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CNN RIGHT NOW
Acosta Defends Plea Deal; Case Against Epstein; Obamacare in Jeopardy; Biden on Keeping Obamacare; Steyer Announces Run for 2020; Trump Escalates Insults With U.K. Ambassador. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired July 9, 2019 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow.
A lot of news today, as you might have noticed. Brianna Keilar starts RIGHT NOW.
Have a great afternoon.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.
Underway right now, as pressure mounts, the president defends his cabinet member who gave a sweetheart deal to Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire sex offender indicted for an alleged underage sex trafficking ring.
Plus, the secrets inside Epstein's mansion. The bizarre and disturbing list of items reportedly found there.
Also, it's day two of the president's tirade against a diplomat from America's closest ally following the leak of secret cables. President Trump apparently unable to shake the U.K. ambassador's criticism that he's insecure.
And with the fate of Obamacare in question, Joe Biden draws a line in the sand, separating himself from his Democratic competitors who are all backing Medicare for all.
And a video shows a boy crying and begging his father not to call police on a black man. The father did it anyway. See what happened.
But first, on the defense. President Trump, just moments ago, sticking up for his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, amid calls for him to resign over a 2008 plea deal that he gave to millionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's been a very good secretary of labor. What happened 12 or 15 years ago with respect to when he was a U.S. attorney, I think in Miami. Is it Miami? QUESTION: Yes, sir.
TRUMP: You know, if you go back and look at everybody else's decisions, whether it's a U.S. attorney or an assistant U.S. attorney or a judge, you go back 12 or 15 years ago or 20 years ago and look at their past decisions, I would think you'd probably find that they would wish they'd maybe did it a different way. I do hear that there were a lot of people involved in that decision, not just him.
I can only say this. From what I know and what I do know is that he's been a great -- really great secretary of labor. The rest of it we'll have to look at. We'll have to look at it very carefully. But you're talking about a long time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now, the Trump appointee also responding himself in a series of tweets. In them Acosta says, he's pleased the case is moving forward, calling the crimes committed by Epstein, quote, horrific, and citing new evidence as the reason why New York prosecutors will be able to more fully bring Epstein to justice, a day after the politically connected businessman pled not guilty to recent sex trafficking charges in New York.
Let's get to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She is at the White House.
What is the president saying about all of this, especially considering his own personal relationship with Epstein?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you're seeing the president there in the Oval Office not only defend his secretary of labor, but also downplay the role that he played in negotiating this agreement with Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 when he was the U.S. attorney in Miami and oversaw this deal. The president is saying it happened a long time ago, that he was one of many people. But, of course, Alex Acosta did play a key role in that and that's why you're seeing him self-defend what his actions were back then.
Now, in the Oval Office, the president was also asked about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and he distanced himself from him and said that they had a falling out several years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. People in Palm Beach knew him. He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn't a fan. I was not -- yes, a long time ago. I'd say maybe 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you. I was not a fan of his.
So I feel very badly actually for Secretary Acosta because I've 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) COLLINS: Now, Brianna, the president's words on Epstein are not the same that he said in 2002 when he was talking to "New York" magazine and he said that Jeffrey Epstein was a terrific guy who he had known for 15 years and noted his attraction for younger women.
One more note on the president defending Alex Acosta and his role in this. We should also say that he did not -- he was part of that agreement where they did not tell the alleged victims about the agreement they were making until after a judge had already approved it.
KEILAR: All right, Kaitlin Collins at the White House, thank you so much.
And we're now learning more about the secrets housed in Jeffrey Epstein's Manhattan mansion where he is accused of luring underage girls to engage in sex acts.
Take a look at some of the things that police say they found inside of this $77 million home. A massage table, sex toys and pictures of nude girls who appear to be underage locked inside of a safe. "The New York Times" also reporting that on the second floor, Epstein had a mural depicting himself in a prison scene, along with a chess board of figurines dressed suggestively. Each piece, he had told a visitor, modeled after one of his staffers.
[13:05:06] CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero is joining us now.
Major charges that he is facing, but do any of these findings inside of the house mean anything significant for the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, obviously, the U.S. attorney's office in New York has done additional investigation, following up on what had been done a long time ago. So they looked at more information now in his house. It will all go towards putting together this case. They also have individuals who were victims, and so their victim coordinator in the Southern District of New York has been working with those victims. So the case will be based on all of that evidence together and it will depend -- whether they need to present all of it will depend on whether or not he takes this to trial or whether -- and the volume of evidence is so much and so disturbing that he ends up pleading to something.
KEILAR: His alleged M.O. was having these young girls to his house under the guise of a massage and then that would be a partially or fully nude massage that turned into an assault. In the house was found a massage table, sex toys nearby. I know some of this is very graphic, so I certainly want to acknowledge that. But is that going to speak to what prosecutors are going to allege, that even after he pled guilty earlier in Florida, they're going to try to build the case that nothing changed in his behavior maybe even later?
CORDERO: Well, they have a count of human trafficking. So they have extensive information. And I would say even though these particular items are sort of the salacious part of it, it's going to be the bottom of the -- the body of evidence pertaining to all of these victims who have come forward. And, in fact, the FBI has put out, in their press release, that the U.S. attorney's office, the New York Police Department and the FBI put out, they are looking for more victims. And they have put out their phone number. And they've said more victims come forward.
So I think, you know, these -- these items obviously speak to the depravity of his activities and so they sort of illustrate that. But the body of evidence, those items that they found in the searches, plus these victims are going to be the most powerful testimony against him.
KEILAR: The current labor secretary, Alex Acosta, we just heard President Trump back him up, but also saying they're going to be looking at some of what transpired. He helped broker this cushy plea deal that Epstein got. He ultimately served, what, a little over a year. He had generous work release --
KEILAR: To go for 12 hours a day out of the prison and go to work, picked up by a private driver. And his co-conspirators were shielded. Acosta defended himself in his confirmation hearing and he just tweeted as well that these crimes committed by Epstein are horrific and he's pleased that prosecutors are moving forward with the case based on new evidence. New evidence.
A lot of followers of this, what's been going on for years allegedly, say this evidence mirrors some of what was found in Florida.
CORDERO: Right, and that seems to be consistent with the reporting that's come out, including the reporting out of Miami that's followed this case for some time.
Secretary Acosta -- you know, I saw his tweet where he makes a statement that these are horrific crimes. And I'm so tired of this administration and governance by tweet. You know, I mean this is an important case. He was the U.S. attorney. There needs to be accountability and there's currently an internal investigation going on in the Justice Department out of the Office of Professional Responsibility. That investigation needs to wrap up and the results need to be released to Congress and be made publicly known as to whether or not the prosecutors, including the U.S. attorney at the time, now the labor secretary, did things that were inappropriate or made decisions that were not according to Justice Department guidelines and gave any kind of special treatment. We need to know what the results of that investigation are, and that's what we need to be making a decision about whether or not the secretary needs to stay on, not just his, you know, couple line tweet.
KEILAR: All right, Carrie Cordero, thank you so much.
CORDERO: Thanks. KEILAR: And moments from now, in a New Orleans courtroom, the fate of the Obamacare -- of Obamacare is hanging in the balance. The outcome could affect millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. On one side, Trump administration lawyers and a group of Republican states, they want the court to uphold the decision by a federal judge in Texas that declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Then on the other side, a coalition of Democratic states and the House of Representatives, who are defending Obamacare.
And in the next hour, they will present their arguments to a federal appeals court.
We have CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic, who is in New Orleans following this critical case.
Break this down for us, Joan.
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: This is the third major challenge to the Affordable Care Act, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama. But what's different this time is that millions of Americans are now covered by the sweeping provisions of what's been called Obamacare.
[13:10:03] Texas and several Republican-led states are challenging the law, saying that in 2017, when Congress zeroed out a penalty for people who weren't obtaining insurance, it invalidated the individual insurance requirement and invalidated the entire law.
The Department of Justice now is siding with Texas, saying that all of the Affordable Care Act should be struck down as unconstitutional.
Defending the law will be California and several Democratic-led states and the Democrat House of Representatives. They say that that 2017 change in the law did not jeopardize the individual mandate and it certainly did not sink the entire Affordable Care Act. A three-judge panel, two Republican judges, one Democrat, will hear the case.
No matter how they rule, this is bound for the U.S. Supreme Court, which, Brianna, has twice upheld the Affordable Care Act before.
KEILAR: Very good point. Joan Biskupic, thank you.
As the Trump administration tries to negate the Affordable Care Act, some 2020 Democrats also want it scrapped. Not to get rid of it, but because they say it's not enough. That is their basis for not wanting Obamacare as it is.
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, they want Medicare for all. Joe Biden is making sure that he stands apart from them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Your party now wants to get rid of the ACA. Medicare for all cannot exist with the ACA. JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 you're going to come along and take the most significant thing that happens, that any president has tried to do and got done and dismantle it makes no sense to me.
Look, starting over would be, I think, a sin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: We have Eliana Johnson with us. She's a White House reporter for "Politico." Gloria Borger, our chief political analyst.
So, we know looking at the polls, from the midterm election, that health care was the top issue for Democratic voters, right, but you look at these candidates and they have different avenues that they're taking for how to thread that needle.
How do they do that between the primary and the general?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what they're trying to do is -- you just saw Joe Biden. He's got to differentiate himself. And he is Obamacare all the way. Don't forget, he was there. He will not let us forget it either. He was there for it and was a part of getting it passed. And he will say anything that takes it apart or takes it away is wrong. And then you have other Democrats saying, no, no, no, we have to go beyond that, Medicare for all.
So this is just part of Democrats trying to say, we're not all cookie cutter. It just -- it's the same way on the green new deal, for example. There are some Democrats who are saying that goes too far, like Amy Klobuchar, and some Democrats who are saying, you know, I'm all for the green new deal. So they're -- this is what happens in a -- in a Democratic primary. The real difference will be, of course, when a Democrat is facing a Republican who's going to have to defend, well, how are you on pre-existing conditions?
KEILAR: It's hard, Eliana, to even exactly categorize where all of these candidates are because it's actually more of a continuum. I mean you have some people like Bernie Sanders who, they want single payer. They want to get rid of private insurance. And then you have Joe Biden. But then it's hard to peg people for where they really are because it's such a potentially contentious issue.
ELIANA JOHNSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's right. I think a lot of the Democratic candidates are still trying to figure out where Democratic primary voters are. But it's very clear, Joe Biden is saying, don't throw out the baby with the bath water. And he's calculating that, in a general election, should he make it out of this primary, scrapping private insurance is not popular with the general public.
The Trump administration, though, has put itself in an interesting position because Trump himself campaigned on -- he said over and over again, he's for pre-existing conditions, which is his way of saying, I'm going to keep you protected. But then his administration did a 180 and he's now said, we want to throw out the Affordable Care Act. So it puts -- it puts Democrats at an advantage, I think, where they are able to campaign no matter what their position on the ACA is and say, this president has reversed himself and he -- his administration is trying to take protections away from people.
KEILAR: So the 2020 Democratic field is growing today, right?
BORGER: Believe it.
KEILAR: So Tom Steyer, the billion, made it official this morning. He's now in the race for president. He's missed the first few debates. People may know him from his ads on TV. He wants the president impeached. Is he too late, do you guys think? Is he too late?
BORGER: Well, he's got -- he's said he's going to spend at least $100 million. I think that's a little bit of help for you. But that $100 million doesn't guarantee you a place on the debate stage, for example. The DNC has made it very clear that just because you're a self-funding candidate and you have a lot of money, it won't get you there. You have to poll well. There are all other kinds of things you have to -- hoops you have to jump through. So it doesn't guarantee him that.
[13:15:11] I think that he's got so much money and so much notoriety already because he's run these impeachment ads forever, people kind of know who he is. And I think it's going to upset the apple cart a little bit among Democrats.
KEILAR: What do you think?
JOHNSON: I'm not so sure. I don't think the question for Steyer is, is he too early or too late. I think there's plenty of room in the field. I think the question is, is there a market among Democratic primary votes for a candidate like him, a billionaire businessman who is very far left. So what's the difference in the pitch he's going to make compared to Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. And I think we're going to have to see if he makes it into a debate what case he's going to make.
BORGER: You know, I mean he's -- he's switched issues, though, all the -- you know, first it was climate change. That was his big issue.
BORGER: Then it became impeachment.
BORGER: That was his huge issue. Now he's anti-corporate, which is the Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders wing of the party. So he doesn't have the clear identity going into this race I think that he would want. In his video today, he didn't mention impeachment, which was sort of surprising to me.
JOHNSON: Well, I think there's a reason for that --
JOHNSON: Having spent millions of dollars running an ad campaign --
JOHNSON: And seeing how Nancy Pelosi and many other Democrats --
JOHNSON: Reacted to it.
KEILAR: Thank you guys so much. Really appreciate it.
U.S. relations with Britain hitting a rough patch. The president dropping more insults on the U.K. ambassador for calling him insecure in private but leaked cables.
Plus, your credit card has been declined, says the world to the USA. It could happen as the U.S. is set to hit its debt limit sooner than expected.
An emotional video of a crying boy begging his dad to not call police on a black man. See what happened.
[13:21:43] KEILAR: President Trump has escalated his war of words with the U.K. ambassador to the U.S. In a series of tweets, he blasted Sir Kim Darroch, quote, 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. In a classified document that was leaked, Darroch described the president and his administration as, quote, inept, incompetent and insecure, adding that the administration was uniquely dysfunctional.
As CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson reports, it has resulted in a very public dispute.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): The fallout continues. Liam Fox, U.K. trade secretary, on his way to meet Ivanka Trump, without embattled British Ambassador Kim Darroch. Darroch's leaked cables, critical of Trump, proving diplomatic dynamite, earning a presidential rebuke.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not big fans of that man. And he has not served the U.K. well.
ROBERTSON: And getting him disinvited from a diplomatic dinner at the White House. U.K's former diplomats closing ranks behind Darroch.
SIR CHRISTOPHER MEYER, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: It just shows President Trump's sensitivity, his insecurity, which Sir Kim himself bore witness to. And it is a typical reaction by a president when anybody disrespects him as he sees it. And I'm afraid that the consequences are entirely predictable.
ROBERTSON: Two big questions now, Darroch's future as ambassador to D.C., and who leaked his incendiary comments. P.M. Theresa May is standing by her man, defending Darroch. But in two weeks, she is gone, giving her replacement an opportunity to clean house in D.C. and possibly appoint a more Trump friendly ambassador.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Mr. President. Something's (ph) gone (ph) wrong.
ROBERTSON: Who dumped Darroch's private thoughts likely has its roots in Brexit. Britain's top-tier civil servants, the oil that greased the government's smooth running, are finding themselves caught in the cross currents of rivalries coursing through U.K. politics. Darroch, a former ambassador to the E.U., may be no exception. Perceived at home as pro-E.U., his exit potentially clearing the way for a pro-Brexit ambassador.
MEYER: You always have to ask yourself the question, who benefits? And here there is a possible range of villains who come into the frame. I'm not going to name anybody, but it was clearly somebody who set out deliberately to sabotage Sir Kim's ambassadorship.
ROBERTSON: In the meantime, Trump has flip-flopped again on May's handling of Brexit.
TRUMP: I believe the prime minister has brought it to a very good point where something will take place in the not-too-distant future. I think she's done a very good job.
ROBERTSON: Replacing recent praise with a Twitter tirade. I told @TheresaMay how to do that deal, but she went her own foolish way and wasn't unable to get it done. A disaster. I don't know the ambassador, but I'm told he is a pompous fool.
Friends describe Darroch as a tough man with a cool head who won't be easily panicked. How quickly the diplomatic damage can be patched up depends a lot on Trump and the next British prime minister, likely Boris Johnson, who, as a friend of the U.S. president, will hope to clean the slate fast.
[13:25:17] Nic Robertson, CNN, Gibraltar.
KEILAR: So what does this mean for the future relationship of these two allies? We have Lewis Lukens. He is a former acting U.S. ambassador Great Britain.
And thank you so much for lending your unique perspective here.
The president disinvited Darroch from a dinner last night. He says he's not going to work with the ambassador. So what are the options here for maintaining this essential relationship? LEWIS LUKENS, FORMER ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.K.: Well, Sir Kim
was supposed to be in Washington until January, so the two option are he stays until the end of his time or the next prime minister, as Nic just commented, Boris Johnson most likely, pulls him back early and sends someone who is seen as more friendly to Trump.
It puts the new prime minister in a very difficult position because one way he risks irritating the president by keeping Sir Kim in place for another five or six months. The other way he risks being seen as letting the president dictate who he sends as his senior representative to Washington. It's sort of a no-win situation I think for the next prime minister.
KEILAR: I mean even if this is not Sir Kim's fault, because these cables were leaked, certainly not his doing, is he still able to do his job?
LUKENS: Well, look, the job of a U.K. ambassador in Washington depends on access, right, and having access to the corridors of power. He was disinvited from the dinner last night. He was disinvited from a meeting at the White House today. If he doesn't have access and can't go to meetings, you have to sort of question what utility he has in Washington at that point.
KEILAR: I mean that's a very good point.
So then do you think if you're just dealing with the reality of the situation, it makes sense for the prime minister to recall him on that basis?
LUKENS: Well, look, as I said, it's sort of -- it's a no-win situation for -- for this prime minister or for a new prime minister because you're damned if you do and damned if you don't.
I will say that the bedrock foundations of the special relationship are very, very strong and the work that our two nations do together will continue on a daily basis regardless of this churn at the top.
KEILAR: Do you think there's a chilling effect on how other diplomats might communicate information? Might they try to do it on less official or not written channels?
LUKENS: Absolutely. I think people will think long and hard about what they send back to London. I think our diplomats were probably feeling a little bit of the same concern. You know, part of being a diplomat is being able to send really honest and frank assessments back to your headquarters so that the leadership in your country can make the best policy decisions. And if you're not able to be forthright and honest in those assessments, it diminishes your role as an ambassador and your utility.
But I think a lot of people are probably worried now, if I write something harsh or something honest this -- that is -- that could be taken in a negative light about the president or the leader of the country where I'm assigned, is that going to come out and will I be then thrown out of my job? KEILAR: All right, ambassador, thank you so much. Ambassador Lewis
Lukens with us.
LUKENS: Thank you.
KEILAR: A father goes viral for calling the police on a black man who was minding his business, just waiting, while his young son begs him not to call. We're going to show you what happened.