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Speaker Nancy Pelosi Just Spoke Amid Democratic Party Infighting; Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fl) Discusses Trump Announcement Expected on Census, ICE Raids to Begin Sunday, Growing Calls for Alex Acosta to Resign over Sweetheart Jeffrey Epstein Plea Deal; Victims' Attorney Spencer Kuvin Discusses Alex Acosta's Sweetheart Plea Deal for Sex Offender Jeffrey Epstein. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, it's getting ugly. And the fact is, the speaker, as you heard, she said she didn't want to talk about it, but then she did explain herself a little bit saying that her argument was that the progressives need to be careful in how they criticize the moderates, just as it should be considered vice-versa.

It's hard to be any leader of a very diverse ideologically diverse caucus. That's the price of leadership.

And I was thinking as I was watching this, Kate -- I'm not sure if you felt this as well. I was thinking it's easy for people to look at this and say it's women fighting amongst each other. But I could easily see this kind of dynamic going on with John Boehner, Paul Ryan and --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: One-hundred percent.

BASH: -- and the Tea Party.

BOLDUAN: One-hundred percent.

BASH: It happened. It happened. Different players, different topics, but similar dynamics of leaders trying to make people get along and keep people in the fold. And it is a very big challenge.

We knew it was going to be a challenge for Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders coming into this new majority, because the freshmen -- they call themselves the squad -- AOC being one of the four she was talking about. They're marching to their own drum. And they have a huge following on social media. They have a huge following beyond that. And they feel empowered and emboldened by that.

And there are very big differences. I'm talking to people in the caucus this morning, differences of opinion on whether or not AOC has gone too far, and frankly whether Pelosi has gone too far. And I think for the most part people just want it to stop.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Especially people inside that caucus. I'm sure that's exactly what we're hoping for right now. Let get Sunlen Serfaty, she's with us.

Sunlen, you asked one of the questions of the speaker about this exact thing when -- when she throws out -- and with all due respect, we know she's definitely not going to be answering your questions.

(LAUGHTER)

But it does seem -- Sunlen, some of the reporting was that behind closed doors Nancy Pelosi, part of her impassioned plea was that she was making the case that a majority is a fragile thing. And that seems to be part of her warning if this continues to play out.

What do you think about this?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kate. I think the word warning is a perfect way to describe that message.

She was framing -- in that closed-door meeting yesterday, folks tell us, she made this impassioned plea for civility, don't attack each other and other Democrats. And very clear -- although she did not want to touch this controversy, which has been simmering for months now and boiled over this week, that she didn't want to touch it. She wants to take the oxygen out of the room.

But very clear that she also had a message for those freshmen today, that her being very vocal in their criticism this week.

I thought it was interesting that she used the word "interpret" twice when she was answering the question. And she emphasized, when I pushed her on it, she said diversity is our strength, unity is our power. Her specifically saying diversity is a veiled response to what Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was saying in the interview with the "Washington Post" when she says she believes the freshmen women of color specifically have been singled out by Pelosi.

So I felt there was some responses there from Pelosi trying to, of course, emphasize diversity and unity as she did behind closed doors yesterday.

But very clear in her not wanting to engage specifically and directly on this today. She's again trying to take the oxygen out of this controversy.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

SERFATY: But that very likely will not happen as this is certainly on the minds of many freshmen members up here on the Hill -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Dana, give me your take, real quick, on the issue of what speaker Pelosi, the warning that she's offering on the caucus behind closed doors. Do you think that is the case, that this kind of, you know, inside fighting that spills out -- spills into the public and even if it continues in the public, do you think that -- does that threaten Democratic majority?

BASH: You know, I think that we don't know the answer to that.

BOLDUAN: That's kind of where I am. You can see it, but it's something of a little bit of a leap, right? Because diversity of opinion is what we have seen in many majorities in the past.

BASH: Well, I think the bigger concern for Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders is the content and the perspective of the criticism, that you have the loudest -- some of the loudest, most popular, frankly, voices, most well-known voices are the most progressive in this caucus.

And the conservatives, the moderates, were the majority makers. They were the ones who beat the Republicans.

BOLDUAN: Right. Exactly.

BASH: So that is her north star politically. That is what she needs to keep in mind.

And also more broadly, that if those more liberal voices drown out the moderates, then that is going to be the perception of the Democratic Party. Now, the freshmen say, OK, that's our point. We want this to be the perception of the Democratic Party. There's nothing wrong with being as progressive as we are.

[11:35:04] But even though she's a liberal from San Francisco, she understands there are a lot of majority makers who are elected from the middle of the country, not the coast like New York City and San Francisco.

BOLDUAN: It's a great point. It's a great point. And we're watching it play out in real time.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys.

BASH: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Sunlen. Great job. Thanks for popping up, Sunlen.

So coming up for us still, migrant communities across the country are in fear today as the Trump administration is planning to launch raids to round up thousands of undocumented immigrant families this weekend. The Democratic member of Congress, the Democratic Congresswoman from Florida, joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:24] BOLDUAN: In just a few hours, the next round in the battle over the 2020 census is likely to begin. President Trump is expected to announce an executive action of some sort on the census, something that he's been hinting at for a while now as a way to get around the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, to put a citizenship question on the upcoming survey. The Supreme Court rejected the administration's reasoning for adding

the question last month. There are still ongoing court battles going on about this as we speak.

And opponents of adding the question, which call it a blatant political maneuver to target immigrant communities, they've vowed to take any executive action to court. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DALE HO, ACLU ATTORNEY: It really doesn't make any difference if it's an executive order or a decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Anything can be challenged in court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So now what? Joining me right now, Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel, of Florida. She's with me.

Congresswoman, thank you for being here.

REP. LOIS FRANKEL (D-FL): Thank you. Great to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

So if the president announces today, as he's expected to, that he's issuing an executive action to add the citizenship question to the census, what do you say to that?

FRANKEL: Well, this is just -- I think I heard you comment this is a blatant political move. Yes, it is.

The background of this, which was found coincidently, is a Republican operative died and his estranged relative found papers in which he actually outlined that the way for Republicans to get an advantage in the next redistricting, the reapportionment, which is how we determine what the different congressional districts will look like, was by adding a census question.

So it's obviously a political move that the president just will not take no for an answer.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you about the ICE raids that we are learning about. U.S. officials are confirming to CNN, Congresswoman, what the "New York Times" first reported, which is that ICE is expected to conduct raids this Sunday to round up and deport thousands of immigrant families facing deportation orders. What are you hearing about this?

FRANKEL: Well, I can tell you that folks where I live -- I live in south Florida -- are terrified. This is just -- the president, this is a vile, inhumane way of handling immigration. We need to have real immigration reform.

And he's about to break up a lot of good families, people who are hard working. And this should not be a substitute for Congress, with the president, doing our job to pass immigration reform.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, these raids were planned once before. They were planned last month and the president delayed them because folks -- well, quite frankly, because folks caught wind of it ahead of time. And it looks like this is happening once again. What impact -- I mean, even the heads up of this, what impact does this have on migrant communities like those in your district?

FRANKEL: Well, for example, not sending -- the summer is out, but if it was a school year, we would not be sending children to school. It might be not even going to the grocery store. It means people who are working may have to just be hiding out. It's going to be a lot of people going underground. And that has a ripple effect. It will have a ripple effect on our economy and people's businesses.

BOLDUAN: You also represent -- there's a lot to ask you about today.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You also represent the district where sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, was first arrested and investigated for abusing underage girls decades ago. The investigation that ended with a sweetheart deal cut by now Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

FRANKEL: Yes.

BOLDUAN: You are calling for Acosta to resign his position.

Acosta defended his handling of the case yesterday in speaking to the press. Let me play for you what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, LABOR SECRETARY: I understand what the victims say. And I'm not here to try to say that I can stand in their shoes or that I can address their concerns. I'm here to say we did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail. He needed to go to jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The case that he made throughout that press availability is that they did the best they could at the time. What's your reaction to that?

[11:45:03] FRANKEL: Well, I'll say, very respectfully, I believe that's a lie.

And I will tell you, as chair of the Women's Caucus and also as a representative of the area where this occurred, we've been following this for many, many months now. And I personally have talked with attorneys for the victims. I talked with the police chief of Palm Beach, the then-police chief, who started this investigation. And this was very -- it's been very clearly laid out by the "Miami Herald."

But the fact is this. There were dozens of girls who were harmed by Jeffrey Epstein. They were all telling the same story. The police had his own diary that confirmed the dates of many of these massage -- so-called massages. And there were staff that witnessed this that could have been subpoenaed, given immunity to testify against him.

So for Mr. Acosta to say that there was not enough evidence or that there's something new, I don't think that is truthful.

The fact of the matter -- this seems to -- it's sort of a mystery to me. It seems to be a case where power and wealth overwhelm the justice system and we really need to get to the bottom of, in the end, why was this deal made.

BOLDUAN: You think that there's something out there we don't yet know of why this deal was made. Is that what you're saying?

FRANKEL: Yes. Yes. And I will tell you this. What else I gleaned, there was a lot of witness intimidation. There was intimidation of prosecutors. There were law enforcement working on this, actually themselves that were surveilled. A lot of crazy things going on. And we're going to get to the bottom of this.

First, of course, the criminal case has to play out. But I feel pretty good that our Oversight Committee here will take action once that is over, be able to subpoena some of these outside witnesses, and get the truth.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for being here. We'll follow up and see what comes of that. Thank you so much.

FRANKEL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, we're going to hear from an attorney for three of Jeffrey Epstein's victims from exactly the time period I was just talking about with the congresswoman. He is going to join me next to give his reaction to where things stand right now.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:57] BOLDUAN: "We did what we did to see Epstein go to jail." That is the defense from Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who is fighting back against criticism of his role in brokering a secret plea deal for sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, over a decade ago. He claims he did what he could to make sure Epstein was punished for sexual abusing, assaulting dozens of underage girls.

Joining me now is Spencer Kuvin, an attorney who represented three of Jeffrey Epstein's victims during the 2008 case in Florida.

Mr. Kuvin, thank you for being here.

SPENCER KUVIN, ATTORNEY FOR VICTIMS OF SEX OFFENDER JEFFREY EPSTEIN: Thank you for having me. Good morning.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. You represented three of the victims in this original case. What have you heard from them since these new charges, the New York charges have been filed?

KUVIN: I can tell you that they're ecstatic that he's now behind bars, which is a good thing, and hopefully he'll stay there.

But they're also skeptical because of what they went through as to what the system is going to actually do with him this time. They're hopeful they will do the right thing but, again, since they've seen how the system has failed them in the past, they're very skeptical.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you, we just spoke with Congressman Lois Frankel, who represents the district where this all played out in Florida. She said she has heard of witness intimidation taking place back during the original case of Epstein. Were your clients intimidated? Have they ever mentioned anything like that to you?

KUVIN: Yes. It was actually unbelievable what was occurring at the time. He had black Tahoes following these young women and their family members. He would reach out and have his investigators interview boyfriends, ex-boyfriends. He would subpoena, through his attorneys, medical records, ask unbelievably intimidating questions through his lawyers and hide behind his investigators.

People were being followed. People and their families were being questioned. It was incredibly intimidating. You have to remember these girls were 14 and 15 at the time that this was happening.

BOLDUAN: And had you also -- she also mentioned that she had heard of prosecutors facing intimidation. Have you heard that?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Because Lois Frankel is pointing to there was a lot more going on than to see what led to this plea deal.

KUVIN: Yes. I don't think it was direct intimidation that was occurring, but just the fact that he's hiring some of the most powerful criminal defense attorneys in the United States to be able to prosecute his case, I think that there was, I guess how should we say it, outgunned. Mr. Acosta's office felt outgunned with respect to the amount of legal power behind Mr. Epstein at the time. They just folded under the pressure.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about Acosta. The renewed focus on Epstein has put a new spotlight on Alex Acosta and his role in inking this deal.

In his press conference he held yesterday, he said a lot. Let me play you what his message he said was to the victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your message specifically to those who did come forward and felt let down by you? ACOSTA: They came -- look, the victims came forward. There were

several victims. I believe that, in one of the filings, the Department of Justice talked to several of the victims. Some of the victims just didn't want any public notoriety.

If we went to trial and it became clear that they were going to receive money if he was convicted, how that would impeach their credibility. And today, that would proceed very differently because victim shaming is just not accepted. But the circumstances of trials and what juries would consider 12 years ago was different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: He says, 12 years ago, things looked a lot differently than they do today. He said that he did everything that he could. What do you say?

KUVIN: There are so many things wrong with his statement. Number one, he's picking one or two of the victims that may have been hesitant to come forward.

I can tell you that at least two of my three clients were not only willing to come forward but they subjected themselves to a deposition through his attorneys that were incredibly harsh with them. They wanted to step forward and testify.

[11:55:05] Second, you know, he's saying victim shaming is not OK today but it was apparently OK 12 years ago. I don't believe that. That's just not the way that the world works.

And the fact that my clients may have received money to help take care of their psychological bills and to compensate them fairly for what occurred to them, it's unbelievable.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, on that note, are your clients willing to testify in this new case in New York? Have you talked to them about it?

KUVIN: I've spoken with one, who said that she is willing to step forward if the Southern District of New York would like to speak with her. She's ready, willing and able to talk to them.

She's declined any and all press interviews and only wants to talk to the people that matter. To her, that is either the FBI or the U.S. attorney's office up in New York.

But she wants to be a part of this and she wants to see him behind bars.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Kuvin, much more to come. Thank you so much.

We'll be right back.

KUVIN: Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:00:02] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

President Trump's Rose Garden re-election strategy is in overdrive today.