Return to Transcripts main page


Acosta Refuses to Resign, Defends Secret Plea Deal for Epstein; Migrant Mom Testifies About Death of 19-Month-Old Child; Allegation of Sexual Assault and Retaliation at Migrant Facility; NYC Holds Victory Parade for U.S. Women's Soccer Team. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 10, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And he's talking about rolling the dice. He didn't even pick up the dice. They didn't even start investigating this. As you've indicated -- and by the way, court documents with respect to this very matter indicate that there were between 30 and 40 victims that the Justice Department and his office had access to at that point in time. Most of them were minors.


CALLAN: They were children. And when you have sex with a child, that's called rape in most jurisdictions, federally and even in a place like Florida where he seems to characterize Florida as someplace where in 2007, the rules were different. You know, Herbert Hoover was not President in 2007. I think it was George W. Bush. The United States was not that different and we took care of victims of sex crimes even in 2007.

A responsible U.S. attorney wouldn't have walked away from this case. He would have convened a task force to investigate this case. He would have picked up the phone and called U.S. attorneys in other districts to find out if they might have jurisdiction. He wouldn't merely walk off the stage and start reading the newspaper because he has an idle interest in whether other investigations are going on. He should have commenced those investigations. This was an act of unbelievable irresponsibility for victims of these crimes.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What I thought was interesting about it was the way he was talking in this very passive voice. Almost like, oh, if only I had had some power. You know, like this was just so terrible that this happened, and they're such victims and I can't imagine if this happened to one of my girls. Oh, I just wish something could have been done. And something could have been done. And the idea that there's this new evidence, but yet there were dozens of victims who had come forward. There were flight manifests. There were witness. There was, you know, an indictment, it was like a 53- page indictment, I think. So the idea that they didn't have information and evidence isn't really true.

And also, they could have waited. They could have continued to gather more evidence if they felt like they didn't have enough of a case. So I felt like he was clearly trying to throw the career prosecutors under the bus. And doing it in this way of saying, like don't blame them, it's not their fault. It's like, well people aren't blaming them. They're blaming you. Right? And he's trying to like deflect it off on to prosecutors.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: He even had an excuse why victims weren't notified of the plea. All we heard were excuse after excuse after excuse, and that is just very troubling. And I know, you know, he's up there for almost an hour, thinking he was doing himself a favor. I don't think anyone here thought he was doing himself any favors.

BALDWIN: I want to go to Florida because I want to hear from "The Miami Herald" that did this extraordinary investigative reporting led by Julia Brown. And so, Nancy Ancrum is the editorial page editor of "The Miami Herald". And so, Nancy, I know we talked, was it yesterday, two days ago, but now that we have finally heard from, you know, Alex Acosta himself, and I heard off the top, you know, my producers told that you were watching and just shaking your head, what was your assessment?

NANCY ANCRUM, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, THE MIAMI HERALD: He did not do himself any favors here. Clearly when your boss says go out and address this, you go out and address this. What we heard was a man who was really true to himself. I cannot fault him for that. But he was remote. He was lawyerly. He was antiseptic. He got us into the weeds of this case, yet really failed to show the kind of compassion, the kind of introspection that I think would have really helped him here.

BALDWIN: What do you think -- because the questions kept coming. Would you apologize to these women? Would you meet with these women? And it seemed to be his stock response was, we need more of these victims to come forward. But I love your word, antiseptic. I mean, it just seems like, you just obviously felt like he was lacking. What message -- if you're one of these woman, and there was another woman who came forward today -- what must they be thinking?

ANCRUM: They're thinking that they've got a longer road to hoe, as far as finding justice specifically in Florida. And I think they have every reason to pitch their hopes on Jeffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in New York who has charged ahead with this.

BALDWIN: Based upon your own papers reporting, did you hear any stark inaccuracies from Secretary Acosta?

ANCRUM: You know, it's really interesting. One thing that really made me raise my eyebrows was he talked about not having to contact the young women about this very lenient deal because it was not covered under the CVRA at the time. But then he also talked about how a career prosecutor tried to contact all of these women to tell them.

[15:35:00] But if you take a look at Julie Brown's excellent reporting, she unearthed e-mails between Acosta and Acosta's office, and Epstein's attorneys saying thanks so much for agreeing not to share this agreement with the victims.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, let me bring you in as well because obviously our reporting ahead of this news conference was that the Secretary did this at the urging of President Trump. You know, he was asked essentially are you speaking up here to an audience of one. He said no. But when he was asked about his relationship with the President, he said, it's outstanding.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, what do you expect him to say, Brooke. He did this because the President wanted him to do this. He did not apologize. Because if you're a member of the Trump administration, you never apologize. You defend and deflect. And what we saw today, I think, was full of deflection.

I mean, he started out by saying the Palm Beach state attorney's office was ready to let him walk free, and we came in and we were the good guys. And by the way, I had no idea about this work release issue after he was sentenced, that it was BS, but that's the state's fault. And then he didn't give us what all this new evidence is that suddenly he believes New York is dealing with. And also on this question of immunizing potential coconspirators, you've got a lawyer there. I don't know what his answer was on that. Why were they --

BALDWIN: Do you know his (INAUDIBLE)?

CALLAN: You know, his defense in that area made no sense whatsoever.

BORGER: Right.

CALLAN: There are lots of coconspirators listed as being protected by the agreement, and why would you seek to immunize these people. And just going back also, you know, the agreement also says that the victims were not to be notified of anything that went on. Now, it's one thing --

BALDWIN: Why not.

CALLAN: Why not is the question. Why not.

BORGER: Well his answer was, well, we didn't want to notify them because Epstein's attorneys could use this against them if this were to proceed by saying, whoa, were you offered any money by Mr. Epstein and then they would have to say yes. That was the answer that he gave. They were trying to cut a deal here, not go to court, right?

CALLAN: Oh, you bet. The job of a prosecutor in a criminal case is to seek a remedy within the criminal justice system, not to negotiate a money settlement in a civil case. He's forgotten what his role is as a criminal prosecutor.

BALDWIN: Were you going to say something?

PROKUPECZ: And also, they were doing everything they could to keep this from going public, right, they didn't want any notifications made to the press about this. So they were doing everything they could to obviously protect Epstein, that is his attorneys. They were doing their jobs and it just seemed that Acosta and his team caved.

CALLAN: And it wasn't just to protect the victims from being cross examined about the fact that they might institute a lawsuit against Epstein. Because they specifically say we promise federal prosecutors in this agreement that we will do everything possible to keep this secret unless we're compelled by the Freedom of Information Act to disclose. All right, so what they're saying really is, we're going to really go out of the way to help you. Now that would continue -- that agreement would continue even after there had been a conviction in a criminal case.

BALDWIN: I want to go back to these women, and I alluded to this a second ago. That there was another victim that came out today. And, Kirsten, this was directed at you. I don't want them to be lost in this whole legal prosecutorial conversation. So here is just a clip of this new Epstein accuser speaking out today.


JENNIFER ARAOZ, ACCUSES JEFFREY EPSTEIN OF RAPING HER IN 2002: I was terrified and I was telling him to stop, please stop, you know.


ARAOZ: No, he did not stop. He had no intentions of stopping, and that's what he wanted. That's what he got. I just thought, like, you know, it's my fault. I was like, you know, obligated. That's just what you're supposed to do. So I really did not know better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Jeffrey Epstein rape you.

ARAOZ: Yes, and I mean, he raped me. Forcefully raped me but knew exactly what he was doing. And I don't think cared. What hurts even more so is that if I wasn't afraid to come forward sooner, then maybe he wouldn't have done it to other girls.


BALDWIN: We should just note that CNN has reached out to Epstein or his lawyers and have yet to hear back. But, Kirsten, you know, through your reporting -- it was your reporting that you were sitting outside the courthouse the other day saying that more and more women have come forward as a result of this. What would you say about all of this?

POWERS: Yes, I mean, he is a sexual predator. Right? And they had to understand the kind of person they were letting back out into the world who was capable of doing these horrific things.

[15:40:00] Again, you know, Acosta is talking about this like, oh, well, the world was just so different back then. You know, like we're talking about the 1940s or something, you know, not talking about 12 years ago. And maybe he's right in the sense that people like him didn't get held accountable for allowing people like Jeffrey Epstein to go back out on the streets. And the idea that, oh, well he had to register as a sex offender. I mean, the guy has private planes and houses all over the world. God only knows what he has done all over the world. This is a dangerous person that they let go back out harming, we can't even imagine, how many other children. BALDWIN: We're going to end it there. Thank you so much for all of

your insight.

BORGER: Can I just say this.

BALDWIN: Hit me Gloria. Real quick, hit me.

BORGER: It's not me. No.

BALDWIN: I'm sorry, Nancy. That was Nancy.

ANCRUM: So much hasn't changed in that we have to remember also that we are dealing with rich and powerful men, and whether we are talking about a Clarence Thomas having to be called to account or in this case, we might have to see a Bill Clinton or a President Trump call to account, maybe not that much has changed and that's unfortunate.

BALDWIN: Nancy, you have the last word, Nancy Ancrum from "The Miami Herald". Thank you all very much for this today.

We are following some breaking news from Capitol Hill. I want to make sure I can get to. Where a mother is testifying about the death of her 19-month-old daughter just weeks after the little girl was released from border patrol custody. Her emotional story is just ahead.

And the Trump administration just granted access to journalists to go inside one of the facilities housing migrants. So we're live in Texas with that new video coming up.


BALDWIN: After weeks of devastating details from facilities housing migrant children at the border, one Congressional committee is hearing testimony from a mother whose 19-month-old child died after spending nearly three weeks in I.C.E. detention.

Yazmin Juarez has filed a wrongful death claim seeking $60 million from the U.S. government. Juarez says that her toddler, Marie, entered a Texas facility as a healthy baby girl, and then 20 days later was discharged with a life-threatening respiratory infection.


YAZMIN JUAREZ, 19-MONTH-OLD DAUGHTER DIED AFTER BEING RELEASED FROM ICE CUSTODY (through translator): All of the hard work of these doctors came too late. My Maria died on what is Mother's Day in my country. When I walked out of the hospital that day, all I had with me was a piece of paper with Maria's handprints in pink paint that the staff had created for me. It was the only thing that I had left, and the nurses had given it to me as a Mother's Day gift.


BALDWIN: This week, DHS announced that they have seen a 28 percent drop in enforcement actions at the border in June, Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, attributes the President's stay in Mexico policy, so CNN en Espanol correspondent, Maria Santana is here and Raul Reyes, an attorney and CNN opinion writer is with me as well. So Raul, let's just start with this mother. You've been listening to her having the emotional testimony.

RAUL REYES, CNN OPINION WRITER, IMMIGRATION ANALYST AND ATTORNEY: Right. This testimony by Yazmin Juarez, it was quite heartbreaking. She spoke through an interpreter. She spoke in Spanish. But you could see the reactions in the room. I think people were surprised when she went into the detail of being in I.C.E. custody for three weeks, and each time she came to ask for medical attention, she either received nothing or Tylenol or they didn't believe her that her child had a very serious respiratory infection.

Aside from just her child, the huge tragedy here is that our government doesn't need to be locking people up at the border to enforce immigration law. People like Yasmin could be released under community supervision, which is basically like say to a nonprofit or sponsor or even with an ankle bracelet, and people like her child are not supposed to be in those facilities at all. They are supposed to be in the care of healthy human services.

So that's the broader tragedy. Hopefully we will see more accountability and to Mr. McAleenan's statement, he attributes the drop in illegal crossings to Donald Trump's actions but actually seasonally, this time of year, all illegal border crossings go down because the weather is very hot, and it happens every year, so that remains to be seen.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: I want to ask you about something separate, if I can, Maria. CBP is also investigating some newly published allegations that some Border Patrol agents have mistreated and sexually assaulted some migrant children as a form of retaliation. This is according to NBC News, the reports include quote, "A 16-year- old Guatemalan boy held in Yuma, Arizona, said that he and others in his cell complained about the taste of water and food they were given and then as a result Customs And Border Protection agents took the mats out of their cells in retaliation forcing them to sleep on concrete."

And then in another report, quote, "A 15-year-old girl from Honduras described a large bearded officer putting his hands inside her bra, pulling down her underwear, and groping her as part of what was meant to be a routine pat down in front of other immigrants and officers." In a statement to CNN, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection say that they take all allegations seriously. I know you have done all kinds of reporting about facilities such as these, have you heard anything like that?

MARIA SANTANA, CNN EN ESPANOL CORRESPONDENT: You know, there is no words for that. And honestly, not to that degree. Retaliatory sexual assault, like what is that? And honestly as reporters we aren't given access or even much information about the children in U.S. government care but I have worked with organizations that have taken some unaccompanied minors that come through the border in after their release from the Customs and Border and go into these HHS facilities and these people have just told me horror stories about how traumatized these kids are when they arrive.

BALDWIN: Like what?

SANTANA: They are withdrawn, they're sad. They don't eat. They don't sleep. They're constantly crying out for their parents and it is just very difficult for them to get these children to do just even normal things that kids their age should be doing like going to school or -- even playing with toys. And these are people -- these kids that are coming to the border that have already lived through such horrible situations, that is what we lose sight of. I can tell you --

REYES: Just getting here, right.

SANTANA: Just getting here. And I could tell but a 14-year-old boy that I met you know a few months ago, he crossed by himself. His mother basically packed him what little money she had and food for a couple of days, because every time he would try to go to school he was intercepted by gang members who basically ran his town, who demanded that he give drugs or money to some of their other associates and you know do these interactions.

And he refused they said, we're going to go to your house, we're going to kill your family, make you watch and then kill you. And the mother was so afraid that the only chance of survival for this kid was to send him here. And when I asked him, are you -- were you afraid doing that, crossing the border? He said, yes, I was terrified but all I wanted was to go to school. That opportunity to go to school. And in our position of privilege we can judge parents and we can blame them and say it is their fault their kids die or abused in the facility and why bring them here but a lot of times this is the only way.

REYES: And really, what it comes down to, the basic care of children in government custody, whatever your feelings are about immigration or illegal immigration or policy, that should not be a partisan issue -- that is basic humanity and decency and we could do better.

SANTANA: This issue, Brooke, has been so politicized that I think we've lost, you know, sight of what it is.

BALDWIN: I think you just --

SANTANA: We can agree as a society that this is just not acceptable.

BALDWIN: I think you articulated that absolutely perfectly. Maria and Raul, thank you both.

REYES: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Coming up next, a hero's welcome for the world champion U.S. Women's Soccer Team in New York today. I got to be there along the parade route this morning and you have to hear from these little girls and little boys who told me why these players mean so much to them.


BALDWIN: I'm Brooke Baldwin and you're watching CNN.


MEGAN RAPINOE, U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM: We have to love more, hate less. We have to listen more and talk less. We've got to know that this is everybody's responsibility, every single person here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New York City, give them [bleep].


BALDWIN: That was world cup and Big P., Megan Rapinoe, addressing thousands of fans in New York today for the ticker-tape parade celebrating the U.S. Women's Soccer Team's historic fourth World Cup Championship. And her charge to everybody, be more, be better, be bigger than you've ever been before. I raised my hand, I volunteered to cover the parade early this morning and what I experienced was exactly that. It was a pint-sized women's march. Little girls were flooding in the streets, raising their arms high, taking up space, filling the air with their voices. Shouting, go USA, and equal pay. Little girls and boys wanting to be more. Be bigger, better. They get it. Change is in the air.


BALDWIN: Hi, girls, are you so excited?


BALDWIN: How old are you?


BALDWIN: And you play soccer? What do you love about soccer?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: You just can't give up on your team.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I think that they showed that no matter what, women don't have to conform to stereotypes made by society.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: They're like inspiration because they're fighting for what's right on and off the field.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I wanted to come because it shows big women empowerment and it shows that the women deserve equal pay and are just as equal to the men.

BALDWIN: You really believe that?


BALDWIN: Your sister didn't just put you up to that?


[16:00:00] BALDWIN: That's awesome. Thank you.


BALDWIN: Equal pay. Do you hear this? Equal Pay.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: They're an inspiration. They win the World Cup. They're inning games left and right. They're fighting for equal pay. I mean what more could you ask for.

BALDWIN: Equal pay, what does that mean to you.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It just means getting the same respect, getting the same everything as men because we deserve it and we proved it and I think we earned it.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: They don't care, they are trying to do the right thing and they'll do that no matter what and I think they're trying to set us up for success and they're doing a great job.

BALDWIN: Who are you most excited to see and if you were to meet them for five seconds, what would you say?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Probably Julie Ertz and I would probably say that she's a big role model to me and try to have my game like hers.

BALDWIN: Lastly, quickly on three, go USA. One, two, three -- go USA!



BALDWIN: My heart is so full, from this morning. Thank you, girls and boys.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.