Return to Transcripts main page


Hurricane Watch In Effect As Flash Floods Hit New Orleans; Fact-Checking Secretary Acosta's Claims About Plea Deal; DC Mayor Says Trump's July 4th Event Drained Security Budget. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 11, 2019 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:49] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're just minutes away from an updated weather advisory as people in Louisiana are bracing for a possible hurricane that could inundate the state with up to 18 inches of rain over the weekend. Want to bring in the director of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham.

Ken, I know you've been crunching some new data. What's the very latest you can tell us about this storm?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, the latest information is this. We got the NOAA Hurricane Hunters out there right now trying to find where that center location is, trying to find those winds, and then the Air Force Hurricane Hunters going out as we speak out of Keesler Air Force Base. So, really trying to see where the center is. But a big point we have to make, regardless of development, regardless of whether this will become a tropical storm or hurricane, a lot of rain on the way for portions of the Gulf Coast.

BERMAN: How much and where?

GRAHAM: This is the problem. This is -- look at this rainfall amounts. I mean, you're talking about -- we've got storm surge. You have some storm surge along the coast and the rainfall amounts could be a large area of six to 10 inches. And some of this central core rainfall could even get up to 10 to 15, even 18 up to inches of rain. Just a lot of rain. So not just in that core but a far away as Mississippi, the Alabama coast stretching over to Texas, some of these areas could get some just incredible rainfall amounts.

BERMAN: Now, you personally had been working with communities along the Gulf Coast to prepare for situations like this. Baton Rouge, New Orleans, some of these gulf coast towns with so many water issues. Are they prepared for this much rain?

GRAHAM: You know, we've had this before. We get ready. The hard part is, you know, even outside of flood zones when you have situations like this, you don't have to be in a flood zone to get incredible rain. So for the viewers out there, we have to realize it's not just along the coast. It isn't just along those rivers and bayous. Even outside of that, if you get these type of rainfall amounts, you can get a flooding and some dangerous conditions. It's amazing. The last three years, 83 percent of the fatalities in this tropical

system has been inland flooding. Over half of those in cars. So I think talking about it now getting ready. Let's prevent those fatalities.

BERMAN: Are the various models you're looking at, are they aligned as to where the storm could make a direct impact?

GRAHAM: Yes, they seem to be. They're getting closer and closer with time. There's some variability, but we're really trying to focus. You know, you look at this, the cone that we have. It's quite a large area of Louisiana. But, you know, these impacts are going to stretch well outside that county. The models are coming together on this. But, you know, again, whether it becomes the tropical storm or a hurricane just before a landfall, either way, we're going to get flooding rainfall.

BERMAN: I know this is the official hurricane season. We're in it now. Still, it feels earlyish to be talking about a storm of this potential impact. Does this give you any sense of what the rest of the season might be like?

GRAHAM: You know, historically, it's hard to correlate any early activity with the rest of the season. You know, so many conditions that go into this. It's not just the water temperature. We have that. The Atlantic is warm, the gulf is very warm. But the upper level conditions just have to be perfect. So that comes into play throughout the season. So there's no real bearing on the rest of the season. The peak is still to come. We get into August and September, that's the peak of hurricane season. So, you know, this is getting ready now. We've got to get ready for the entire season. We've got a ways to go.

BERMAN: All right, Ken Graham for us at the National Hurricane Center. Serious rain on the way. We'll let you get back to crunching those numbers. I know we have a new update coming at 8:00. Thank you so much.

[07:35:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, John. It is a case of car versus cactus in Tucson, Arizona, and the cactus won.

BERMAN: Always.

CAMEROTA: The Pima -- yes, that's a good rule in life.

BERMAN: Yes, cactus always wins.

CAMEROTA: Yes. The Pima County Sheriff's Office says a man in a sports car crossed the median Wednesday morning and slammed into a cactus. The cactus wound up impaling the passenger side of the car window there. The driver, we're happy to report, was the only one in the car. Can you imagine if there was a passenger? I mean, this would be a completely different story.

BERMAN: I think the cactus has got a good legal case here. CAMEROTA: I think so too. I mean, that seems really open and shut,

that cactus case. His wounds were not serious. I assume he got minor scratches on his right arm.

BERMAN: Police say an Illinois mother took the term carpooling too literally. And now she is facing charges. Dixon police arrested Jennifer Yeager after concluding that she inflated a pool at a friend's house then had her daughter's ride inside of the empty pool to hold it down on their drive home.

CAMEROTA: That's not what carpooling is supposed to mean.

BERMAN: No, no, no. Yeager faces a number of charges including child endangerment and reckless conduct. She was released after posting bond.

CAMEROTA: I heard that she was trying to protect the inflatable pool. I'm glad she kept that safe as opposed to her children.

BERMAN: Well, I'm looking at this thing here (ph), is this going to be one of those things where people say, you know, back in the old days, we used to ride in inflatable pools on top of cars all the time.

CAMEROTA: I don't think so.

BERMAN: This is a nanny state acting again. I miss those days when I could ride in an inflatable pool.

CAMEROTA: I don't think so. I've never heard of that happening before.


CAMEROTA: Yes, OK. Meanwhile, why did labor secretary Alex Acosta give Jeffrey Epstein that shockingly light sentence on federal sex crimes against minors? Well, our next guest says much of Acosta's explanation is simply not true. The investigative reporter whose work has been central to cracking this case is next.



[07:41:08] ALEXANDER ACOSTA, LABOR SECRETARY: One of the things I find interesting is how facts become facts because they're in a newspaper as opposed to the record.


CAMEROTA: All right. That was Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta trying to defend his judgment on that plea deal that he made with the multi-millionaire sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, a decade ago.

Joining us now is Julie K. Brown. Her investigative work at the Miami Herald has led to major breaks in this Epstein case. Julie, great to have you here. You are the sort of foremost authority on -- because you've looked back at the records -- on what went down. And so when he talked about the history of this case yesterday in that press conference, was he telling the truth?

JULIE K. BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE MIAMI HERALD: Well, he -- I guess that's the truth the way he looks at it. But it doesn't square with what the records say. You know, he mentioned something about facts become facts because they're in the newspaper. Well, the reason why they were in the newspaper is because they're based on a public record.

We have a story today in the Miami Herald that reiterates what was in my original piece that there was a paper trail, so to speak, about that meeting. This didn't just involve, you know, one piece of paper that he signed. There were e-mails back and forth between him and Epstein's lawyers. Including one right after this meeting in which Jay Lefkowitz says to --

CAMEROTA: The lawyer.

BROWN: -- Jay Lefkowitz's Epstein's attorney says thank you for the commitment that you made with me at that meeting. And --

CAMEROTA: The secret meeting that was away from the office --

BROWN: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- that they went to a secret --

BROWN: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- location to have. So --

BROWN: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- what was that commitment they made?

BROWN: Well, one of the things referenced in that e-mail is that we agreed, by the way, that we are not going to tell the victims about this, right? So that -- you know, that says it right there. So you can't try to rewrite the fact that that's in the public record.

CAMEROTA: You know, he's tried to say yesterday that part of the reason they couldn't prosecute this fully or at all was because the victims were afraid to come forward. Let me play that moment for you. And you can tell us the reality. Watch this.


ACOSTA: She talks about the challenges faced. She talks about the victims being scared and traumatized. Refusing to testify. And how some victims actually exonerated Epstein. Most had significant concerns about their identities being revealed. The acts that they had faced were horrible and they didn't want people to know about them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: The she he's referring to there is a federal prosecutor. Is that true?

BROWN: Yes, part of it is true. There were victims, of course, who were afraid to testify. There were victims who were in love with Epstein. He groomed them that way. He took care of -- some of them were homeless. But there were 36 victims. And there were quite a few of them who wanted to go to trial. And were calling the Justice Department and calling his office and calling his prosecutors and saying, what's going on with the case? I gave your FBI agents all this information. I want to go forward.

You don't need every single woman to cooperate in this case. You know, you really only need one. You know, and then mention the fact, by the way, we have all these statements by all these other women that corroborate this. And we have other evidence. We have other witnesses.

CAMEROTA: Of course, I mean, there are ways --

BROWN: You know.

CAMEROTA: -- to treat minors, you know, underage young women in court. There's a blueprint for this. This has been done before. But they didn't --

BROWN: Right.

CAMEROTA: -- they decided not to do that. And they also decided not to notify as you've discussed the victims, which is illegal. They didn't tell the victims about the plea deal. So here is what he said about that yesterday. Listen to this.


ACOSTA: When it was finally clear that Epstein would comply with the agreement, she talks about how she made efforts to notify the victims.

[07:45:05] How that was a Friday afternoon at 4:15 and that she learned that the state had scheduled the plea for 8:30 the following Monday. And she talks about how, over the weekend, she made every effort to notify the victims at that time.


CAMEROTA: Is it true that the federal prosecutor, the she in this case, couldn't connect with any one of the 36 victims to let them know during that 72-hour period?

BROWN: I don't believe that's true at all. They -- this agreement was coming down the pike for quite a while. And let's put it this way, even if it was true, why wouldn't you postpone the hearing? It's not like they didn't have the power to say, look, let's do this, you know, they did it first thing on a Monday morning. They called a couple of people who were, like, wait, what is this about? That was the other thing. They didn't even tell the people that they did reach exactly why Epstein was going to be in court.

So, some of the victims' attorneys were under the impression that he was pleading to a state charge but that the federal investigation was still continuing. And the judge ruled in this case that they did -- the prosecutors did mislead the victims into believing that they were still going forward with this case all the way through until the sentencing.

CAMEROTA: You know, obviously, this all begs the question why. Why did Acosta do this? Why did he seem friendlier to Jeffrey Epstein and his attorney than he did to the victims? Why did he break with convention in this case so radically? And that hasn't been answered yet. You know, reporters often have a lot more information than they print or than they broadcast. And I'm just wondering if you know if there will be more coming out on what the backstory was with Acosta?

BROWN: I hope so. I think whenever an investigative reporter does a piece like this where you put a lot of time, energy, investment in something you hope that you're going to find, then your aha, here I got you thing. And I really didn't find that. You know, there's a lot of different things you can surmise from the e-mails that went back and forth. He had a real history with these lawyers. Epstein was very shrewd. He hired lawyers that Acosta looked up to.

CAMEROTA: So maybe -- so I mean, do you -- did you conclude it's cronyism? I mean, that you just thought that he had a friendly past relationship with those lawyers?

BROWN: Well, not only cronyism but also it was ambition, I think. And to some degree, it worked. I mean, look, he's a cabinet member now, you know. And, you know, the sad part about this is that all his prosecutors that worked in that office from what we can see also fell in line behind him. So some of the documents that he was passing out yesterday, for example, saying, well, this person and that person agreed with the decision. How are they not going to agree with it? You're their boss.

CAMEROTA: He was the top prosecutor in Miami at that time.


CAMEROTA: One of the things that he said and I don't have time to play it but I'll just summarize it, was this was 10 years ago, times were different, this was the best deal we could ever have gotten. This was the best deal we could -- it was too risky. It was a roll of the dice, I think, were his words to try to go to trial. And of course, rape cases are always a roll of the dice when you go -- everything is a roll of the dice when you go to trial. Was this the best deal they could have ever gotten?

BROWN: No. They had -- the Palm Beach police did a masterful job on this investigation. They were very, very disappointed. That's probably a light word to use, in the way that this was handled both by the state prosecutor, by the way, and Acosta's office.

The reality is if you're -- if you don't feel that you have enough manpower to make this case, I mean, it's the Department of Justice. You can call on people to help in other cities. At the time that this happened, they had an inkling, probably more than an inkling, that he was doing this in New York, New Mexico, probably in the U.S. Virgin Islands. So, they should have -- he should have asked for help. He should have continued the case. He should have tried to, for example, flip one of the people who worked for him. He had a whole menagerie of people who enabled him and worked for him. Pilots and schedulers and drivers, you know, and, you know, it just went on and on and on.

And so why didn't you get one of them to talk? Why didn't you get his computers? His computers were -- they never subpoenaed his computers.

CAMEROTA: These are all such interesting questions. And more obviously will come out now that he is going to be -- that he has been charged in New York. And it just feels as though this is the tip of the iceberg and we have not seen the last of this case.

Julie K. Brown, thank you so much for all of your reporting and sharing with us. Great to talk to you here.

BROWN: Thanks for having me.


BERMAN: All right, this morning, the mayor of Washington, D.C., says that the president's elaborate July 4th celebration bankrupted a special fund the city uses for security. What she wants the White House to do now. That's next.


[07:54:04] BERMAN: New this morning, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is taking issue with President Trump's elaborate July 4th celebration suggesting the event bankrupted a crucial fund the nation's capital uses for security.

In a letter to the president, the mayor is requesting that the White House fully reimburse that fund. Mayor Bowser joins me now. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. Let me read a little bit of this letter about the money spent for this 4th of July celebration. "The accrued amount for the July 4th holiday totals approximately $1.7 million, that's for the city of D.C. "It is critical that the Emergency Planning and Security Fund is fully reimbursed for these funds to ensure the district can uphold proper security and support during the remainder of the fiscal year without incurring a deficit for federal activities."

Has the White House given you a response?

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: Yes. We haven't received a response yet. But we will continue to work with the White House and Congress to make sure that D.C. taxpayers aren't left holding the bag for federal events.

[07:55:07] BERMAN: And what does this mean that there's a deficit in this fund and what does this fund do? BOWSER: Sure. This Emergency Planning and Security Fund is a fund

set aside (ph) in our local Homeland Security Department to support federal events. The inauguration, for example, every four years, there's a federal allotment made for inauguration expenses.

Our local police department, MPD, supports crowd control, First Amendment demonstrations, the movement of officials. And it's a lot of man hours used as well as equipment used to support these events.

We are happy to host the federal government in Washington, D.C. and to support these events. But there is a cost. And that cost must be born by the federal government.

BERMAN: And in some cases, you brought up the inauguration. You've had issues getting repaid for it. $7.3 million still outstanding for the inauguration, is that true?

BOWSER: We do. And we're going to work with the president and the White House and the Congress not only to recoup the cost from the last inauguration but also to prepare for the next inauguration. And regardless of administration, the D.C. government works with the White House to make sure that we have the expenses that we need.

Now, in the last inauguration, we had extraordinary First Amendment demonstration activities which accounts for more than what was allotted. So it is critical that in the upcoming '21 budget that the federal government accounts for these extraordinary costs.

But we have to get through 2019 before we can even do that. We already believe that through the end of 2019, we will be short if those funds are not replenished.

BERMAN: What happens? Who pays, I should say, if the federal government doesn't reimburse you for the inauguration or this July 4th celebration which the president just hosted on the mall?

BOWSER: Well, we will either be able to provide less support for upcoming events or we would have the D.C. taxpayers pay. And my job is to make sure that our local dollars are used for local needs. That our police department has the equipment and training that it needs to support all of our neighborhoods.

All the while these 4th of July activities were happening, we still have a city to protect and keep safe. And so that's very important. Now, our experience in working with the White House over several administrations is that the White House pays its bills. And --

BERMAN: Let me --

BOWSER: -- we're going to ask President Trump to do that as well.

BERMAN: I want to ask you about a major development overnight. The "New York Times" is reporting that there will be raids on undocumented migrants over the weekend beginning Sunday in 10 major cities at least. I don't know if Washington, D.C. is one of them.

Do you think the city of Washington or do you anticipate that your city will cooperate with these immigration raids?

BOWSER: The -- our local police department is responsible for enforcing local laws. That immigration policy is for our nation. What I would ask the president and the Congress to do is to focus on immigration policies that are fair and reflect our American values.

BERMAN: Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., thank you for being with us this morning. We do appreciate your time.

BOWSER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, we're just a couple of minutes away now looking at the clock from a new update about the major storm threatening Louisiana. It could be a hurricane within days, so let's get to it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Walloped by wet weather, the worst is yet to come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Gulf Coast bracing for a hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have formally declared a state of emergency. You must be prepared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to get all the sand and sandbags out.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They came in illegally, and we're bringing them out legally.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "The New York Times" reporting nationwide raids targeting undocumented immigrants will begin Sunday.

KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: They're absolutely going to happen, there's approximately a million people in this country with removal orders.

ACOSTA: The Palm Beach State Attorney's Office is ready to let Epstein walk free, no jail time, nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's making excuses for what he did not do, and he had the ability to put what he calls this evil man away.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): No, I don't think he should resign. I think we should allow the Department of Justice to do their investigation.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Thursday, July 11th, 8:00 now in the East and Louisiana is under a state of emergency. Much of it is also under water at this hour. It is about to get worse, we're told, because hurricane watches just went into effect. This is the storm system, as you can see on your screen, it's expected to make --