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Prosecutors Seek No Bail for Epstein; Trump Limits Asylum Claims; Millions Still Under Flood Threat; Iran will Honor Nuclear Deal. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 15, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:55] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We're now just minutes away from the bail hearing for accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein to keep the multimillionaire out of jail until his trial begins. Epstein's lawyers are offering to ground his jet, put him in home detention with GPS monitoring and offering his $77 million mansion as part of a bond package.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Prosecutors, of course, not having it. They want him to stay in jail through his trial.

Joining us now are crime and justice reporters Shimon Prokupecz. He's live outside the courthouse in New York.

So this hearing begins in less than an hour. And, I don't know, Epstein's lawyers think they've got a shot with this one?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, no, they clearly do. They are proposing an extensive bail package. They're essentially trying to turn his $77 million mansion on the upper east side of Manhattan into a jail. And they're saying they'll hire private security guards. They'll have that electronic monitoring of him. They're willing to pay for all of this. They're willing to put up not only just the $77 million home, but they're also offering money, they're offering his jet. So, in total, they're offering probably over $100 million as collateral to get him to come out of jail as he awaits trial.

The issue here, though, prosecutors obviously opposed to any of this. They're saying that his vast wealth makes him a flight risk. He has a jet. He has other ways of possibly escaping and fleeing the country and then they would never be able to get him back.

But the other thing here, Poppy, Jim, is that prosecutors say they have a real concern to the community. They have a concern for the victims here that if he is released, he will try in some ways to influence their testimony. They already have evidence, they say, prosecutors, that he's tried to buy witnesses' silence, wiring $350,000 to two separate witnesses in the case to try and buy their silence.

So there's two key issues here, Poppy, one is the flight risk and the other thing is that he's a danger to the community, prosecutors say, and the judge here could make a decision here within the next hour certainly as Jeffrey Epstein appears here in court, Poppy.

HARLOW: And what prosecutors are essentially calling obstruction of justice, right, by they say trying to make these payments to get people to be silent.

Shimon, thank you so much. We'll get to the details of that hearing when it begins.

Legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers is with us.

Jen, you're a former federal prosecutor. You've got at least a dozen new victims that have come forward since -- you know, in the last week, since his arrest et cetera on this. What's your over/under on -- on his prosecutors being successful here and getting him essentially to live a lavish life in a $77 million mansion here in New York City instead of waiting in jail?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I think this one is pretty close to a slam-dunk, Poppy and Jim. I mean I think Judge Berman is going to detain him pending trial. The flight risk elements are through the roof here for him. You know, vast, unexplained wealth, much of it overseas, no real ties to New York, and danger to the community too. I mean we have actual evidence of witness tampering, that if he were out, even in this kind of makeshift prison, he would be much more ready and able to do that sort of thing.

[09:35:07] Plus the nature of the crime, the child porn potential images that were found in his house recently and these victims coming forward. You know, if any of them has evidence of post-2008 conduct, we're also looking at additional charges and a much bigger danger to the community issue. So I think Judge Berman is going to keep him in for sure.

SCIUTTO: You have, Jennifer, the details of the case here. Someone who appears to be a serial molester, abuser of young women. Then you have the behavior on the legal tied of things. As you mentioned and as Poppy mentioned, millions of dollars offered to witnesses in the case, suspicious payments there. But also the way the defense team went after prosecutors in the midst of this as well, their families, et cetera. How should folks at home following this case see that? I mean does that pose concerns for how the wealthy, people with advantages that most do not have, can fight, you know, very substantial charges like these?

RODGERS: I think it does. I mean it's not so much an issue with respect to bail, because most of that tampering will have been done not by Epstein himself but by his investigators and by people who worked for him. So it's not so much on the bail side.

But certainly just as a matter of justice, people should be concerned that when you have the kind of resources that Jeffrey Epstein has, you can influence your treatment in the justice system as seemed to have happened back in 2007 and 2008. And we have to hope that the prosecutors now, at the Southern District of New York and Judge Berman won't allow that to happen anymore.

SCIUTTO: Right. Well, it's good to see that these seeing the light of day. That's part of the process here.


SCIUTTO: Was -- they tried to keep it secret and it was not.

Jennifer Rodgers, always good to have you on offering your wisdom.

What is left of what was Hurricane Barry is moving on, but millions in Louisiana and Mississippi still facing the threat of epic flooding. That's the problem with these slow moving storms. We're going to have a live report from the area coming up next.


[09:41:20] HARLOW: All right, this just in to CNN.

The Trump administration just filed a regulation this morning that would dramatically limit the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum if they enter the United States through Mexico.

SCIUTTO: That's right. This, in effect, going around Congress.

Let's speak now to CNN justice coordinator Jessica Schneider.

So, Jessica, tell us how this would work immediately, but also, crucially, could it be challenged immediately and therefore blocked.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE COORDINATOR: It will likely be challenged, Jim and Poppy. And this is a regulation that goes into immediate effect. And it will bar migrants who have traveled to the U.S. or attempted to travel through Mexico and have failed to claim asylum in Mexico. So they will be barred from claiming asylum in the United States.

You know, this is an interim final rule. That's what it's called. But it will allow these new restrictions to go into effect immediately.

And we know that this is something that the president has been considering for quite some time. And this really will affect a large swath of migrants who leave Central American countries, journey by land through Mexico, and then try to apply for asylum here. Under this rule, they will no longer be eligible for asylum here. There are limited exceptions. But they will no longer be eligible if they did not apply for asylum first in Mexico.

You know, the administration, in recent months, they've previously limited some asylum seekers, making them stay in Mexico while their asylum claims were processed in Mexico. They waited there. But now this outright bars most of the asylum seekers who passed through Mexico. So they will have to seek asylum in Mexico. And if they don't, they will not be allowed entry into the United States.

So this, again, will bar a significant portion of those migrants who leave those Central American countries, journey through Mexico by land, and then try to gain entry here in the United States if they do not first apply for asylum through Mexico first.


HARLOW: OK. We'll keep an eye on this one, Jess. Thank you very much for the update.

Meantime, Tropical Depression Barry is slowly moving north through Louisiana, leaving millions under the threat of severe flooding.

SCIUTTO: The storm made landfall on Saturday, bringing rain and wind, but there was not the major flooding many had feared, particularly in New Orleans. No deaths have been reported thankfully so far. Still, this morning, more than 50,000 customers without power across the state.

CNN's Nick Watt joins us now from Baton Rouge.

And, Nick, the trouble with these slow moving storms, right, is they sit there, they dump a lot of water, and that leads to continuing fears about flooding.

And are those fears dissipating or could it still happen?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there are still more than 10 million people under flash flood watches as Barry moves at about the speed of a kid on a bicycle into Arkansas right now, but dragging rain bands behind. We're going to get some rain here in Baton Rouge in a couple of hours, but the worst has passed. As the local newspaper here put it, close call, but those levees held in New Orleans.

And, you know, on Friday, they were talking about maybe 30" of rain in places. Now that's down to maybe 15 max from this storm system here in Louisiana.

But as you mentioned, 50,000 people still without power. Those low- lying parishes south of New Orleans that got hit worse, they are still assessing the damage. But in New Orleans, the levees held. Here in Baton Rouge, the rivers down about 6 inches, I would say, from overnight. Barry did not hit as hard as feared. And the reason for that is the storm surge wasn't as high as people expected and also there was some wind shear and some dry air from the north that kept most of Barry's moisture offshore for longer than had been forecasted. That helped.

[09:45:05] But, listen, the Louisiana governor summed it up best. He said, this is still just mid-July. This is the very beginning of hurricane season. We will probably see more storms. This is just the first one of the year. There will be more to come.

Back to you guys.

SCIUTTO: It's early.

Nick Watt, thanks very much. It could be months before we know what caused this weekend's blackout in New York City. It was amazing.

HARLOW: Yes, it was. Parts of midtown Manhattan, about 72,000 customers were plunged into darkness Saturday night for about five hours. The utility company here, Con-Edison, says a high demand for power was not responsible for the outage. It described the problem as an equipment failure. So the cause of the failure will be investigated.

This morning, Iran now says that it will honor its obligations to the nuclear deal, but it's also issuing a warning to other countries.


[09:50:21] HARLOW: This just in to CNN, Iran says that it will honor its obligations in the nuclear deal, but warns it is not a one-way street, calling on other countries to step up.

Poppy, it's an interesting step. Iran calibrating their responses so far to the Trump administration's withdrawal.

HARLOW: Yes, it is. And for their part, France, Germany and the United Kingdom has -- have all reaffirmed their commitment to working with Iran with U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who hopes to become the next prime minister, saying there is still a small window to keep this deal alive.

Let's go to our chief international correspondent Nic Robertson.

Nic, you are so well versed on all of the aspects of this and I just wonder what you think sitting there in London, is the U.K. foreign secretary right when he says there's hope?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think there's a small window opening. I mean that's what it is. And if we listen to what the foreign secretary said over the weekend as well about this other big, contentious issue with Iran, the supertanker that's been impounded in Gibraltar essentially, the Iranians demanding it back, now over the weekend Hunt saying, look, you guys can have the oil and the tanker back as long as you promise not to send it to Syria, which was why it got impounded in the first place.

So, you know, you get a sense of there's sort of some warmness going on there. Look, that joint statement you're talking about, Hunt, the French and the Germans, as well, concerned about the strain that the sanctions the United States putting on Iran are really sort of testing and perhaps could unravel that joint -- international joint nuclear agreement, but at the same time pointing out to Iran that they have to do their bit and not -- not break the terms of the deal that they are doing at the moment. So the window seems to be there.

And I think another sort of -- a key to seeing where that window may be coming from or where it may be going to was a fact that a senior French diplomat went to Tehran last week with what appeared to be the signoff from President Trump, several conversations with the French president about that before that trip took place. So maybe we are seeing this window open right now. Don't over read, I would say, what the Iranians are saying. We've had four different statements from different people in leadership positions today. The bottom line is they're still putting the pressure on Europe to make good on the rest of the deal.

SCIUTTO: So the window -- this is what's key here because we're only a couple of weeks removed, as you know, from Iran shooting down a U.S. drone, explosions on western tankers in the Persian Gulf. Is it your understanding that the window is not just between Iran and Europe, but between Iran, Europe and the U.S., that Trump giving the OK to the French diplomat going to Tehran, does that indicate a U.S. willingness to open up channels at least here?

ROBERTSON: Yes, I think possibly we can look at that as well and say, look, last week we heard from the State Department pointedly saying that they had decided not to put sanctions on the foreign minister, Javad Zarif, and we learned over the weekend that it was Secretary Pompeo that gave permission for Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, to get his visa to come to the United States. These are all sort of signs.

I mean what we're not going to have is the Iranians saying, guys, you were all right, we've got to amend our ways. We're going to do whatever you say. They're not even going to say, I don't think, certainly not at this stage, that in any way publicly that they're having a conversation with the United States. But the mood music is changing. It's with this week we're not talking about escalation, we're sort of seeing and getting a sense of off-ramp.

And, again, I'll go back to what the British foreign secretary said over the weekend about offering to give Iran back this tanker. Wow, that was kind of just strange to have him tweeting about that. That's a major turnabout.

HARLOW: Yes, it is.

Before you go, Nic, we're learning more about what the now former U.K. ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, has said about the president in those cables. What can you tell us about them?

ROBERTSON: Yes, I mean, it is sort of called diplomatic vandalism that President Trump should decide to pull out of the joint nuclear deal, saying that it was, in essence, you know, a personal issue that the president wanted to sort of destroy the foreign policy legacy of President Obama, that the White House had no sort of next day strategy.

You know, Kim Darroch's already out of his job. The question is who's going to replace him? But, you know, the sort of broader lesson here is, is that once you -- once you put those things in cables, there's always the possibility that they could leak. So, you know, and that sort of caused a whole chain of events in the U.K., which probably won't affect the United States. You know, their sort of main police force here, the metropolitan police call this breaking the official secrets act, have launched an investigation, had warned journalists not to publish these leaks and then 24 hours kind of rolled back from that.


[09:55:06] ROBERTSON: And then more leaks were published. So, you know, it's a big issue in the U.K. but I think that portion of it may be -- may be done for the U.S. for right now.

SCIUTTO: You might guess that there are a number of nervous diplomats in Washington right now about private commentary analysis being made public?

HARLOW: For sure.

ROBERTSON: Quite a -- quite a few maybe.

SCIUTTO: Nic Robertson, CNN international diplomatic editor, thanks so much.

The president digging in on his racist attacks. We're calling them racist because they meet the definition of racism. His attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of color. It has been 24 hours since his first tweet, but how many Republican lawmakers have spoken out? It's an easy answer. It's a very short list. Much more on this ahead.