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Current Trump Official Under Fire For Signing Off On Epstein's Plea Deal Back In 2008; Trump Team Is Back In Federal Court With Another Attempt At Killing Obamacare; Arizona Man Stabbed Teen To Death Over Rap Music. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired July 9, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here. We begin with a mushrooming fallout from new sex trafficking indictment of celebrity linked financier, Jeffrey Epstein.
For the very first time, we are hearing from Alexander Acosta, the current Trump official under fire for signing off on Epstein's plea deal back in 2008. A deal that gave Epstein mere months in a Florida county jail when investigators believed he had victimized more than 30 underage girls.
Epstein's latest charges from New York Federal prosecutors could send him to prison for 45 years. Acosta was Florida U.S. Attorney when he backed to the plea deal and now he serves as President Trump's Labor Secretary. And he -- Secretary Acosta tweeted this today, quote, "The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific. I am pleased that New York prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence. With the evidence available more than a decade ago, Federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.
Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, then your prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice." Moments ago, the President praised Acosta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: You go back 12 or 15 years ago or 20 years ago to look at their past decisions, I would think you'd probably find that they would wish they maybe did it a different way. And what I do know is that he's been a great -- really great Secretary of Labor. The rest of it will have to look at.
I feel very badly actually for Secretary Acosta because I've known him as being somebody that worked so hard and has done such a good job. I feel very badly about that whole situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: President Trump's comments come shortly after the top
Democrat in the Senate calls for Acosta's resignation joining a growing list of members from the party, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and multiple 2020 Presidential candidates. Here was Senator Chuck Schumer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign. It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta's ability to lead the Department of Labor. If he refuses to resign, President Trump should fire him. Instead of prosecuting a predator and serial sex trafficker of children. Acosta chose to let him off easy. This is not acceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's have a conversation. CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro is a Republican strategist and Kan Nawaday a former Federal corruption and fraud prosecutor of the Southern District of New York, the office currently prosecuting Epstein. And so, Kan, just starting with you and starting with Secretary Acosta's, three tweets and his mentions of new evidence. When you first read those, what did you think?
KAN NAWADAY, FORMER CORRUPTION AND FRAUD PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I was stunned.
NAWADAY: I was stunned because it implies that somehow the evidence has changed. It's a slap in the face to the victim because that evidence was before Acosta, 10 years ago, nothing about the nature that evidence has changed. A lot of the Southern District of New York's case is based on that prior conduct. So it's a little stunning.
BALDWIN: And the fact that, you know, you heard President Trump twice, they're saying that he feels badly for him. I know that going back, you know, in Florida, he would have supported Acosta's eventual appointment. When did the tide change for you? And what do you think should happen for him?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The tide changed for me when I first read the story of "The Miami Herald," and I can't say enough about my community paper, "The Miami Herald," and this and Julie K. Brown, the journalist
It really is an argument and proof of how important investigative journalism is, particularly right now and why it's important to support newspapers and local papers. I knew Acosta as Dean of the FIU Law School, a prestigious position.
I have asked people here who supported him, who supported him when he was an FIU law school dean who supported him in this new position, if they knew about this. Practically, nobody in Miami -- nobody in South Florida knew about his role and cutting the sweetheart deal with Epstein and then, frankly, covering this up.
You know, my theory, Brooke, and I think it's really important for people to look at the date here. This all happened in 2008. Remember, Acosta was a political appointee of the Bush White House. It was an election year.
[14:05:09] NAVARRO: He was going to need a new job, because there was going to be a new President. And I think he was trying to curry favor with very powerful attorneys, Jeffrey Epstein had a dream team of powerful attorneys who worked in powerful law firms. And I think, you know, Alex Acosta was figuring out where am I going to land after this political stint is over?
It is disgusting. It is appalling. It is new information for so many of us in South Florida. I hope somebody asked Marco Rubio, if he knew about this, when he supported Acosta. Many asked the President about --
BALDWIN: I wanted to ask you, where are the Republicans on this? We mentioned a number of Democrats have come out. Where are the members of your party?
NAVARRO: It shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue. It shouldn't be about whether Epstein was friendly with Trump or friendly with Clinton or both. It should be about right and wrong. And the victims, the victims of this sexual predator were denied justice.
This was a travesty of justice. This was -- they broke the law. When they cut a deal without even informing the victims. You're talking about 80 plus, under-age girls in Palm Beach, Florida, it is so dusting.
BALDWIN: And he got 13 months.
NAVARRO: And every member of the Senate and the House who has children, who has daughters should ask themselves, what would I want to be happening right now, if those had been my daughters? That's the litmus test not about Republican or Democrat about morality and right and wrong.
BALDWIN: Let me just add to this because, Kan, this is for you. Let me just list out some of the items that have been found by investigators in Epstein's mansion here in Manhattan. Nude photos of girls and a locked safe, sex toys. Additionally, the New York Times reports the mansion also had a life-size female doll hanging from the chandelier.
So when Ana mentioned that we have "The Miami Herald" refer to it as a deal of a lifetime, you know, 10 or 11 years ago? What does that say to you about the deal that he got back then?
NAWADAY: No one should have gotten that deal. No one in his position should have gotten that deal. Non-prosecution agreements are for people who are low on the totem pole, who don't have any culpability or minor culpability. He was the target, he was the bad actor. So, in finding this new material, in the Southern District of New York
search warrant that he had, that he kept in his safe with CDs marked girls nude.
BALDWIN: Or miscellaneous, just -- that's how he viewed these women, miscellaneous.
NAWADAY: So those young girls, they're still being victimized. He is, in my view, breached whatever agreement he had, because I'm sure that agreement said you're not allowed to continue to do crime. And here he is in possession of, potentially child pornography.
BALDWIN: I asked this question before. I'm going to ask it of you, you know, is this 13-page indictment, which apparently according to you know, SDNY is like tiddly, right, it's very thin. Do you think that means there's more coming down the pipe?
NAWADAY: I think something fatter is coming? Absolutely. A fatter indictment.
BALDWIN: Okay. Ana, back over to you, because according to the CNN, White House team and all the reporting we've done, people close to Trump say that these next few days for Secretary Acosta are crucial. And for President Trump, apparently his decision will likely hinge upon the news coverage that he will get, right, and how loud these calls are for Acosta's resignation.
And my point to you is, you know, your reaction that Secretary Acosta's fate is now in the hands of news coverage and perhaps not based upon the evidence that existed 10 years ago, or to your point -- the month long investigation by the journalists at "The Miami Herald" or what was found in his home, news coverage.
NAVARRO: It shouldn't be news coverage. And listen, if we're waiting for Trump to act, that also should not be the measuring stick. I hope Congress takes action in this. I hope Congress does a full investigation. I hope Congress calls some of these Epstein victims to testify. I hope they call some of the, you know, some of the cops who were involved.
I urge our viewers to go and read "Perversion of Justice" by Julie K. Brown at "The Miami Herald," which was her initial series, where she got the stories of these victims, where she got some of the investigators -- some of the police investigators who were involved back then to talk about how shocked they were by this deal.
This was all new information. Look, Alex Acosta was well regarded here in Miami. He had stature, he had prestigious positions. We all thought he was squeaky clean. It turns out that for some reason, we don't know. He cut an unjustifiable unforgivable deal with a sex predator who then was free to go ahead and do more of his of his crimes and commit more of his crimes.
That guy cannot be in charge of the Labor Department.
BALDWIN: You're saying he needs to go. NAVARRO: He cannot be in charge of supervising sex trafficking and
coming down on sex traffickers. That's under the Labor Department.
[14:10:05] NAVARRO: Do you feel comfortable with that -- is the question that people need to ask their congress people and their senators? Do you feel comfortable with that? As a Floridian, I don't. And I think my senators and my congress people who supported him for this position as did I, before knowing all of this need to speak out and speak out loudly because these girls, those 80 girls, were also Floridians, and also deserve justice, and deserve respect, and deserve to be treated like human beings, not who were cut out of a deal -- a corrupt greedy deal cut by Alex Acosta.
BALDWIN: Ana Navarro, thank you for using your voice. Kan Nawaday, thank you very much for your expertise, appreciate both of you very much.
Right now, the Trump team is back in Federal Court with another attempt at killing Obamacare. We will hear from one of the people trying to save it, the Attorney General of California. Plus, the President may be known for his thin skin but that's just a new level with his insults on the diplomat who referred to him as insecure.
And, new details about the toddler who died after falling from a cruise ship. Why the family says Royal Caribbean should be held responsible. You're watching CNN on this Tuesday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.
[14:16:10] BALDWIN: We are back you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Right now, oral arguments are underway in another appeal of the Affordable Care Act. But this time, the stakes are extremely high. This is over the ACA's individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to get health insurance or pay a penalty. And just to fully understand what's being challenged today. Let me take you back to that Supreme Court decision from 2012.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Chief Justice, and the four others, the majority opinion in this 5-4 decision, they have ruled that the Obama health care reform law is in fact constitutional based on the authority that Congress has to impose a tax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Fast forward to after President Trump won the election and after many, many months of failed attempts to repeal and replace. Republicans tried another way with their 2017 tax cut bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Because when you think of it, we haven't even been a year and we did the largest tax cut in our history. We -- I hate to say this, but we essentially repealed Obamacare because we got rid of the individual mandate, which was terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: And soon after, a new challenge from Republican states. They argued if the new penalty was reduced to zero dollars, it's no longer a constitutional tax. And a Federal judge agreed with them ruling just this past December that the change invalidates Obamacare in its entirety, and that is what is being appealed today.
Xavier Becerra is the Attorney General of California. He is leading a coalition of Democrats appealing this. So Mr. Attorney General, a pleasure, sir. Thank you for coming on.
XAVIER BECERRA, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF CALIFORNIA: Brooke, thanks for having me.
BALDWIN: Perspective for everyone tuning in, you know, this is one of the most conservative appellate courts in this country. And the "if" is this, if the challenge is upheld, meaning Obamacare would go away? What would your reaction be? And what would you do about it?
BECERRA: Same as it's been, keep fighting. I was in Congress, fighting to enact the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and we're going to fight in 2019 to make sure it's still around. It's been a God send to hundreds of millions of Americans who today can take their child to a hospital and not worry about going bankrupt or not waiting till the illness is so severe that the loved one dies.
And so, we have to fight for this because it is part of our life now. It has become indispensable to be able to have access -- affordable access to healthcare.
BALDWIN: Now, many would argue that the eventual fight will end at the U.S. Supreme Court. And, you know, if it's appealed to those justices, you know, with a majority conservative justices, why do you think it would yield a different result?
BECERRA: Because a majority of conservative justices upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act already, and it should be no different. What Republicans did in 2017, as you showed in your report that was well done, was simply zero out the tax on the individual mandate. They did not repeal the Affordable Care Act, they didn't actually even repeal the individual mandate. All they did was zero out the dollar amount that people would have to pay.
The Affordable Care Act continues without that tax. We still have millions of people who are using the Affordable Care Act. And so, why should it all of a sudden stop? We think the case is very strong that not only was the Supreme Court right a few years ago that its constitutional, but it has now become an indispensable part of people's lives.
BALDWIN: Now, Mr. Becerra, if this does end up at the Supreme Court, and it gets tied up, it will play a significant role in the 2020 Presidential election. This could be Trump's worst nightmare. But my question to you is, how will Democrats need to re-address their own health care policy?
[14:20:08] BECERRA: Democrats as you can tell from the discussions and debates for the Presidential nomination, as they go forward, are all about making sure that every American has access to healthcare, because it's a right not a privilege.
And so, we will fight whether through the Affordable Care Act or any other way to make sure that every American can take their son or daughter to a hospital or to a doctor, that it -- it doesn't make sense in the most industrialized, modern country in the world, to not have access to basic healthcare for our kids and for our families. So we'll continue the fight.
The Affordable Care Act wasn't the last stop, it was just a major step in getting Americans access to the care that they deserve.
BALDWIN: Speaking of those candidates speaking up, I'm going to play these comments recently from former Vice President Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The party now wants to get rid of the ACA. Medicare for all cannot exist with the ACA. It cannot, and that's why I'm opposed to any Republican who wants to dismantle it or any Democrat who wants to dismantle it.
The idea of you're going to come along and take the most significant thing that happened with any President is trying to do and it got done and dismantle it. It makes no sense to me. Starting over would be I think, a sin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: A sin, he says, when you see how divided Democrats are on this very issue, some would argue the entire country is actually divided on this. Would you support a Medicare for all model?
BECERRA: Well, not only do I support a Medicare for all model, but I look at seniors in America who to -- what is it some 60 million plus seniors in America who say keep your fingers -- your political fingers off of my Medicare, and what they're fighting for is what we should fight to give to all Americans.
Medicare for all is simply saying that everyone should have access to affordable health care. We give it to our seniors and we should give it to all Americans. Medicare for all is absolutely something that we should not only strive for, but to go beyond.
BALDWIN: So Biden is wrong?
BECERRA: Medicare should be for all. We should have access to healthcare for all period. This is America. Why other countries can do it and we can't.
BALDWIN: All right. Mr. Attorney General, thank you very much for joining me. BECERRA: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Thank you. Disturbing details today in this Arizona murder. A black teenager is dead. A white man is accused and police say he did it because rap music made him feel unsafe.
Plus, after one candidate quits another joins the race, why billionaire Tom Steyer, who is pushing for impeachment is just now jumping in.
[14:27:05] BALDWIN: We are following a disturbing story out of Arizona. Police say, this man here fatally stabbed a 17-year-old boy at a convenient store cutting the teen's throat. Because he claimed that the rap music the boy was playing, made him feel unsafe.
Witnesses say 27-year-old, Michael Paul Adams walked up behind the teen and stabbed him in the neck. Those witnesses also told police the victim Elijah Al-Amin did nothing -- nothing to provoke the attack.
Ryan Young is covering this one for us today. And Ryan, why, how?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So tough for this family. Sad, sickening, and really just unreal. A 17-year-old killed in a gruesome way for no reason at all.
Elijah Al-Amin, and let's show his picture, was listening to rap music when he pulled up to a Circle K to get something to drink. He walked inside the store when according to police, 27-year-old, Michael Adams then walked up with a pocket knife stabbed him before slitting his throat.
This was just a brutal way of killing someone. And, Brooke, witnesses said, there was no argument, there was no warning signs, just this attack. The suspect told the police, he felt threatened because the teen was listening to rap music and he believed that he was a threat to the community, so he took action.
A local attorney for the suspect also said that he had just been released from jail two days before and he suffers from mental health issues. But as you can imagine, for this family and for the friends -- that doesn't really compute because this young man had just gone to the store to get something to drink.
On top of that, they're hoping to see if anything happens in terms of like hate crimes. But what we've been told in the state of Arizona, there is no hate crime legislation. This young man wanted to be an entrepreneur. He was working very hard. In fact, several people said he had two jobs and really enjoyed listening to rap music, enjoyed rapping to the lyrics.
It was just at that soda machine when he was attacked. Brooke, there's so many questions to this. And of course, when you hear about the mental health side this, you might feel for that man getting out of jail, but at the same time, this young man was doing nothing besides trying to get a soda when he had his throat slit.
BALDWIN: Over rap music, Ryan Young. I don't even have words, thank you very much. The Ambassador from America's closest ally says, the President is "insecure and incompetent." Those are direct quotes and now President Trump is escalating his own response here. Plus, the U.S. World Cup champions with a massive victory party just a couple hours away. There is still no invite from the White House.