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Britain-Iran Situation Examined; Immigrant Children Attend School in Juarez; Fed Chief Testimony Explored; Coverage of China's Uyghur Minority; British Ambassador To U.S. Resigns After Trump Criticism; Fox Targets Lawmaker In Immigration Rant; Budweiser Experimenting On Beer In Space. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 02:00   ET


PAULA NEWTON, CNN HOST: Newton and this is CNN Newsroom. Coming up, Iranian leaders warn Britain of consequences for seizing one of their oil tankers. And it appears they may have tried to follow through on that threat.


YAZMIN JUAREZ, GUATEMALAN MIGRANT: We were locked in a cage with about 30 other people, moms and children and forced to sleep on a concrete floor.


NEWTON: Heroine testimony from a migrant mother who crossed the U.S. border seeking a better life but endured tragedy instead. Plus 22 countries issue a sharp review (ph) China and its policy of mass detention of ethnic Uyghur Muslims in the western (inaudible) region.

So it looks like Iran is trying to make good on its threat to retaliate the seizure of one of its tankard ships. Now the U.K. Defense Ministry says three Iranian gun boats tried but failed to take control of a British oil tankard in the Strait of Hormuz.

A nearby British warship quickly intervened and the Iranians left. Iranian media though reports that Iran's revolutionary guards deny they were involved. We want to go straight to our Sam Kiley who's following the story for us from Abu Dhabi.

Sam, now we seem to have a little bit more clear -- clarity from the British Defense Ministry saying that they're urging the Iranians to deescalate the situation but how serious is this right now, Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL COORESPONDENT: Well Paula, it became very serious indeed. I understand from (inaudible) officials that it came to not only a verbal warning to these three Iranian gun boats that approached the Heritage, and this is B.P. owned ship called the British Heritage in international waters attempting to divert it into Iranian waters, the officials said.

But that the -- the HMS Montrose leveled its guns at the gunboats -- the Iranian gunboats in order to reinforce their orders to withdraw. And indeed the Iranians took the hint and did. And they did this by putting sailors on deck manning machine guns and

also by activating an automatic 30 millimeter cannon. So it's a significant show of force in a highly tense environment.

And ironically this of course is tension that is being caused by Iranian and American anger at one another over the American withdraw from the nuclear agreement that was supposed to end sanctions on Iran in return for them dialing back on their nuclear program that the United Kingdom among others actually support.

But this incident comes unlike other incidents that have been attributed to the Iranians in this -- in this area as a consequence to the British seizing an Iranian ship, a oil tankard off the coast of Gibraltar, which the European Union and the British say was heading into Syria in breach of sanctions against Syria, not against Iran.

But none the less, this has very significantly increase tensions. Had there been an exchange of fire, things would have been very much more problematic.

And this all comes at a time when the United States is trying to put together and international coalition to insure safety of transit for all ships through the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman where these sorts of incidents have been occurring and recently with six ships -- tankards in the past six or eight weeks that have been bombed with sea mines by allegedly, according to British and the U.S. by Iran. Paula.

NEWTON: Yes Sam, quite a dramatic play by play you just gave us there on what happened in the Strait of Hormuz and we'll continue to follow this story especially as it seems that the British Defense Ministry is giving out more information. Sam, appreciate it.

Now, to the new evidence that shows just how dangerous and daunting it is for migrants fleeing Central America looking for what they believe will be a better life in the United States. Now authorities say they are investigating allegations that border agents mistreated children at a facility in the U.S. state of Arizona.

A 15 year old Honduran girl alleges she was sexually assaulted. Other children say they were denied phone calls, even showers, and if they dared complain about the food or water they were forced to sleep on a concrete floor without sleeping mats.

In time the New York Times reports that the U.S. will start rounding up thousands of undocumented immigrants starting this Sunday. The paper cites current and former homeland officials -- homeland security officials in the United States the raids, which were postponed last month, will target at least 2,000 people in 10 major U.S. cities.

Officials say they plan to arrest immigrants who have already been ordered deported but do remain in the United States illegally. On Capitol Hill meantime, members of the Congress heard incredible emotional testimony about the conditions in those very detention centers. One woman who fled Guatemala fought back tears as she talked about her 19 month old day. The girl died just a few weeks after they released from a facility in Texas. The woman says her daughter had a respiratory infection and like so many other children in these detention centers, did not receive proper medical care.


JUAREZ: The trip was dangerous but I was more afraid of what might happen to us if we stayed. So we came to the United States where I hoped to build a better, safer life for us. Unfortunately that did not happen. Instead I watched my baby girl die slowly and painfully just a few months before her second birthday.

She was a happy, healthy child, thank God when we were back in our country. She didn't suffer any serious illnesses until we got here into the United States. But in the detention facility there were hundreds of people who were sick, children and adults, and it was very difficult to see that.

It was very difficult to see hundreds of people standing in line trying to be seen for a medical consult. And what happened to me and many other people is that we had to go back and be turned away without receiving that kind of help and that to me seems like the most negligent thing.

And that what would be necessary is greater attention and supervision to the health of children, which should be the priority.

DR. CARLOS GUTIERREZ, PEDIATICIAN: There is an abundance of pediatricians and doctors that are willing to step in, step up to the plate and provide care right in their facilities. I would love for you all to take action to allow us entrance into the facilities so that we can take care of the medical issues right away.

And secondly, if you're not going to allow us in please have whoever is taking care of those individuals, please let them communicate with us.


NEWTON: And that's a plea from doctors. Now democrats on that subcommittee were sharply critical of the Trump administrations immigration policies and it got back up from the head of a human rights group on the process migrants now have to endure to just try -- just to try and claim asylum in the United States. Take a listen.


MICHAEL BREEN, PRESIDENT & CEO, HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: Yesterday in Juarez I spoke with a mother of an eight month old child. She had tried to present herself at a port of entry, follow the law, follow the rules and say I seek asylum in the United States.

She was told to take a number and wait her turn. They're taking about 10 or 15 people a day on that bridge. She is holding number 17,000 plus. She is Juarez because the United States government has seen fit under the obscenely named migrant protection protocols that she should sit Juarez where these cartels have absolute access to her and her family.


NEWTON: OK. Now, international aid groups are running shelters on the Mexican side of the border to try and house all of those thousands of asylum seekers he was talking about. CNN's Ed Lavandera got a look inside one facility.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN REPORTER: For three months little Marvin (ph) has spent most of his days in Juarez, Mexico in this makeshift classroom. Volunteers created this school to give migrant children a sense of normalcy. But today is Marvin's (ph) last day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today they're leaving to Guatemala.

LAVANDERA: (Inaudible) is a children's book author and has spent most of the last year volunteering to help thousands of migrants who've shown up in this border town. She says Marvin's (ph) family has been waiting for three months to request asylum in the United States but his mother is giving up and returning to Guatemala. And that's because the wait is very long. It takes a long time.

UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Well, she's over there but she doesn't want to risk it.

LAVANDERA: In January the Trump administration rolled out the migrant protection protocols, often called the remaining Mexico policy. It forces migrants to wait in Mexican border towns until their number is called to cross the border and request asylum.

Juarez government officials say right now more than 5,500 people in the border city are on the wait list to simply request asylum. The wait time is about four months. They have to wait even longer to get a court date in the U.S.

As they wait (inaudible) says thousands of people are crammed into the 14 migrant shelters that have opened along the U.S./Mexico border since February and they're feeling the stress.

Like 20 year old (inaudible) who came from Honduras and has been waiting four months to request asylum. He says he rarely leaves the walls of the shelter because he fears the city around him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).

LAVANDERA: He says as right now he's getting his strength from his family that send him messages to keep waiting, to keep waiting but he's not much -- he's not sure how much longer that -- that -- that will last and how much more patience he will have.

Have you heard of people saying I don't want to wait in line anymore; I'm going to sneak in illegally and try to avoid being caught?


LAVANDERA: A lot of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. They just get desperate.

LAVANDERA: Many migrants facing months and months of waiting here in Juarez say they're taking matters into their own hands. They're too desperate so they'll come to this part of the border; they'll jump over and dart across to the U.S. side, turning themselves in to immigration officials.

Because of that the Mexican government has deployed army soldiers along this stretch of the border and in other places to deter those migrants from doing just that. U.S. immigration officials say the Trump administration strategy is slowing the flow of migrants. Border patrol says apprehensions dropped 28 percent from May to June.

KEVIN MCALEENAN, ACTING U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Our strategy is working. The president's engagement with Mexico, the deal to enforce immigration security on their southern border, to partner with us on tackling transnational criminal organizations that's clearly having an impact on the flow.

LAVANDERA: But critics say forcing migrants to wait in dangerous Mexican border towns is inhumane.

MARISA LIMON, HOPE BORDER INSTITUTE: We're seeing upticks in the cases of kidnapping, of assaults. You know these are people that are easily targeted, especially in Central American migrants it's very difficult and we're -- we're putting them at risk knowingly.

LAVANDERA: The Trump administration is expanding this remain in Mexico policy. It has started forcing migrants to wait in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, which is considered one of the most violent cities in the world because of drug cartel violence.

But the Trump administration insists that all of this is being done for humanitarian reasons and to help ease the burden of processing of migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border. Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.


NEWTON: To talk about some of these issues Elissa Steglich teaches immigration policy at the University of Texas School of Law. She's seen these detention centers first hand. And -- and I want to talk you about the growing numbers. I mean you've been in there and -- and yet the numbers have grown so exponentially in the last few months. What worries you?

ELISSA STEGLICH, UNIV. OF TEXAS LAW SCHOOL: Well, I'm concerned because we have still yet to see an adequate humanitarian response from the United States government, well the number certainly in the past few months has been remarkable, the volume of asylum seekers coming from Central America and the percentage of compared to single adults coming to the United States has been an upward trend.

And the government made no preparation and it is -- the results of that lack of preparation is what we're seeing at the border now.

NEWTON: And it is leading to what many people will describe as a humanitarian crisis. I want to ask you about the fact of -- the president seems to indicate that he believes this would act as a deterrent.

STEGLICH: Well that has been a consistent from this administration and to be fair from the Obama administration in trying to control what is a refugee situation by cruelty and measures that are intended to spark deterrence in keeping people in harm's way in their home countries.

And the challenge is is that people see the journey, reaching the United States, reaching other countries as a risk that is the better option of remaining in home country in facing near certain death.

And so one policy response that has been lacking in significant measure has been a focus on improving security conditions in home countries. Our administration is not talking about that rather trying to instill measures to simply curtail migrants from reaching the United States rather than improving home country conditions.

NEWTON: And a couple of issues here, Elissa. Let's deal first with the law. In terms, the -- the legal obligation of the Untied States, both an American and international law, does this cut it?

STEGLICH: Absolutely not. We have in our own law the Refugee Act of 1980, provide for any individual regardless of how they enter the United States to apply for asylum. That is a critical obligation that insures our compliance with our international obligation with the refugee act.

We have also signed on to and pledged to abide by the United Nations Convention against torture, which allows anybody -- again, regardless of how they entered the United States -- to apply for protection and insuring that the United States cannot deport anyone to a country where they face a risk of torture.

NEWTON: It seems the bottom line here is that it's not working as a deterrent and it certainly isn't fulfilling any obligations. I have to say, Elissa, I'm glad that you mentioned that as well this was going on, you know, in the Obama administration as well.

The research is there at the University of Texas Law School and certainly well documented in terms of what has been going on for many years. Elissa, thanks so much.

STEGLICH: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now another tragedy illustrates the dangers facing so many Central Americans heading north to that U.S. border. We have to warn you though, the images are graphic. A Guatemalan migrant who hired a smuggler to get him to the U.S. was killed in Southern Mexico. His son's throat was also slashed but he survived. You'll see him there. Government officials say they were kidnapped by a drug cartel but relatives in the U.S. couldn't come up with the $12,000 ransom.

The 10 year old -- just 10 years old is recovering there in a hospital in Mexico. Now nearly two dozen nations unit in defense in of (inaudible) and China's Zhejiang Province. Ahead, the demand that Beijing halt mass detention surveillance and restrictions.

And the U.S. Fed Chair hints about a rate cut but insist it's not because of pressure from the president.


It's a day of records on Wall Street. All three major industries soared in intraday records on Wednesday but the NASDAQ was the only one, as you see there, to hold up to the end of the day of trading. It's closed up 0.75 percent.

The S&P 500 ended up 0.45 percent. And after crossing 3,000 points for the first time ever. Now the market gains followed strong hints of a potential reduction in interest rates later this month but Federal Reserve Chairman J. Powell told lawmakers any cut would be driven by the economy, by the data and not by President Trump's calls for one. Clare Sebastian has the details.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN REPORTER: The issue of presidential pressure was a recurring theme during this three hour Q&A session, the first of two days of testimony from the Federal Reserve chairman on Capitol Hill this week.

The chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Maxine Waters calling President Trump's recent criticism of the Fed for not cutting rates. Quote, the elephant in the room. And she was urging Jerome Powell not to submit to the president's high pressure tactics.

Another Congressman David Scott of Georgia also weighing in declaring quote, we've got your back. Well, it's not just the president that wants a rate cut. Market expectations of a cut this month have been rising.

And the fear going into this hearing was that last week's strong U.S. jobs report would make that less likely. Not so in the eyes of Jerome Powell.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR: 3.7 percent is the low unemployment rate but to call something hot you need to see some heat. And while we hear lots of reports of labor of -- of companies having a hard time finding qualified labor, none the less, we don't see wages really responding. SEBASTIAN: Wage growth that's worrying the Fed its ongoing uncertainty over trade despite the recent truth between the U.S. and China. It's also slowing global growth but Powell says is starting to weigh on the U.S. economy and it's persistently low inflation.

But we're not looking at a immanent recession, Powell says. Despite all those risk the U.S. economy is still performing reasonably well but the Fed, he says, will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to keep it that way.

And that's why experts say a rate cut at the end of this month is all but a done deal. Now Powell is expected to appear before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


NEWTON: 22 countries are calling on China to halt the mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Zhejiang Province. Now getting information on what's going on in that region is incredibly difficult as CNN's Matt Rivers found out recently.


MATT RIVERS, CNN REPORTER: What's happening here is that this -- this police officer does not want us to film but what we believe is that that's a camp right there. This is as close as we're able to get.

And right over there we believe are family members presumably who could have family members inside that camp and they're waiting to -- to see them.


NEWTON: And Matt Rivers joins us now. We should say you -- you spoke to -- to people who have been in this situation. Other -- you and other journalist have tried to document the abuse going on there. Why do you think it's taken so long for the international community to just stand up and take any action on this?

RIVERS: It - it's a great question and one we've been asking for a long time, Paula. Just to remind our viewers, you know what's going on in the region of Zhejiang, according to critics, is that the Chinese government is systematically trying to erase the identify of -- and not only the Uyghur population, which is the largest ethnic minority in that portion of China but also just the Muslim identity, in general amongst other minorities out there.

The way they're doing that, critics say, is by putting them inside these detention camps where brainwashing, torture, and abuse allegations are rampant. China would deny all of that and call them all vocational training centers.

But most of the international community does not by Beijing's explanation of what's going on in Zhejiang. And yet, to your point, we haven't seen a huge international response. A couple statements here or there but nothing concrete. Not sanctions, no diplomat expulsions, nothing that would maybe send a more concrete message to Beijing. What we saw at the U.N. Human Rights Council though, according to activist like Human Rights Watch is a step in the right direction.

You had nearly half of all members of the 47 member council of which China is a member, signing up to a statement calling for the end of arbitrary mass detention, calling for the end of the surveillance state that the police have really set up in that part of the region.

And what the hope is amongst advocates and activist looking to change the state of play there is that this is the start of something, of an international presence, an international coalition to stand up to what China is doing there.

Why haven't people done this before, China's powerful. They have powerful economic leverage against a ton of countries around the world and they have shown before that when you criticize China on human rights, Beijing is willing to retaliate with its economic might.

So that's one of the reasons people say there hasn't been the kind of international response, Paula, that you would expect if this was happening in a less powerful country.

NEWTON: And to your point about China's reaction, we've seen them reacting very fiercely when other countries try and interfere to their internal politics. What do you think they will do or because it's this kind of a U.N. body will they just leave it alone for now?

RIVERS: I think what they're going to do is probably put out some sort of letter or a statement of their own accusing these members in interfering with their internal politics and saying that it's essentially none of their business.

But because there's no real ring leader here, because I -- I think on purpose probably you didn't see a country like Australia or the United Kingdom or -- or Japan really step out and say we are the ones spearheading this effort.

It's kind of hard to know where China is going to retaliate specifically. And ultimately what is this? It's just a statement. You know it doesn't hold any teeth. It's not sanctions, it's not you know expelling diplomats from countries.

So how does China respond in kind and I think that's probably just going to be a war of words for now. The question is what do they do moving forward if more concrete action is taken. And China has shown before it will do economic retaliation if you criticize its human rights situation. And so we just have to watch this really closely moving forward, Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, you make a good point. Right. It's a statement at this point and nothing more. Our Matt Rivers there reporting from Beijing. Appreciate it. In South Korea progress is being made in the fight for more LGBTQ rights. But the military has been slow to catch on. The law regard same sex

relations between soldiers as quote disgraceful conduct but it's currently being challenged by two ongoing cases. Now CNN spoke to one former soldier, who is gay, who says he was abused for his lifestyle while he served in the military. And he tells our Paula Hancocks the other gay service members have also been victimized.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN REPORTER: This former soldier is hiding his identity for fear of being stigmatized. During his mandatory service in the South Korean military, Kim says he was victimized by higher ranking soldiers for being gay.

KIM, FORMER SOLDIER: Sometimes they tried to kiss me or they kissed me putting their tongue in my mouth like in front of everyone. So people knew we had a problem but no one could really help.

HANCOCKS: Kim heard from soldiers he served with his bullies were punished but he says the military then started questioning him. Homosexuality is not illegal in South Korea but homosexual activity is illegal within the military, punishable by up to two years in prison.

KIM: I had to call my parents to come out.

HANCOCKS: So the military forced you to come out to your parents.

KIM: Yes.

HANCOCKS: Kim says he had to give the military access to his social media and gay community websites. He says he was sent for medical evaluation with a military doctor to assess if he was gay. He says he was then discharged from the military or medical grounds suffering from depression.

CNN has contacted the Ministry of defense multiple times and is awaiting comment. Two years ago human rights groups accused the ministry of what they called a witch hunt against homosexuals in the military after more than 30 soldiers were charged with violating military law.

The official response then was to keep the military community sound and given the special nature of military discipline, sexual relations with same-sex soldiers are being punished as disgraceful conduct under military law. Kim's experience is not unusual for a gay recruit says a new report from Amnesty International.

The human rights group says the spoke to former and active duty soldiers who had suffered abuse; many said they didn't report the behavior for fear of reprisal.

ROSEANN RIFE, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: A soldier who witnessed another soldier being sexual abused and when that soldier came to him for help and their superior officer who was the perpetrator discovered that. He became a victim himself.

HANCOCKS: Do you feel proud that you've served your country.

KIM: No, not -- not at all. I'm applying (ph) to -- to other country and I did other duties for my country but it feels like they ditched me.

HANCOCKS: Paula Hancocks, CNN, (inaudible).

NEWTON: Next on CNN Newsroom, no apologies, no regrets. The U.S. Labor Secretary defends a controversial plea deal given to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein as calls grow ever louder for the secretary to resign. Iran is accused of trying to retaliate from the seizure of its tankard by confronting a British ship in the Persian Gulf. We'll explain what happened and get some expert analysis.


[02:31:00] PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton. We're going to update you now on our top stories this hour. Immigration officials say they're investigating allegations that border agents mistreated children at a facility in the U.S. State of Arizona. A 15-year-old Honduran girl claims she was sexually assaulted. Other children say they were denied phone calls, showers, and sleeping mats.

The British Ambassador to the U.S. has resigned after he called President Trump inept in leaked diplomatic cables to number 10 Downing Street. In Darroch's resignation came after Mr. Trump said the White House would no longer deal with the Ambassador.

Iran allegedly tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday. U.K. Defense Ministry says three Iranian gunboats confronted the tanker as it sails into the Strait of Hormuz backed off when a British warship arrived on the scene. Iran's revolutionary guard denies it tried to stop the ship.

As -- more on this, we want to talk to Nazila Fathi, she's the former Tehran Correspondent for the New York Times and author of The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran. And in that book, you know, you really detailed the struggle between the hardliners and the reformers in Iran which has been going for so long. In terms of the action that's happened today and the fact that Iran is clearly looking to escalate this.

Where do you see this struggle in Iran, you know, faced as they are with those crippling sanctions?

NAZILA FATHI, FORMER NEW YORK TIMES TEHRAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, obviously, it is the hardliners who have the upper hand now in Iran and they are seeking some kind of military confrontation. And today, we saw how their efforts escalated into what they did with the British tanker.

NEWTON: And do you think that should be taken seriously in terms that this is their goal, they will escalate this until they get some measure of what they want? FATHI: Well, Paula, they have said that they will escalate it. They have said that they are not afraid of a military confrontation. They have taken every step to show that they are not intimidated before what happened on Wednesday, just two weeks ago, they shut down a $110- million U.S. drone if you remember. So, I mean, there -- I don't think there is any sign that they are going to back down or show any sign that they have been intimidated and they are actually trying to bully other countries in the area.

NEWTON: And if you're the United States or Europe and you obviously want this to deescalate, I dare say even Russia wants to see this deescalate. What's your advice in terms of dealing with Iran in this point?

FATHI: Well, Paula, it's very hard to defend Iran. I mean, the Iranian regime is very oppressive, it has meddled in the affairs of other counties in the region but this time, we have to see who is to blame. I mean, the United States has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran and wants to destroy its economy. It has pulled out of the nuclear agreement which Iran had abided by every article in the agreement.

And on the other hand, Europe has not done anything to carry out its obligation under the nuclear agreement to help ease the impact of the sanctions, so it is very hard not to side with Iran and it is very hard to say that they are not being pushed into the corner.

NEWTON: But where does that leave us? I, mean we talk a lot about Europe. Is it Europe that has to take a lead now here? They seem to want to, but as you said they don't seem to be giving Iran anything to go on.

FATHI: Well, you know, Iran has made its demands very clear. It has asked for the United States to come back to the nuclear agreement. It has said that it will negotiate if the United States returns to the 2015 nuclear deal and to nuclear sanctions. And that would be a good start. Lifting the sanctions would help Iranian moderates in the country to be in a position to negotiate with Europe and the United States as well.

[02:35:08] But it looks like that Iran is not going to back down from its position of what happened today in the Persian Gulf. It's a sign that unfortunately the hardliners in Iran have the upper hand and it is time for more rational actions so that this attention can deescalate otherwise can be very consequential for the entire range region.

NEWTON: And I think we have pointed out what's at stake and how consequential it will be if this does escalate. I want to thank you for your time.

FATHI: Thank you.

NEWTON: Now, as multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein faces sex trafficking charges, a new accuser has come forward describing how he raped her when she was just 15 years old.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Jeffrey Epstein rape you?

JENNIFER ARAOZ, EPSTEIN ACCUSER: Yes, he raped me. Forcefully raped me, know 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. I feel really guilty. To this day I feel really guilty.


NEWTON: CNN has reached out to Epstein's lawyers for comment on this latest allegation but not heard back. Epstein is accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls. Back in 2008, he secured a non- prosecution deal where he served just 13 months in prison and registered as a sex offender.

Meantime, U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is under intense scrutiny for that very plea deal. Now, he claims he did all he could when he was the U.S. attorney who helped broker the deal. While Acosta defends that decision, pressure is building for him to resign. CNN's Jim Acosta has the latest from the White House.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Under fire over a plea deal, he once cut for multibillionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta defended his handling of the case during his days as a Federal prosecutor.

ALEXANDER ACOSTA, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: No regrets it is a very hard question. You always look back and you say, what if?

J. ACOSTA: With new victims coming forward questioning whether Acosta was too lenient in the case, the Secretary was asked whether he would have reached the same agreement today. Time and again, he pointed the finger at state prosecutors in Florida, claiming they were going to allow Epstein to avoid jail time.

A. ACOSTA: Today's world treats victims very, very differently. Today's world does not allow some of the victims shaming that could've taken place at trial. I don't think we can say, you know, take a case that is this old and fully know how it would play out today. We did what we did because we wanted to see Epstein go to jail. There is a value to a short guilty plea. Because letting him walk, letting what the state attorney was ready to do, go forward, would have been absolutely awful.

J. ACOSTA: The Secretary made it clear he's not about to resign, talking up his relationship with President Trump while working in a plug for the administration's record.

A. ACOSTA: My relationship with the President is outstanding. He has I think very publicly made it clear that I've got his support. I served at the pleasure of the President. I thought yesterday he was kind and he showed great support. We are here because we are part of an administration that is creating jobs.

J. ACOSTA: A senior administration official told CNN the President's first instinct was to fight back against Democrats calling for the Secretary's resignation. The official said Mr. Trump's attitude was "screw him." The Secretary also blasted reports that he's on thin ice with Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

A. ACOSTA: Our relationship is excellent too and that any articles to the contrary are in his words, be asked.

J. ACOSTA: Through Trump administration fashion, the secretary took a swipe at the media.

A. ACOSTA: I've read this, and one of the things I find interesting is how facts become fact, because they're in a newspaper. Thank you very much.

J. ACOSTA: The question is whether the Secretary's performance was enough to stay on. One of Mr. Trump's close friends was betting that his days were numbered.

CHRIS RUDDY, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, NEWSMAX: Think the plea agreement he did is indefensible. I think that he's not going to stay for long.


J. ACOSTA: Secretary Acosta may be able to stay on for now but the Secretary may want to look back to how other embattled cabinet members have fared in the past. As one senior administration official put it, one day you're working for President Trump and one day you're not. There was one departure that was welcomed by the White House as the British ambassador to the U.S announced he's stepping down after some of his past criticisms of Mr. Trump surfaced in the media. Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

NEWTON: Now, a former prosecutor criticized Alex Acosta's explanation that you just heard there, the 2008 plea deal saying he missed an opportunity to take leadership in this situation.


[02:40:11] ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What we saw was Acosta essentially shift the blame to the line prosecutors in his office, the state prosecutors, and even to some extent the victims, short of shaming them, he says, look, you know, they still have civil -- they can still file a civil suit against Epstein. What you didn't hear in there anywhere was a manager saying, I messed up, the buck stops with me as the prosecutor and all of the evidence that was available to New York or to the prosecutors in New York or at least some of it would've been available to them at the time.

And so it's -- it was shockingly defensive in tone, and it's really amazing to see that there wasn't any sort of, you know, even -- you know, there was this question of do you have any regrets, and he sort of punted on the question. And so, it's -- as a -- again, as a leader, as a manager, as a principle, you just have to sometimes say I had discretion and I used it poorly and I used it wrong and he just didn't do it.


NEWTON: All right. That was Former Federal Prosecutor Elliott Williams. Florida prosecutors have also shot back saying that it is not as Mr. Acosta had described. Now, police in Greece have opened a homicide investigation after a U.S. scientist was asphyxiated. 59- year-old Suzanne Eaton had been attending a conference earlier this month on the island of Create. She is believed to have disappeared while jogging on July 2nd.

Now, the body of the biologist was discovered Monday. Police say they are taking comprehensive measures in their words to find her killer or killers. A U.S. lawmaker comes under attack in the immigration debate. Coming up. The very inflamed rhetoric in the war of words for the Fox News host. Plus, heavy flooding hits New Orleans as the U.S. Gulf Coast braces for what could be its first hurricane of the year.


NEWTON: German Chancellor Angela Merkel insists she is just fine. She was seen shaking next to the Finnish Prime Minister in Berlin Wednesday. This is the third time she's trembled in public in less than a month. Mrs. Markle was first sheen shaking on June 18th as she greeted the Ukrainian Prime Minister and again nine days later. She blamed the first incident on the hydration.

Now, in the seemingly endless debate over U.S. immigration policy, one anchor at Fox News is taking direct aim at a member of Congress.

[02:45:04] Brian Stelter reports on Tucker Carlson's attack on Ilhan Omar and her swift response.


[02:45:13] TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: But she isn't grateful, not at all.


CARLSON: She hates this country.

STELTER: The Fox host on an anti-immigration rant. Blasting Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

CARLSON: That should worry you.

STELTER: Saying, immigrants like her are "undermining the U.S."

CARLSON: Ilhan Omar is living proof that the way we practice immigration has become dangerous to this country. A system designed to strengthen America, is instead, undermining it. No country can import large numbers of people who hate it and expect to survive.

STELTER: Omar, hit back. Calling Carlson a racist fool.

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): It's really quite disappointing to see Fox News give a nightly platform to the white supremacist rhetoric that's coming from the likes of him.

STELTER: Now, a new skirmish in the immigration debate.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA): Make America white again.

STELTER: With Carlson tapping into a frequent theme on the right. And with his critics accusing him of fearing a powerful woman of color. On Wednesday, reaction to his rant getting a supportive retweet from President Trump. On the other side, progressive activists renewing their calls for advertisers to blacklist Carlson's show.

OMAR: We don't only welcome immigrants, we send them to Washington.

STELTER: Omar is both a historic figure. The first Somali American elected to the U.S. Congress and a lightning rod of controversy. A frequent target of Fox's right-wing shows.

JEANINE PIRRO, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Think about it. Omar wears a hijab. Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?

STELTER: Jeanine Pirro was suspended by Fox after that rant. Now, Carlson is invoking Omar's history as a refugee. Resettled by the U.S. when she was 12 years old. And now living an American Dream.

CARLSON: After everything America has done for Omar and for her family, she hates this country more than ever.

STELTER: "No," Omar responded on Twitter, "Carlson is lying." She loves the country and resolves to "make our union more perfect."

OMAR: It wasn't long before I arrived to that I noticed that a lot of America's promise wasn't extended to everyone.

STELTER: Her critiques of America not living up to its ideals. Particularly, for people of color are common and well received on the left. While on the right, people like Carlson react with disgust. It's one of the usual topics on his show. "Democrats," he says, "want you to believe America is an awful place."

This time, Carlson is taking Omar's concerns and making a huge leap. Saying, immigrants with views like hers are dangerous.

CARLSON: They were importing people from places whose values are simply antithetical to ours. Who knows what the problem is? But there is a problem. STELTER: That rhetoric is being denounced by some on the right as well as the left. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic, saying, Carlson divides America and betrays core American values. And Omar is saying this.

OMAR: Truly believe he is a racist fool who is quite weeping about the fact that we have an African born member of Congress.

STELTER: Omar's message.

OMAR: And now, he gets to call me a congresswoman, I'm sure pisses him off.


NEWTON: OK. So, in response, Carlson devoted nearly half of his next show with another rebuke to Omar. Claiming she hates the United States. He insisted Americans like immigrants but immigrants have to like Americans back or the country falls apart. He also said his show takes an aggressive stand against racism more than any other show on television.

A large storm in the Gulf of Mexico has already flooded parts of New Orleans and much more rain unfortunately is on the way. More than 20 centimeters fell on Wednesday, overwhelming the famous French Quarter and other neighborhoods.

Now, here's the problem. The slow-moving system could become a hurricane by Saturday. State officials have started shutting more than 90 floodgates to hold back that ever-rising Mississippi River.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins us from the International Weather Center. Always good to see you. I do wish it was under better circumstances. And I guess here we go again, New Orleans.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN INTERNATIONAL WEATHER ANCHOR: Yes, that's right. It's likely that this storm will intensify into a hurricane. And when we talk about the deluge, kind of precluding this upcoming tropical system. They exceeded their entire month of July's average rainfall just in a period of six hours.

That's not what you like to see when you start talking about a city that sits nearly at sea level. Here is the storm system, you can see it rotating across the Gulf of Mexico. The latest from the National Hurricane Center hasn't actually upgraded this to a depression just yet. But, we do expect that to take place here with the next couple of hours.

We're starting to see more organization, more circulation, and this is the projected path as it moves inland making landfall right along the Louisiana coast by Saturday morning, some time. We already have hurricane watches in effect west of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Tropical storm watches in effect east of the Mississippi River.

We look at two different computer models, the American versus the European. And you can see some minor discrepancies here, one a little further to the west that'd be in the European model.

The American model brings it a little closer to New Orleans, both not great scenarios for the city. One thing we should expect is a strengthening storm system before making landfall. This could bring the potential of dangerous storm surge along the coastal areas. But I want to bring attention to the inland threat of flooding as well with this storm system. Because it is going to pick up a copious amount of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

Look at what some of our computer models are putting out in terms of rainfall accumulation. That's 500 millimeters or more of rain through the next five days for portions of Louisiana. That is an incredible amount of precipitation. We're coming off of the 12 most consecutive wettest months on record for the Mississippi River basin. And that means the potential for flooding exists with this.

We've got very warm ocean waters across this area, a 32 to 34 degrees. So we could potentially see the storm system strengthen just hours prior to making landfall. Something we'll monitor very closely.

And Paula, this is interesting. The path of uncertainty, the direction of where the storm is headed as actually about 50 percent of our oil rigs just offshore in the path of this particular storm. So, we could see oil prices start to skyrocket.

[02:51:53] NEWTON: Yes, a mild disruptions there to 500 millimeters. Incredible. Derek, OK, we'll keep our (INAUDIBLE) across. Appreciate it.


NEWTON: Now, it seems we can't go to the final frontier without beer, really? Ahead, why Budweiser is blasting barley into space to brew beers without gravity.


NEWTON: OK, as we continue our special "SPACE 50" coverage leading to the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. This week we're exploring the economy of space. Major companies are sending their products on the international space station try an experiment without the constraints of gravity.

As Rachel Crane shows us, yes, but even includes beer.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE REPORTER: As the basis of beer, these barley fields are where Gary Hanning studies how Budweiser can make its best brews. He's the director of the company's Global Barley Research Center.

GARY HANNING, DIRECTOR, BUDWEISER GLOBAL BARLEY RESEARCH CENTER: We have to understand agriculture, we have to understand the environment, we have to understand their capabilities to now help them grow the best barley that they can. CRANE: And in 2017, they decided to take this understanding to new heights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one. And the liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft.

CRANE: Traveling on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, Budweiser sent its first experiment to the International Space Station. The first step in the company's self-declared mission to be the first beer on Mars.

[02:55:11] RICARDO MARQUES, VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING, BUDWEISER'S GROUP: We were drawn by the fact that the conversation around space was picking up, we've made this bold announcement, which -- I have to tell you that point in time, some people might have misunderstood that as a publicity stunt. But it -- of course, was it right. There was a very genuine intent -- research intent behind it.

CRANE: Working with space research and manufacturing company Space Tango, their testing how barley reacts in microgravity. How that may affect germination and the malting process.

HANNING: So, this is the variety that we call Voyager. It is planted from seed that went to the space station.

CRANE: Back on earth, Hanning is hoping one day these findings can help him develop new more resilient strains of barley.

HANNING: We believe that their stress responses. And so, the stress of being in space versus whatever stress we have on earth. And now, how does it relate to a drought tolerance or of maybe a flooding environment.

CRANE: So far, Budweiser has send three experiments to the ISS, and is planning another later this year.

HANNING: I think it is traditional within our company of having a pioneering spirit and really pushing the boundaries of whatever we're doing. But then I think we also do a lot of what we call big bets. Where are we going, what are we going to do? And bottom (INAUDIBLE) becomes a big bet.

CRANE: One small step for Budweiser, one giant leap for beer. Rachel Crane, CNN, New York.


NEWTON: Oh, the temptation. Drivers in the U.S. state of Georgia just couldn't help themselves. Could you help yourself? I don't know. An armored truck's door sprang open. I'm not kidding. And look at this, it was raining cash all over the highway. That is cold, hard cash folks. This happened right here in Atlanta during the busy evening rush.

As much as $175,000 may have spilled out there onto the road. Some drivers turned in the bills they grabbed, but only a few thousand dollars have been recovered. No joke there. Police want people to know this. If you keep the cash, you could be looking at up to 20 years in prison. Ouch, what would you do?

Thanks for joining us. I'm Paula Newton. And I will be back with more news in just a moment. You're watching CNN.