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Trump vs. Britain; McConnell Challenger; Trump Defends Labor Secretary Over Epstein Case. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 9, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:01]

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The family wants everyone to know what a sweet and wonderful little girl she was. And they're only trying to make sure this never happens to any other family again.

Brooke, it's just a horrible, horrible thing.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Awful for that family.

Martin Savidge, thank you.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: We continued on, hour two. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

I want to begin with the U.S. labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, and the growing call for him to resign for failing to fully prosecute multimillionaire financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago.

President Trump is in fact praising his labor chief today, as more and more Democrats say Secretary Acosta should resign, including leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

But, first, let me play for you the first response. Let me read this for you. These are the tweets from Secretary Acosta amidst this firestorm. He defended his choice to cut a deal with Epstein back in 2008.

Epstein received mere months in a county jail when investigators found he victimized more than 30 underage girls. Now, in a new indictment on sex trafficking charges, Epstein is facing 45 years in prison.

And to these tweets from Secretary Acosta today. He writes: "The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific. I am pleased that New York prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence," he writes.

"With the evidence available and 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, the New York prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice."

That from the secretary.

Here now is President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You go back 12 or 15 years ago or 20 years ago and look at their past decisions, I would think you would probably find that they would wish they had 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, we will have to look at. I feel very badly, actually, for Secretary Acosta, because I have known him as being somebody that works so hard and has done such a good job. I feel very badly about that whole situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Nancy Ancrum is the editorial page editor of "The Miami Herald." And, of course, it was "The Herald"'s prize-winning reporting in November of last year called "Perversion of Justice" that broke open what happened to Epstein's case and Acosta's role in it.

So, Nancy, a pleasure to have you on, and, again phenomenal, phenomenal job by your team at "The Herald."

NANCY ANCRUM, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE MIAMI HERALD": Thank you.

BALDWIN: I want to begin with this. Your paper called for Acosta's resignation months ago. You are re-upping those calls again. What do you make of his tweets and the references to new evidence on the matter today?

ANCRUM: Well, clearly, in his, tweets Secretary Acosta picked and chose the information that he wanted to convey. He praises new -- he cites new evidence that has come out.

Well, in 2005, Palm Beach County police and detectives presented him with all of the evidence needed to bring Epstein before judge and jury. His own prosecutors presented a 53-page indictment. However, a few years later, we come up with this -- he comes up with this very sweetheart, very lenient deal, really determined by Epstein's own attorneys.

So it is very disingenuous for Acosta to say that new evidence really is the tipping point here, when his own people and Palm Beach detectives presented him with very similar evidence.

BALDWIN: Let me add to that as well, because we heard the president asked about this today at the White House. And his response was that he -- quote, unquote -- "feels badly" for secretary Acosta.

And then, moments ago, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said he -- quote -- "didn't know enough about the case to make a judgment." Why aren't we hearing more outrage from all the sides?

ANCRUM: Well, because -- because of the new evidence, and, of course, because of the stories that Julie K. Brown has done and has so doggedly pursued since -- since, well, it's been over a year, of course.

And I think that, combined with just seeing a culture of rape, of sexual assault being so totally accepted by men, by men in power, the whole MeToo movement is predicated on that. I think all of that is feeding into the outrage that should have been there since the very beginning.

[15:05:07]

BALDWIN: Nancy Ancrum at "The Miami Herald," Nancy, thank you very much.

I want to take a deeper look at what's been found in Jeffrey Epstein's New York mansion. The Epstein indictment details nude photos of girls located in a locked safe, massage table, sex toys.

And "The New York Times" reports these other details seen in the mansion, a life-size doll hanging from a chandelier, a mural of Epstein depicted in a prison scene with barbed wire that apparently you see right when you walk in his front door, and a chessboard with pieces with custom -- custom-made and modeled after scantily clad staffers.

James Patterson is the author of "Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy."

James Patterson, wonderful to have you through. Thank you very much.

JAMES PATTERSON, AUTHOR, "FILTHY RICH": Thank you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: You wrote the book on the man, so you are...

(CROSSTALK)

PATTERSON: Yes. Yes. So, we're celebrating. We're celebrating what's going on.

The reason I got into this is, some journalists and some detectives who had been involved in this case from the beginning had their hearts broken in 2006 and couldn't -- the upset that everybody's feeling now, these people have felt for 10 years.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PATTERSON: A friend of mine, Tim Malloy, John Connolly, who had done the investigative reporting for "Vanity Fair."

So the idea of this -- of something happening now, this book -- "Filthy Rich" came out in 2016, which was -- God bless "The Miami Herald."

BALDWIN: No kidding.

PATTERSON: But a lot of this or most of it was in the book.

BALDWIN: Was in the book.

PATTERSON: And we didn't get, unfortunately, the attention, or this could have all happened two years earlier.

Acosta, that was dealt with in the book. What we have in the book also is, they got the girls as 30-year-old women. We have the police interviews when they were teenagers, which are as devastating or maybe even more devastating.

But for me it's just -- thank God that this has happened.

BALDWIN: Who -- for people who are watching and trying to wrap their heads around these accusations, and can you just tell me about the social circle, the parties that these girls...

PATTERSON: I don't go to parties. I don't go to parties.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: You know about this man. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Lift the veil.

PATTERSON: I don't.

Gatsby, I would say, lonely, smart. I think he was more of a watching the party than a participant in the party.

I think that he clearly is obsessed, I mean, to the point where it's a mental illness, in terms of -- and the fact that it continued from 2000. And still, when they go to his mansion right now, they find all these pictures, presumably of underage girls.

So it's going on and on and on.

BALDWIN: Do you even know how he became so wealthy?

(CROSSTALK)

PATTERSON: Nobody. That was one of the -- and we had -- when I did the book, we had three really tough-minded private detectives doing all sorts of investigation.

Nobody could get anything. I think if you're going to get anything about how he got his money, somebody's got to get to Leslie Wexner, who owned Limited and Victoria Secret, because I think he knows some things about where Jeffrey's money came from. I think he does. BALDWIN: You also -- first of all, under that -- air quote -- "deal,"

right, from over a decade ago, he had to -- he just served 13 months. He had to register as a sex offender.

(CROSSTALK)

PATTERSON: He served 11 and got out early.

BALDWIN: When you read...

PATTERSON: And he was getting out every day from -- he would have the limousine pick him up at 9:00 in the morning. And he didn't have to return until 6:00.

BALDWIN: So when you -- right.

PATTERSON: No, it's crazy.

BALDWIN: So, when you read the details of like these compact discs found in a locked safe with handwritten labels, "Miscellaneous Girls," I mean, that speaks obviously how he -- how he thought of them.

Did he just think, based upon what happened in 2008, which was this, did he think he was above the law?

(CROSSTALK)

PATTERSON: I think so.

And the theories about what happened, how they caved, the theories were, one, that the prosecution was really afraid of the strong defense team, which included Stone -- yes, Stone and Dershowitz.

They didn't want another O.J. on their hands. And I could understand why they wouldn't. And, also, they were afraid that these defense attorneys would tear apart these young girls up.

BALDWIN: But that was then, and this is now.

And when you read about everything that was found in the house...

PATTERSON: Well, now if they don't -- yes, that's, I think, going to be really, really helpful in terms of making sure that Epstein goes to jail this time, and not for 11 months. At least, that's the hope.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PATTERSON: And that they have enough in terms of what happened in New York, because I don't think they're going to be able to revisit what happened in Florida.

BALDWIN: You also wrote a book with one of -- someone who famously has known him in the past, former President Bill Clinton.

PATTERSON: That's right.

BALDWIN: It's a fiction thriller called "The President Is Missing."

[15:10:00]

A Clinton spokesperson released this. Let me read this for everyone.

"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 in New York."

PATTERSON: I absolutely believe that.

BALDWIN: What has President Clinton ever told you about Jeffrey Epstein?

PATTERSON: Nothing. Nothing.

And I don't think -- I don't think he's thought about Epstein. And, look, here's Matt Lauer. Did anybody know? I don't think so. You just don't know things that some people...

BALDWIN: Well, I don't know if no one knew.

(CROSSTALK)

PATTERSON: Well, I don't -- I don't know. Did you know? If you did, why didn't you report it?

I don't -- I don't think NBC knew. And I don't -- I don't believe that -- I don't believe that President Clinton had any idea what this what this guy was capable of.

He did -- he flew on the planes, but that was for the foundation. So I mean, that's what I know about that. And I don't -- I believe Clinton.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

PATTERSON: And, similarly, when people start connecting him to President Trump, I don't...

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: The quote from President Trump, this is from 2002, "New York Magazine": "I have known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with."

PATTERSON: He said that about all famous people. He would say that about me.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: He went on: "It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do. And many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life."

PATTERSON: Yes. Yes. Yes. I don't think that means anything. But I will tell you what happened. And I'm not trying to defend --

because I will go with Clinton. I will go with Trump, whatever.

BALDWIN: Yes.

PATTERSON: But, at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's club in Florida...

BALDWIN: Palm Beach.

PATTERSON: ... he threw Epstein out. A member complained.

And then I interviewed the head of the spa there. And I said, did Jeffrey Epstein? She said, oh, yes, he would come to the spot. And he was inappropriate with the young girls. She said, I went to President Trump, and Trump threw him out.

BALDWIN: He did? He did?

PATTERSON: So there's that. And that's real. Who know -- who has all the answers? I don't. But a lot of them are in the book.

BALDWIN: James Patterson, the book is from 2016, a lot of details. "Filthy Rich" is what it's called.

Thank you very much for coming by.

PATTERSON: Thank you. Yes. Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Nice to meet you.

PATTERSON: Nice to meet you.

BALDWIN: Coming up now: The fate of Obamacare is in jeopardy, as the president's Justice Department and a group of red states are arguing to a court about why it should die.

Plus, the most powerful man in Congress is getting a challenger -- details on Amy McGrath, the former fighter pilot who is trying to make -- take Senator Mitch McConnell's job in Kentucky.

And, later, a little boy begs his father not to call the police on a black male who was simply waiting on a friend to arrive at that apartment building. We will play the video out. You have to see it yourself.

You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:25]

BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

President Trump today escalating his war of words with the U.K. ambassador to the U.S. In a series of tweets, he blasted Sir Kim Darroch, tweeting: "The wacky ambassador that the U.K. foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy. I don't know the ambassador, but have been told he is a pompous fool" -- end quote.

Now, in a classified document that was leaked, the ambassador described the president as inept, incompetent and insecure, adding that the administration was -- quote, unquote -- "uniquely dysfunctional."

Brian Klaas joins me now from London. He's an assistant professor of global politics at University College London, as well as a columnist for "The Washington Post," and the host of "Power Corrupts" podcast.

So, Brian, thank you so much for being with me.

And just reading what the president has said, isn't the president totally proving this ambassador right in real time?

BRIAN KLAAS, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: Yes, I mean, if you wanted to have a crash course on how to show people that you're insecure, you could have a meltdown like Trump just did over the last couple days in response to this.

I mean, this is America's closest and most important ally. And Trump is responding to it, damaging relations, just simply because he didn't flatter him unequivocally.

And I think that's what's really telling about this is how this juxtaposes against the G20 summit, in which Trump had nothing but praise for pretty much every despot and dictator on the planet. And yet the democratic ally of the United States has one leaked cable that's slightly embarrassing for Trump, and now he's willing to damage ties in our most important alliance.

BALDWIN: Why is that in Trump's head that not all insults are created equal? You look at what Kim Jong-un has said about him, and he wants to have many a summit. And then you look at what our own friends in England have said, and, well, you saw his response.

KLAAS: I mean, this is the baffling thing about the Trump presidency.

But the last two-and-a-half years, you have seen Trump over and over and over endorse and praise authoritarian rulers and bash our democratic friends. And it's amazing how it was a month and three days ago that Trump was standing in Normandy commemorating the anniversary of D-Day and talking about the unbreakable alliance that was forged on those beaches, and today he's calling the ambassador to the U.K. a wacky, stupid, pompous fool.

And the thing that I think is important to highlight here is that this story will get out of the U.S. news cycle in the coming days most likely, but it is a big deal in London. It is the big story in British media and will be for the coming weeks. It will affect the British Tory leadership contest that determines who will be the next prime minister of this country. [15:20:03]

So when Trump has these Twitter tantrums, everybody in America moves on, but it damages the relationship for a lasting period of time with our close allies. And I think that's something that is taking a toll over here, where people are just fed up, and they're looking for a politician to stand up to Trump.

BALDWIN: Brian Klaas, thank you very much. Appreciate you.

KLAAS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: One in, one out. Just as Eric Swalwell drops out of the 2020 race, California billionaire Tom Steyer gets in -- why he says he is running.

Plus, he's never lost an election, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already come out swinging against an Air Force veteran who just announced she is going to try to unseat him. We will discuss Amy McGrath's chances of winning next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:25]

BALDWIN: Today, a Kentucky Democrat stepped forward to challenge the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, for his Senate seat.

Amy McGrath is a former fighter pilot, the first female Marine to fly an F-18 fighter jet in combat. And she's no political newcomer.

McGrath narrowly lost her 2018 bid to unseat another Republican Kentucky incumbent, Congressman Andy Barr. She raised more money than Barr and became a Democratic celebrity along the way.

And in a campaign video released just today, McGrath takes direct aim at Leader McConnell, blaming him for the dysfunction and Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMY MCGRATH (D), KENTUCKY SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Everything that's wrong in Washington had to start someplace. How did it come to this, that, even within our own families, we can't talk to each other about the leaders of our country anymore without anger and blame?

Well, it started with this man, who was elected a lifetime ago and who has, bit by bit, year by year, turned Washington into something we all despise, where dysfunction and chaos are political weapons, where budgets and health care and the Supreme Court are held hostage, a place where ideals go to die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Domenico Montanaro is the lead political editor for NPR News.

Domenico, thank you so much for jumping on TV with me.

I mean, you watch that ad, she's trying again. She's trying again, obviously some tough talk. But the last time McConnell faced a Senate challenge, it was back in 2014. He won by 15 points. So do you see any cracks in that support heading into 2020?

DOMENICO MONTANARO, POLITICAL EDITOR, NPR: Well, look, I mean, the fact the matter is you can't say you someone doesn't have any chance of winning, right?

And McGrath is going to get a lot of money coming into the state, undoubtedly. But you have to realize here, she lost in a district that's the most -- the least Republican district in Kentucky, and she's still lost there. It was a 15 -- President Trump won that district by 15 points in 2016. President Trump won Kentucky in 2016 by 30 points.

And this is a presidential year. She wasn't able to win in 2018, when Democrats had a wave year. It's very difficult to see her being able to win there. And what some Democrats are saying is that they're concerned that there's a lot of money that could go into this race, where it could be used elsewhere, where they could actually make inroads.

BALDWIN: Let me play one more clip just on this race, because we know the McConnell team plans to aggressively brand McGrath as an anti- Trump liberal and here's part of their ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCGRATH: I am further left, I am more progressive than anybody in the state of Kentucky.

This is what we need in this country. They're here. They're not going anywhere. Let's -- let's bring them in.

Yes, I would support a move towards universal health care.

The only feeling I can describe that is any close to it was the feeling I had after 9/11.

I am further left, I am more progressive than anybody in the state of Kentucky.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And this is just day one. How much mud do you think is going to be slung, Domenico?

MONTANARO: Oh, as much as Mitch McConnell needs to win.

BALDWIN: Yes.

MONTANARO: I mean, there's no question about it. This is somebody who's been in knife fights his entire political career. He is not concerned about playing nice or playing fair or being above-

board. He's somebody who, remember, has kept money in politics. Like, that's the whole point of him being able to be against things like the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bills, because he's saying that money should be in politics. He knows it's a way for him to win.

He doesn't have the kind of dynamism of some other folks, but he has craftiness, and we know the shrewdness and capability, to do whatever it takes to win. And the fact is, she's not going to take the kinds of positions that we have seen some of the Democratic presidential candidates take, like saying they want free health care for people who cross the border illegally, or decriminalizing border crossings.

That's something that's not going to win or play well in Kentucky.

BALDWIN: Speaking of those presidential candidates, Domenico, we got another one today, another Democrat jumping into the field, activist Tom Steyer, probably best known for his ads calling for Trump's impeachment.

He's shown he has media savvy. Can he be a contender in this very crowded field?

MONTANARO: Well, the question I have about him is, what's changed, I mean, since January to now? Because, in January, remember, he said he wasn't going to run.

Then the Mueller report, I assume, came out, and that may have had something to do.

[15:30:00]