counter argument that we used these days which is, well, you know a lot of women make different choices when it comes to work. They stay home. A lot of them want to work less hours. There is a culture of discrimination. It's a great opportunity to expose it.
LEMON: I will gladly stay home if you would pay my bills.
CUOMO: I would pay to keep you off television.
LEMON: I got to go. I have seen enough of you all last week and then tonight.
CUOMO: Never enough for me.
LEMON: I'll see you. Thank you, by the way, you were very kind yesterday. I have to tell you, this is such a good man. Our families were out hanging out yesterday.
[22:05:00] They were on Chris's boat and my brother-in-law had a medical emergency. And nobody was better to him than Chris. Made sure he got to the hospital, he is still there. He's having test, but you were fantastic, you and Christina and everyone, so thank you, I love you.
CUOMO: I was happy to be there with everybody and I hope he is well.
LEMON: I will update you. See you, thank you.
This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon and it is good to be back. So let's talk about the White House, a White House with an angry president governing by tweet and throwing his own administration into confusion.
So let's begin with the reaction to leaked diplomatic cables from the British ambassador to the U.S. who called the president and this is a quote, inept, insecure and incompetent. Well, diplomatic cables obviously is supposed to be private, perhaps, you can't blame the president for being offended.
But the president launched a very public Twitter tirade. Insisting the ambassador is not liked or well thought of in the U.S. and saying we will no longer deal with him. Well, and tonight the ambassador to no one's surprise disinvited from the White House dinner for the Emir of Qatar special relationship indeed.
Then there's the Justice Department. Tying itself up into knots trying to come up with a rational for putting a citizenship question on the 2020 census. After the president tweeted of course, he tweeted, right. He was absolutely moving forward with the question even though the Supreme Court ruled against him. Now the entire legal team that was representing the administration just last week is being replaced.
A source telling CNN they would have been in an awkward position of having to contradict themselves in court to get the president what he wants. Attorney General William Barr who from the beginning has been on message to his audience of one. Insisting that he'll have a path way for putting the question on the census in a day or two. So stay tuned. But let's not forget. What this whole thing is about.
The census determines a size of each state's congressional delegation. Are you listening to me? The census determines the size of each state's congressional delegation. How many votes it has in the Electoral College? Are you following me? How the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars. So the question designed to exclude non-citizens is a very big deal, the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the president's nemesis saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: This is about keeping -- you know make America -- the hat. Make America white again. They want to make sure that people certain people are counted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: She didn't hold back there. There's also the president's Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, in the hot seat tonight. Critics calling for him to resign over his past involvement as then U.S. Attorney in Florida in giving a sweetheart deal to a multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Yes, the same Jeffrey Epstein who today was charged in the Southern District of New York with operating a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls. He is accused of doing that.
Epstein was able to evade similar charges in Florida that was more than a decade ago when Acosta gave him a non-prosecution deal allowing him to plead guilty to two lesser charges. And serve just 13 months in prison. And now that deal, well, it may be coming back to haunt Acosta. And did you hear the president speech today on of all things his record on the environment?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: From day one my administration has made it a top priority to ensure that America has among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet. We want the cleanest air. We want crystal clean water. And that is what we're doing. And that is what we're working on so hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So this from the president who withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord as the planet grapples with a climate emergency. The fact is, as we say around here, facts first. The past four years have been the hottest on record. And the global average sea level has already risen seven to eight inches. There's also the massive humanitarian crisis that's happening at our Southern Border.
Homeland Security's own internal watchdog released photos of what they call dangerous overcrowding and called on the government to do something about it, to do something. President admitting that detention centers are crowded, which doesn't even begin to tell you the full story and playing politics by trying to blame Democrats for the results of his own policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We told them that these detention centers are really full and they've got to change that they have to change the loopholes and they have to asylum. They have to change the immigration laws. We can do it quickly, but we have no votes to do it because the Democrats won't vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee attempted to visit to Texas detention centers today and was turned away, but was invited to reschedule. She said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX), HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: This is a natural and manmade disaster. This is a disaster brought on by the president's irresponsible, inhumane policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: But, and this is a surprise, the president was really, really hot under the collar this weekend about his old friends at Fox News, the president tweeting this. He said Fox News is changing fast, that they forgot the people who got them there. Apparently the network has relied on to -- he's relied on to be a megaphone to his base is not being sufficiently supportive. And speaking of playing to his base, there's this.
The president retweeting what reports to be a quote from Ronald Reagan predicting a Trump presidency and if it sounded too good to be true. Well, that is because it's not true, the quote. For the life of me, I'll never know how to explain it. When I met that young man I felt like I was the one shaking his hand with the president.
The tweet was has been deleted. And the quote is fake. (Inaudible) rated it pants on fire. And the chief administrator officer for the Ronald Reagan presidential foundation and institute said of the 48th president quote, he did not ever say that about Donald Trump. So, is all this playing to the base? All this anger tweeting? A sign of the president is nervous about his chances in 2020? After all, nothing means more to this president than winning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know what, you want to know something? You want to know something? We always win. We always win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: It is no surprise that the president is looking over his shoulder. There are more than 20 Democrats vying for the chance to run against him. They'll go head to head in our two night CNN Democratic presidential debate. Dana Bash, Jake Tapper and I, will moderate this July 30th and 31st. It's live from Detroit. And odds are, the president will be watching. So, what's going on at the White House tonight? What's is the big picture here? That is the question for Susan Glasser, Max Boot, Michael D'Antonio, next.
[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Is the president on the defensive tonight or is he on offense? Sometimes it can be hard to tell. Let's discuss now. Susan Glasser is here, Max Boot as well, the author of "The Corrosion of Conservativism: Why I Left the Right." Michael D'Antonio, the author of "The Truth about Trump," joins us as well.
Good evening. So good to see you all of you. I missed you.
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: We missed you.
LEMON: I'm not going to lie, not really, but anyway, I kind a miss you guys. All right. Max, I'll start with you. The president is angry at Fox News of all places, of all -- I don't know. What do you want to call them, out fits? He is bar working overtime to get the citizenship question on the census. He is defending the border facilities and it's been really tough for that, the dust up with the U.K. ambassador. The big picture, why is he so defensive? Why is he so angry?
BOOT: Well, I think, Don, this is just kind of part of his persona. You know, he talks a lot about being a winner. He really has the mentality of a loser. He has the mentality of somebody who feels like he is always being picked upon.
Everything is unfair. I mean, remember a few weeks ago on he said that he has been treated worse than any president in U.S. history, including a number of presidents who were actually killed in office. OK, so, that is quite a statement. But that is his mentality.
And in some ways, I would say, that is actually kind of a secret of his success. Because even though he is a trust fund baby who inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from his father, incredibly lucky by any use of that term. He nevertheless has this feeling that, you know, he is an outer burrow guy and Manhattan was against him. Now, he is a New York guy, the rest of the country is against him.
The fake news media is planning against him. Democrats are planning against him. He doesn't seem to meddle it, he's actually the president of the United States, the most powerful person in the world. He still feels like a victim. And that's kind of what gives him an edge and drives him. And how he connects with his voters I would say, because they also have these feelings that the elites are against them and Trump is kind of channeling their anger.
LEMON: Listen. Michael, being, you know, he is kind of giving a different perspective when you step back and look at it. I just wondering how much of it, because it's so much of the same thing all the time, right. He goes back to the same old thing. The same play book. How much of this is performance art if it's all performance art, if he is really angry or if he is just playing to his base, and he's playing to what he thinks will keep him in power?
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm not sure he's had a genuine emotion in decades. This is a person who plans every response to every question, every situation. He is faking it most of the time. So this method that he has of being angry is really about his brand and his brand is about hatred, his brand is about resentment and he has a bit of a snow flake. He is always a victim.
I think that Max is right about that. But you also see in him this desire to be a tough guy to be kind of mean under any circumstance. And I take this back to the children who are asylum seekers. And who had been separated from their parents. Six of them have died.
There was a child, CNN had (inaudible), a few days ago, he is mean about them. You know, he is practically a presidential child abuser. And yet he keeps going, this hatred of his. For immigrants, for the judiciary, for members of his own administration. He thinks that hate sells. And in some ways he is right.
LEMON: Do you think he realize its hate? Or does he just think --
D'ANTONIO: I think he does. I think that this was planned out. This was his campaign in 2015. The announcement was a hate announcement. The whole campaign was hate motivates more than love. And in some circumstances it does.
[22:20:00] LEMON: Fear. And fear. Susan, I want bring you in. You have been sitting by patiently, because on the U.K. ambassador story. You know, here you have -- you've got an ambassador calling the president quote, inept, in the leaked diplomatic cables. And as I said, the president -- probably anybody would be mad if you -- if things supposed to be confidential and they get leaked. But it's embarrassing to the president, no doubt, he ended up disinviting the ambassador to a dinner, is that understandable?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, THE NEW YORKER: Well, look. I mean, you know, it seems like there's a lot of British political machination behind why these cables may had become public now. And it seems to be an effort by those pro-Brexiteers to appoint a more Trump friendly new ambassador here in Washington, which is something that Trump is cheerleading for.
Now remember, Donald Trump is actually aggressively intervened in British politics so the idea and commented on the competence of Theresa May and her administration, on the competence of the London mayor. So, it's not uncommon in international politics to moments like this. It's very unusual for a secret cable like this in the British foreign office to become public, but what did he say?
He said the kind of things that we're talking about. You can read them in Michael D'Antonio's book. You can read them in Max Boot's column. You can listen to Don Lemon at night and you can hear all these things. You know, the ambassador was essentially relating things that are on the front page of the newspaper.
And of course President Trump by essentially throwing him out via tweet, it may be the world's first known instance in fact of an ambassador being declared persona non grata via tweet. But he essentially proved the ambassador's point, that the president is an extremely insecure and thin skinned leader. I mean, you know, it's going to go down, I think is one of those
telling little moments. Was it inappropriate? Well, the British government is standing behind their ambassador and saying that he was merely doing his job, which is to provide unvarnished candid information to his colleague.
LEMON: Yes. I want to get these polls in. Because all of this is happening, Max. But his poll numbers are ticking up. Let's put them up here. He is now polling at 44 percent in the new "Washington Post" ABC News poll. That is up from 39 percent in April. Despite all of these chaos, the numbers are slightly up. Is this good news, I guess for the president? Are you surprised by this?
BOOT: Obviously good news for the president. It may be bad news for our democracy, but it's certainly good news for Trump. I mean, in a sense, yes, I am surprised, because let's remember this is coming after pretty conclusive evidence that he has obstructed justices after an accusation that he was guilty of rape. And none of this seems to really hinder him. And I think it basically comes down to as James Carter used to say, it's the economy, stupid.
It's the economy is kind of lifting up all boats including Donald Trump's poll numbers and so he is clearly benefiting from that. But I mean, the reality is, he still is not getting above 50 percent. He is the first president who is never getting above 50 percent in his first term. Even though the economy is going great and a lot of it -- that basically comes down to his own behavior, he's own crazy conduct, his crazy tweets.
If he would just stop tweeting, if he would just shut up, if he would just limit himself to teleprompter type speeches. His poll numbers would probably go up 10 points, but he just couldn't handle that psychologically, because he needs to psychological release of venting on the world and doing it every single day. Even though the picture that he presents to the public is of somebody who is not quite in his right mind, which is why his poll numbers, even when they are slightly up, are still well below where they should be given the economy.
LEMON: It's interesting, because you are not the first person I heard today say, if he just sat there and didn't say anything until the election he would probably would poll better and do better in the election. Rather than as you put it, venting because these are your words, psychologically he needs to vent.
Susan, I want to ask you about the president, he gave a speech on the environment today, touting his administration environmental leadership which is confusing because we have seen the roll back. I mean, he denies that there's a climate crisis. Why this speech and why now?
GLASSER: You know, Don, I'm glad you asked because I was very confused. You played the clip where he was talking about how we're working very, very hard to make clean.
LEMON: Everything clean.
GLASSER: Everything clean. We're working very, very hard. It didn't seem like the president was even really very sure of where he was going with this. Apparently, you know, I saw reporting in the papers this morning that even some key officials in his administration were unaware of the speech.
It does seems as though it's a political appeal to independence perhaps who are turned off by him. It's hardly likely to be convincing. This is an administration that is officially a climate change denying administration. And as gone to war to roll back environmental regulations along with a host of other kinds of regulations.
[22:25:07] So, I'm not really sure what the record there was. It's a very puzzling example of the lack of transparency in the Trump administration. This is exactly the kind of thing you would imagine would come up in great detail at a White House press briefing. There is a new White House press secretary. She already has established, I think, a new modern record of zero press briefings. And you know, again it's just -- it's completely mystifying to me.
LEMON: Michael, I'm going to ask you, did you see the president's big July Fourth celebration?
D'ANTONIO: I did catch a little bit of it. You know, he was obscured by the rain. That was on the screen in front of him, but he was there.
LEMON: He says he's going to bring it back next year. No surprise?
D'ANTONIO: Not a surprised, but I was really taken with the Russians kind of mocking him for it. It was a rather pathetic show, a few aircraft now and then. A couple of tanks parked beside him. When you think about the grand marshal displays that the Soviet Union was able to muster. That China, that the North Korea musters, it was nothing compared with those displays.
And I found myself wondering if the Pentagon wasn't kind of trolling him. It's like, you want tanks? Here's a couple little tanks you can put to the side. You want some aircraft? OK, here's a coast guard helicopter coming over head. It was him trying to stage a moment. I don't think he got what he wanted. Maybe that's why he's going to do it again. He needs it for his highlight reel.
LEMON: I was, you know, I always watch the celebrations and I think what's most impressive about what we do is the reserve and how we do it. You know, when we do the 21 gun salute or when we have the jets fly over while the national anthem is playing. It's always very moving to me. Rather than just stage craft for just being there. Thank you all. I appreciate it. Good seeing you. Good to be back.
We have a lot more on the president's feud with the British ambassador. I'm going to ask a top diplomat from the Clinton administration, what he thinks about the rift. That's next.
[22:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: The White House disinviting British Ambassador, Kim Darroch, from tonight's dinner with President Trump and the Emir of Qatar. This note comes after leaked diplomatic cables quoted the ambassador, describing Trump as inept and uniquely dysfunctional. That was earlier today. Well, earlier today, I should say, the president vowed his administration would no longer deal with the ambassador.
So let's discuss now with Jamie Rubin, who was Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton administration. Jamie, so good to see you, thank you for coming on this evening.
JAMIE RUBIN, POLITICO CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Happy to be here.
LEMON: A U.K. government spokesperson put out a statement, calling the leak unfortunate, but also expressing that prime minister's full support of the ambassador. I would just love to hear what you think about all of this as diplomat yourself.
RUBIN: Well, as an American diplomat, I was not in the government. But remember, the United States went through this process multiplied by about 100 in the Wikileaks case in 2010, when every single cable from each country around the world put out by our ambassadors was put out by Wikileaks. And the secretary of state had to spend, you know, the next two years apologizing.
And it does grave damage for people's ability to operate. And in the British case, I think it's probably less damaging to the relationship because the relationship isn't really great under President Trump and Theresa May. I mean imagine what an American diplomat would be writing about Theresa May over the last year and a half, who has had, you know, a terrible time, and has had to resign essentially.
And imagine what they would be writing about Boris Johnson, when he -- if he becomes prime minister, who has had a, you know, a series of episodes over the last several years. So it's the ambassador's job to be candid. I am not surprised by what he wrote. Because what he's reflecting is -- I would say the conventional wisdom in Washington about the Trump administration.
And since the British are not really as important to the United States as they have been in the past, I mean if you go back, you know, to George W. Bush and Tony Blair or Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Those big meetings were meaningful to the world's diplomacy. Britain has been busy Brexiting and really can't do anything else. And they can't even seem to do that.
And so their involvement in major issues around the world is far less, and Germany and France are picking up the slack.
LEMON: I want to read some of it. You know, he said he was inept and all that. These are some of Darroch's other observations, OK? He warns Trump could have been indebted to dodgy Russians, claims the president's economic policies could wreck the world trade system, voices fears that Trump could still attack Iran. Do you think these observations would be all that different from any other diplomat? RUBIN: Right now, I am sure there are several major ambassadors to
major countries in Washington who have written similar things, certainly about Iran, where the president ordered an airstrike and then stopped it before it took place, and reversed course. There are a lot of countries who believe that, you know one false step by the United States or Iran and we're going to be back into the use of force.
On world trade, let's remember, that the president came into office, this is his decision. He decided immediately to criticize the British ambassador, the one we're talking about, and say he would prefer to have Nigel Farage as the British Ambassador. And so, you know, it didn't start off all that well. And on trade, you know, traditionally the United States is imagined the British as a special longstanding ally, similar to the French.
But as President Trump has made clear, and the administration made clear, he has no permanent allies. He has transactions. Is this transaction good or bad? Is that transaction good or bad in the trade area primarily? And so I think Ambassador Darroch is correctly assessing the collapse of the free trading system that the United States used to advocate, lead, promote, and treasure.
[22:35:11] LEMON: Did you read anything in the leaks which struck you as way off base?
RUBIN: I think it would be fair to say that all of those sentiments are things that any Washington cocktail party, diplomatic dinner, Democrats, sitting around talking. Those are the kind of things that critics of the president would say.
LEMON: But even Republicans not in public, some.
RUBIN: More than just a few. But President Trump in most of the cases here that we're talking about free trade, versus the president's tariffs. The fact that he is treated European allies without a lot of presumed respect. I mean remember what happened with the German chancellor, the French president, and the British prime minister, as compared to, let's say, the Russian president or Chinese president, where President Trump goes out of his way to make things as nice personally as possible.
So he's made that decision for good or ill. And I think we shouldn't imagine that this is going to cause a collapse in U.S.-British diplomacy. One, because the president hasn't focused on it, and two, because Britain isn't the same ally that we used to think of four years ago, eight years ago, when we would be in a difficult spot, and the British were right there next to us and working with us hand in glove on diplomatic challenges around the world.
They just haven't been able to focus, because they're too busy trying to figure out if they can... (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: So no long term effect on British-U.S. relations?
RUBIN: I don't think so, because the real relationship, let's face it, is in intelligence community relationship, a military to military relationship. The fact that we speak the same languages, the business community, the western values that we share, and those are not permanently damaged by a bad relationship at the top.
If they were getting along great, as we may have with Boris Johnson. I mean imagine that. And imagine what American diplomats are going to write about Boris Johnson.
LEMON: Well, that's got to be the last word. And it's always a pleasure to have you on. Jamie Rubin, thank you so much.
RUBIN: You're very welcome.
LEMON: Thanks. A multimillionaire with friends in high places facing federal sex trafficking charges tonight, why he got a plea deal more than a decade ago, And who could be worried now.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: Federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York announcing criminal charges against multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein today, charging him with having operated a sex trafficking ring, in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, alleged that -- allegations that circulated around the politically-connected businessman for years. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lored sexual allegations again, against multimillionaire investment banker, Jeffrey Epstein, New York prosecutors looking for more.
GEOFFREY BERMAN, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK U.S. ATTORNEY: If you believe you are a victim of this man, Jeffrey Epstein, we want to hear from you.
MARQUEZ: The allegations over four years, Epstein lured under aged women, some as young as 14 years old to massage him and engage in sexual acts in his Palm Beach, Florida and New York homes. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Epstein arrested Saturday on his private jet upon returning from Paris. Shortly after, investigators forced their way into his Manhattan mansion.
In addition to finding hundreds, possibly thousands, of photos of nude and partially nude young women, some of them locked in a safe. Investigators found "compact disks with handwritten labels" including the following, young name, plus name, miscellaneous nudes one, and girl pics nude.
BERMAN: The alleged behavior shocks the conscience. MARQUEZ: Epstein, already a registered sex offender after agreeing to
a plea deal with prosecutors in Florida in 2008 related to sexual crimes alleged by dozens of young and under aged women, the man who headed the Florida case, Alex Acosta, now Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration.
ALEX ACOSTA, LABOR SECRETARY: At the end of the day, Mr. Epstein went to jail. Epstein was incarcerated. He registered as a sex offender.
MARQUEZ: The Miami Herald in an investigative report helping prompt today's charges found that Acosta signed off on a deal essentially shutting down an FBI investigation, giving immunity to any potential co-conspirators, allowing the multimillionaire to pay restitution to his victims. Register as a sex offender, and plead guilty to two state charges.
He spent 13 months in Palm Beach County Jail, where he was allowed to leave 6 days a week, 12 hours at a time.
ACOSTA: The world is put on notice that he was a sex offender. And the victims received restitution.
MARQUEZ: Epstein's connections go beyond Acosta, photographed here with Donald Trump in 1997 and 2000 at the president's Mar-A-Lago estate also in Palm Beach, Florida. In February this year, the president had this to stay about his labor secretary, and the plea deal given to his long time friend.
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.
MARQUEZ: In a 2002 New York Magazine Epstein profile, Trump said 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. Just yesterday, the president had this to say about Jeffrey Epstein.
[22:45:00] TRUMP: (Inaudible)
MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.
LEMON: Miguel, thank you very much. We're going to dig into a lot more next. Why did Jeffrey Epstein get such a good deal, plea deal, in Florida in the first place? And what's going to happen now?
LEMON: The charges are shocking. Prosecutors in the southern district of New York saying a well-connected multimillionaire operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of under aged girls. But Jeffrey Epstein dodged similar charges more than a decade ago in Miami, when he got a non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors and served just 13 months in prison. [22:49:58] Here to discuss, Jennifer Rodgers and Shimon Prokupecz,
good evening. It's fascinating to watch this. Thank you both for joining us. So Jennifer, when you see this evidence, literally, dozens of victims, many of them under age identified by federal authorities. How on Earth did Jeffery Epstein get such a sweetheart deal in the first place?
He served 13 months in jail. Basically, he can leave six days a week, correct? How did this happen?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know. And we are -- hopefully are going to find out in a couple of ways. One is the Department of Justice inspector general is investigating this right now. How did this he get this from non-prosecution agreement from Alex Acosta's office, you know, years ago. And secondly, it maybe that Epstein (Inaudible) is going to loop some of this into its case as well.
So we'll have to wait for both of those things. But ultimately, a sweetheart deal in the state is not at all unheard of. States, you know, push down their charges all the time. The question is how did he get a complete pass from the feds at the time. And that's what everybody is wondering about. But I think we'll get some answers at least from the inspector general.
LEMON: So you mentioned that they opened the deal, DOJ opened this investigation into Jeffrey Epstein's decade old plea brokered by Alex Acosta, right? He's a U.S. attorney -- Alexander, excuse me, Alexandria Acosta -- Alexander Acosta, who is now the Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration. What is the potential legal outcome for Acosta right now? Is there a legal?
RODGERS: It is highly unlikely. I mean if he actually were bribed, if there was some sort of quid pro quo, he got something of value from Epstein in order to give him the non-prosecution agreement, then you would have a charge. But more likely, he did not bring this charge because of some sort of political pressure or, you know -- he describes how hard it was to do battle with the defense lawyers, how they were constantly, you know, pressing him, pressing him.
So it may just be, you know -- he just didn't lawyer it as hard as he should have really.
LEMON: He just didn't lawyer it as hard as he should have?
RODGERS: Yeah. Like he just didn't (Inaudible) aggressive enough of a prosecutor, I mean. Southern district prosecutors are very aggressive. Prosecutors everywhere are not, you know, necessarily reaching that same level. And he may have just given up.
LEMON: So all of this talk about -- I'm going to bring you in, about someone having a lot, you know, just tons of money and great lawyers and whatever.
RODGERS: It makes a difference, absolutely no questions.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: These were some great lawyers that were defending him. And he still has -- his powerhouse team. And can you imagine -- you can be running a U.S. attorney, you can be a (Inaudible) assistant. It doesn't matter. But when you have these kinds of attorneys that are coming in and meeting you and beating you down and coming at you day in, saying, you know, I want to run this by the Department of Justice.
I want this plea agreement. And why don't we run this by? You know, for some people, they cave. And I think that's what the inspector general is going to look at. You know, what's this appropriate conduct? And we should wait and see. Look, there is a lot of outrage now. Everyone should be looking at this and try to figure out what happened here.
LEMON: And their big political connections here, right? You got Alexander Acosta. You got also -- apparently he knew the president. But the former president, I'm talking about -- apparently he knew the current president, but the former President Bill Clinton tweeted a statement, saying in part, President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffery Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago or those with which he has been recently charged in New York.
While it acknowledges that Clinton traveled at Epstein's private jet some 4 times, right, like 26, but it says 4 times, the Clinton folks are saying the last trip was in 2003. So I mean what can you tell us? Those are big connections.
PROKUPECZ: These are very big connections. And, you know, when you think about the SDNY and the U.S. attorneys, this is all obviously something that they take into consideration in this investigation. And when they said you know what, we don't care who you know. We don't care what you have done. We don't care that you even have gotten this sweetheart deal that you got, and no prosecution or whatever.
We're going to challenge all that. And we're going to our own case, because in the end, you know, what we saw today from prosecutors, this is about the victims, right? (Inaudible) talked about this, the U.S. attorney here. We need to allow victims to have a chance, their day in court, their voices to be heard. And that is what was the outreach in all of this, is that these victims, they never got their moment to come in.
This deal done silently, secretly, the victims weren't even told of this deal that he got, that Epstein got. And that was the big focus there today.
LEMON: Let me ask you some -- two things real quick. You can answer quickly. One, is they're saying, well, this is as repeat of what happened in Florida. So this should not be happening. Does that hold any water? RODGERS: No, because the charges involved both conduct in Florida,
but also conduct here.
LEMON: And the other thing is the significance of this being handled by the Public Corruption Unit of Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office.
RODGERS: Unclear. We don't know yet.
PROKUPECZ: And prosecutors say don't read too much into that. They kept warning us a lot today. There has been a lot of information out there, a lot of it inaccurate, a lot of people speculating on different facts of this case. Don't read too much into it. But you can't help but read into it, right? You have to wonder, like, did they start looking at this. Did public corruption start looking into this, because they thought maybe there was inappropriate conduct within the government, right?
[22:54:58] Maybe Acosta was something. And so therefore, that's what started it, but it does not necessarily mean that anyone in the government is going to be charged with (Inaudible).
LEMON: I've got to go. But it will all come out. I mean obviously, we should all see what happens. Thank you, Jennifer, thank you, Shimon, I appreciate it. Joe Biden sitting down with Chris Cuomo, what they are saying now about 2020 and the Democrats taking aim at the former vice president, we'll be right back.
LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon.