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Billionaire Tom Steyer Announces Presidential Run; DOJ Asks Appeals Court to Block Democrats' Subpoena of Trump Organization; House Speaker Pelosi Suggests House May Take Criminal Contempt Action Against Barr and Ross; Jeffrey Epstein Charged with Operating Sex Trafficking Ring; Trump Lashes Out, Calling U.K. Ambassador Wacky and Stupid. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 9, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:16] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 9:00 a.m., Eastern. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Jim Sciutto has the day off.

And right now pressure is growing on the White House as calls mount for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to resign. Overnight House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for him to step down. This all comes back to that sweetheart deal that Acosta cut when he was a federal prosecutor over a decade ago in Miami. Dubbed the deal of a lifetime for multi-millionaire now accused sex trafficking Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein avoided years in prison despite the FBI identifying dozens of sexually abused underage victims. On Monday federal prosecutors unsealed two new sex trafficking charges against Epstein and this morning one of his victims who was 14 years old at the time of her attack reacted to the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COURTNEY WILD, ALLEGED EPSTEIN VICTIM: Just to hear that they're standing up for the victims, you know, I mean, is just like so overwhelmingly -- it's past due.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Brynn Gingras is here with more. She's been following it.

You've got a lot of pressure on the White House this morning, on Congress. Questions about what they might do in their oversight responsibilities here, and this just sort of unbelievable deal.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Unbelievable deal. No response yet from the White House or Acosta himself, but we'll get to that in just a minute. First let's give you a bit more detail about what happened here.

Epstein, who's already a registered sex offender, that's important to know, is behind bars right now. He's awaiting a bail hearing next Monday. Prosecutors argued his incredible wealth, the fact that he has three U.S. passports, two private jets, makes him a flight risk. And Epstein indictment reveals Jeffrey Epstein allegedly sexually abused dozens of girls, some as young as 14 years old, from 2002 to 2005.

He allegedly even worked with some of his employees to lure the girls to his homes in two states, according to this indictment, paying them hundreds of dollars for massages which would often escalate into sex acts. Prosecutors then say he paid the girls more money to recruit more potential victims.

Now investigators found in his Manhattan apartment a cache of nude photos of young-looking women, some were -- in a locked-up safe. Some of the victims were in court yesterday, as Poppy said, and here's more on how one woman reacted to seeing him again on "Good Morning America."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you saw him, it just brought back bad memories?

MICHELLE LICATA, ALLEGED EPSTEIN VICTIM: Yes, it brought back the last time I saw him which was right there at the massage table. And it just started making me feel uneasy, nervous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRAS: Epstein has pleaded not guilty. His attorney called the two federal sex trafficking charges against him a do over for the federal charges he faced more than a decade ago in Florida. Now again, back in 2008 those charges were lessened to state prostitution charges after Epstein and his high-profile attorneys brokered a deal with then U.S. attorney Acosta.

Epstein spent more than a year in jail and was even allowed to continue working but possibly even more than that the victims in that case were never even told about the plea deal. Acosta of course currently the Labor secretary. He hasn't made any comments about this case yet and there's just -- John Berman put it -- so many tentacles right now we're waiting to hear from.

HARLOW: So many.

GINGRAS: Some answers.

HARLOW: So many. And just when you read the incredible reporting of the "Miami Herald" reporter Julie Brown who broke this story months ago about what this has done to these women's lives just ever since, how it's destroyed so many.

GINGRAS: Right.

HARLOW: You realize the severity of all of this. Acosta is going to have to answer to it, and there are questions about former president Bill Clinton because of his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein?

GINGRAS: Yes. He certainly had friends in high places, not just Clinton. We know President Trump also, you know, we talked about this yesterday, gave an interview calling him a terrific guy. But when it comes to President Clinton, yes, he's distancing himself. A statement was released and I want to read it to you. It says, "President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago or those with which he has been recently charged with in New York. In 2002 and 2003 President Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein's airplane, one to Europe, one to Asia, and two to Africa which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation."

So they're definitely distancing themselves and other people I'm sure distancing themselves but still sure need to answer a lot of questions.

HARLOW: They do. Brynn, thank you very much for the reporting.

Let's talk about the legal implications here, what is next. Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor, is with us and Arianna Berg, a former federal prosecutor and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Very appropriate given that they have taken up this case.

Thank you both for being here.

Shan, let me begin with you.

[09:05:01] This non-prosecution deal that Epstein secured, all he pled guilty to is two prostitution charges even though one of those was with a 14-year-old, by the way. He got a little bit of jail time at a jail where he was allowed to leave six days a week to go to work. His attorneys say that New York bringing these charges is a do over and that they can't do that.

Federal prosecutors here in New York, by the way, Shan, say the previous agreement applies only to the U.S. Attorneys' Office for the Southern District of Florida. Who's right?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It depends on what the plea deal says. It probably only applies to that particular U.S. Attorney's Office. That is the common type of plea deal. They're not going to bind the entire Justice Department, the entire country of federal prosecutors. It'd be very rare to do that. So his attorneys are probably just trying to find something to argue right now.

This is not going to be a do over. There would appear to be tragically dozens of victims who frankly could have been spared being sexually assaulted had Acosta and the prosecution team done their job in 2008 if these allegations are true. So they can definitely bring these charges here, and the gravity of the charges is enormous. I mean, he's certainly looking at spending the rest of his life in jail.

HARLOW: Gosh. You know, you worked, Arianna, as a prosecutor in the Southern District. How strong do you think their case is right now?

ARIANNA BERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The case is extremely strong and you can really read that in the detention memo that the Southern District of New York prosecutors filed yesterday in their arguing for keeping Jeffrey Epstein in jail pending trial or a resolution in his case. In that memo they outline the many victims that they have spoken with, whose testimony lines up with or corroborates with much of the other evidence in the case.

In fact over the weekend they executed a search warrant at Epstein's $77 million Manhattan residence, and in that search they uncovered hundreds, the prosecutors said, maybe even thousands of nude and partially nude pictures of women, some of whom appear to be clearly underage, and a lot of that evidence lines up with or corroborates the victim testimony. And so the breadth and scale of the evidence here is quite strong.

HARLOW: So, Arianna, before we go on this, just another point, because you were a prosecutor with the Southern District of New York, I don't understand why a decade ago when this agreement was made in Florida, people knew this is a big sort of high-flying politically connected guy with a big house right here in New York City as well -- why did no one look into him then from the Southern District of New York?

BERG: Well, you know, cases come to prosecutor's offices in different ways. It -- clearly in this case it went to the Southern District of Florida which is a district that centers around Miami. That case came from the Palm Beach police office. So, as an investigative route, it initially went to Florida, but you're right, Poppy, this case very well could have come to New York. It didn't happen to have come to New York so far as we know. But now that it's under the eyes of the prosecutors in Southern District of New York, they've got him.

HARLOW: Yes, you've just got to think, you know, he had a home here -- has a home here in New York, and many of these women say they were victimized here in New York. So you wonder why that didn't sort of ring the alarm bells a decade ago.

Thank you both. Stay with us. We have a lot more to talk to about in just a few moments. Meantime, this morning tension is growing still between the U.S. and one of our closest allies as the president lashes out at the U.K. ambassador to the United States. The president calling him whacky and, quote, "a very stupid guy."

Recent leaked memo showed that Ambassador Kim Darroch described the president as inept and someone who radiates insecurity. A top-ranking U.K. security source tells CNN, quote, "There's nothing to suggest the hostile state is involved with those leaked cables." The president says he is no longer willing to deal with Darroch at all. Last night he disinvited Darroch to this White House dinner.

Let's talk about the implications of this, David Sanger is with me, our political and national security analyst, and national security correspondent for "The Times."

Good morning.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good morning, Poppy. HARLOW: All right. So Darroch didn't get invited to dinner. The

president doesn't like being insulted. You can't come to dinner. But I should note Robert Kraft was invited to dinner at the White House last night. What's your read?

SANGER: Well, a few things. First, with the leak of these cables, Poppy, I don't actually think it's about Mr. Darroch who is neither whacky nor stupid. He's a very experienced British diplomat. He was the national security adviser for a long time for Britain. He was Britain's representative for the European Union.

[09:10:04] He's very experienced. I think those of us who know him in Washington will tell you that he's a pretty depth ambassador. The cables, when you read what was leaked, is completely consistent with things that you have heard on CNN, read in "The New York Times," in "The Washington Post," read in books about the Trump administration, that it's dysfunctional, that the president has no filter, he wrote.

I mean, the strange thing, Poppy, would have been if he had been writing memos saying, no, this White House is operating like a smoothly oiled machine. I mean, that would just not have been credible. The leak -- and it's hard to know what the motives are of leaks, but in this case I suspect it has less to do with him than the selection of his successor. He is --

HARLOW: That's interesting.

SANGER: He is supposed to leave and retire at the end of the year, beginning of next year just because of the time he's been in place.

HARLOW: Right.

SANGER: And I think they -- I think whoever leaked it wants a pro- Brexit, pro-Trump ambassador there and probably somebody from the Foreign Office.

HARLOW: That's interesting. I mean, and Theresa May standing by their man in all of this. Maybe that has to do a bit with the fact that he's on his way out. Anyways, David, look at this. So the president won't work with Darroch anymore because he doesn't like the insults, but guess who the president praises? About Vladimir Putin, he has said he's a great guy, thinks he's a good person. About Rodrigo Duterte, who has bragged about murdering people in the Philippines, a great relationship, what a great job you're doing. And North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he wrote beautiful letters, we fell in love.

SANGER: That's right.

HARLOW: I mean, I don't get it. What's the deal with the disconnect here?

SANGER: You know, Poppy, there's nothing new here. We saw this even during the campaign. I remember when Maggie Haberman and I went to go interview President Trump in one of the series of interviews we did on foreign policy and I asked him about Putin. He said, well, he said very nice things about me. Well, he may have said very nice things, and he's also trying to disrupt everything the West is trying to do to bring about democracy --

HARLOW: Right.

SANGER: In the region. On Kim Jong-un, you know, you've seen what he has said and Kim Jong-un has figured out how to play him, which is say good and nice things about him and he'll probably ignore the fact that we're continuing to expand our nuclear arsenal, which is exactly where the United States is right now. I mean, it would be lucky to get a freeze of that arsenal, much less the dismantlement like the president says.

So what we've learned is that the president is just very sensitive to specific personal criticism, and the fact that, you know, the ambassador in this case has worked on a lot of projects with the United States and Britain together doesn't actually count for a whole lot if you're in Donald Trump's White House.

HARLOW: Unless you say really nice things. All right, David Sanger.

SANGER: If you say really nice things, you're good, you're solid.

HARLOW: All right. Well, you're my favorite person forever, David Sanger. So there you go. Very nice things. Thank you for coming on the program.

SANGER: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Still to come for us, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Trump's push for a citizenship question on the Census is an effort, to quote, "make America white again," but what is the administration's legal argument for that? Attorney General Bill Barr says we will soon find out.

And World Cup champions, they are back on home turf. Team USA getting ready for a major victory parade tomorrow right here in New York. We will talk to two of the players live coming up. They will join us right here on set.

Plus a chaotic day in court as Kevin Spacey's accuser pleads the Fifth. Could this put the criminal sexual abuse case against the actor in jeopardy?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, this just in. Billionaire Tom Steyer has just announced he is running for president in 2020. He announced this on his Twitter account moments ago. He has been a top Democratic donor for years. You may have seen those commercials that he has funded and led, calling for the impeachment of President Trump.

What's really interesting is back in January, he said he wasn't running for president, but he has changed his mind. We'll have to find out what changed that. Also this morning, Attorney General Bill Barr and the Justice Department are asking a Washington D.C. Federal Appeals Court to block subpoenas by congressional Democrats into the Trump Organization and other Trump businesses.

Those subpoenas are tied to a lawsuit, accusing the president of violating the constitution of Emoluments Clause, by allegedly profiting from foreign governments. Democrats are seeking evidence of the president's financial records. The DOJ argues the president is, quote, "likely to suffer irreparable injury because of the probe into his personal finances." The D.C. Appeals court has yet to make a decision on that.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the whole house could soon vote on a criminal contempt citation against Attorney General Bill Barr and the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. This is all over their refusal to turn over documents related to the effort to put that citizenship question on the 2020 census.

Now, this is happening as Barr says President Trump is still deciding what exact route he would like to take in continuing that fight over the census. An option that is still on the table is an executive order. Let's go to Jessica Schneider, our Justice correspondent with more from Washington. So, I mean, they're still fighting this. Barr says we'll soon find out the new legal argument that the administration is going to make to try to get this thing on?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, I mean, really this fight over the census, it stretches far and wide. We're seeing it play out in the courts, and now it's really front and center on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sending out that warning that she could schedule a full house vote soon to hold Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the Attorney General Bill Barr in criminal contempt of withholding those documents related to the citizenship question on the census.

[09:20:00] You know, the House Oversight Committee, they already voted along party lines for contempt, and if the vote goes to the full house and it passes, then it would green-light court proceedings that could compel those officials to comply with the congressional request.

And of course, while Congress is demanding documents, the Attorney General is saying that he has been in constant discussions with the president and is confident that there is a path to getting the citizenship question on the census. Now, we've learned that the president could issue an executive order or presidential memorandum directing that the question be included, and it could come as soon as this week.

But, Poppy, really, many questions remain. You know, the census, it's already gone to print without the citizenship question. It was a July 1st deadline, a printing deadline, and the legal fights are continuing to play out in federal courts in Maryland and New York.

So, the question is here, Poppy, ultimately, will time run out on this and will time run out on the administration's plans to add the question in some capacity, but nevertheless, these fights are continuing in court and the Attorney General says that there is a path forward that they will announce possibly in the next day or two. Poppy?

HARLOW: OK, Jess, thank you so much for the reporting. My legal experts are back with me. Shan, let me begin with you. What strikes me is that if the administration makes a totally different legal argument here about the rationale for wanting a citizenship question on the census and the why? Why they proposed this in the first place, isn't there a fine line there?

Because Wilbur Ross testified under oath about the rationale for why? So, if they changed the legal argument, couldn't that be precarious for him?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it's already precarious for him because basically three federal courts have already decided he was not telling the truth.

HARLOW: Right --

WU: I think the fine line is probably why should anybody believe their new reason? I mean, they're kind of like saying you didn't believe the last reason, let's try a different story on you, and it's just not credible. And I think that's one of the reasons why the Justice Department had to change their team.

I mean, really, you know, perhaps some pushback from career people not wanting to make that arguments, but more likely, they need fresh faces because the ones they had have already exhausted their credibility.

HARLOW: Arianna, do you agree with Bill Barr's assertion that there is a legal path to getting the citizenship question on the 2020 census without an executive order from the president given what the Supreme Court decided?

ARIANNA BERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You know, without him actually articulating what that legal theory is, it is hard for me sitting here right now to find a credible way through the thorny path that this administration has created on the census issue. Supreme Court had essentially found that the reasons put forth by the Trump administration for wanting to include a citizenship question were pre- textual and contrived.

Now, that's fancy and somewhat softened legal speak for saying that in essence, the judges find that the administration lied about the real reason why they wanted to include a citizenship question. It's really hard to come back from such a strong statement by the Supreme Court.

HARLOW: OK, well, we'll see what that is very soon according to -- according to Bill Barr. Thank you both on both of these important stories, I appreciate it, Shan and Arianna.

WU: Good to see you.

HARLOW: The U.S. Women's national soccer team defeated the world's best to win the World Cup. Their next fight arguably much bigger, a fight for equal pay. World Cup winners Rose Lavelle and Kelley O'Hara will join me on set next. Plus, we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell kicks off a big week, he's got a consequential speech today. Investors will be watching for any clues on rate cuts following last week's strong jobs report.

[09:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: About 14 million of you including me and the entire plane I was on, watched the U.S. Women soccer team win and defeat the Netherlands 2-0 in the Women's World Cup. Those are strong ratings. They beat last year's men's World Cup final between France and Croatia which averaged 11.4 million viewers, I'm just saying. The Women's team arriving back home last night to thunderous applause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

TEAM USA: Because we are the champions!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Yes, they are. Tomorrow, the celebration shifts to New York City right here, they will be honored with a ticker-tape parade and keys to the city. With me now, I am so excited to tell you, two members of the winning team, Rose Lavelle and Kelley O'Hara. I squealed when they told me this morning you guys were coming on, so congratulations and thank you --

KELLEY O'HARA, AMERICAN SOCCER PLAYER: Thank you --

HARLOW: For what you've done for America, for all of sports, for young girls, for young boys watching you. I told you the plane I was on watching --

O'HARA: Yes --

HARLOW: On way back, the entire plane was just cheering at each goal. So, thank you guys for being here.

O'HARA: Thanks for having us --

HARLOW: Of course, Rose, to you, you are the second youngest American to score in a World Cup match. You scored three goals in this tournament.

ROSE LAVELLE, AMERICAN SOCCER PLAYER: Yes --

HARLOW: As you look at this and where you were at the last Women's World Cup final, right.

END