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AT THIS HOUR

Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) Discusses Mueller Warning on Russian Interference in Upcoming Election; Mueller Testimony on Russia Probe, Impeachment; Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured in Prison Cell; A.G. Barr Orders Federal Government to Resume Capital Punishment; Rapper A$AP Rocky Charged with Assault after Stockholm Brawl. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 11:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:30:00] REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Any one of us running for the U.S. House, any candidate for the U.S. Senate, any candidate for the presidency of the United States, aware that a hostile foreign was trying to influence an election, has no duty to report it to the authorities?

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: That was former Special Counsel Robert Mueller warning about the prospects of Russian interference in the election after the precedent set by President Trump and his staff.

Now, joining us is one of the House Intelligence Committee members who questioned Mueller, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes.

Congressman, thank you for coming on.

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Hi, Pamela.

BROWN: First off, what is your reaction to hearing Robert Mueller's warning about Russian interference in the upcoming election and that it's interfering as we speak?

HIMES: Well, not a surprise to me sitting as I do on the Intelligence Committee where we monitor these things pretty closely.

But I was actually glad he made that case. There were obviously a lot of politics involved in what happened yesterday, but one of the things that I hope every American will hear is that the attack that we suffered in 2016, which may have had an impact on our election, is likely to happen again.

And there's a lot of learning there. The clip you ran is that any campaign that is approached by a foreign power should not welcome it, should not set up meetings to see what dirt you can get. They should, in fact, report those contacts to the FBI because it's quite likely to be a deliberate effort.

The other thing that is more important, and I wish he had spent more time on this, is that the attack was successful because Russia manipulated our sentiment. You know, 126 million Facebook impressions, Twitter ads that were designed to sort of stoke racial issues and other issues in this country.

The American people really need to understand that what we see on social media, even if it sort of makes them feel good because it reinforced political opinions that they have, it may be somebody like Russia or China or Iran trying to manipulate our political process.

BROWN: So there's the question of whether yesterday moved the needle at all in terms of raising public awareness about these issues surrounding Russia, surrounding the president. That was laid out in the Mueller report.

I want to read to you what your Democratic colleague, Congressman Jared Huffman told reporters yesterday. He said, "The Democratic majority has pinned a lot on the Mueller report and, in retrospect, we made some tactical mistakes."

Do you agree that was not the witness Democrats were hoping for?

HIMES: I've spent months, Pamela, telling people that there were not going to be bombshells or headlines out of the testimony. I know Bob Mueller. Bob Mueller says what he means and means what he says. And there weren't going to be headlines.

So anybody who thought that was going to be a major movement that was, all of a sudden, going to convince the American people that impeachment was the right recourse in a big way, that was never going to happen.

I do think there was value in having Bob Mueller talk about the conclusions of the report, particularly -- again, let's set aside whatever you think of Donald Trump, which is a profoundly divisive question in this country -- particularly having someone of Bob Mueller's stature describe the Russia attack on our election.

One area where this unemotional, direct man actually does get some emotion is when he's talking about the intensity of the attack and what we need to do to prevent it in the future.

BROWN: Which raises the question, should the Intelligence Committee have held the hearing with Mueller first and then the hearing on obstruction happen second? I think that was one of the things that people are questioning today.

But you are someone who is in favor of impeachment. And as you pointed out, you never thought that Mueller would galvanize the Democrats, any more Democrats, toward that effort. But he was a reluctant witness. He clearly didn't want to do that.

Was pushing Mueller to testify the right move by Democrats? HIMES: Well, just to be clear what I favor, I don't favor

impeachment, per se. Impeachment is the end of the process of an inquiry of articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives.

(CROSSTALK)

HIMES: I'm in favor of an impeachment inquiry.

And by the way, that's as far as it goes. Nobody should believe that there will be an impeachment that leads to the removal of the president.

And so the question then is, what would be the value of actually an impeachment process, an inquiry? The value is a little bit of what you saw yesterday, which is that opponents of the president would make the case. They would say he's refused to offer his people up for oversight to the American people. He has lied about this. He willingly accepted Russian help. The supporters of the president, in a very public way, would get to present their case.

And I think that would be a valuable thing for the American people with respect to thinking about a president, who, to my way of thinking, is not qualified to be president.

I never thought that yesterday was going to have much impact on the way people think about that. It might move the needle a little bit. But there are not a lot of people out there in America who are discovering for the first time that Donald Trump is a guy who behaves in much worse ways than any president we have ever had. That's not news for anybody.

[11:35:01] BROWN: So what do you think then of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's strategy? She made clear yesterday she is not in any rush to open an impeachment inquiry and she wants to let this play out in the courts first.

HIMES: Look, though I am in favor of an impeachment inquiry, I speak on behalf of my 750,000 constituents in southwestern Connecticut. The speaker of the House considers the big national picture and she is thinking about public sentiment.

Nancy Pelosi always talks about public sentiment. She always quotes Abraham Lincoln on the importance of public sentiment. And I think she senses that for something as big and as awesome -- and I use that word almost in the Biblical sense -- as impeachment is the single most thing next to declaring war that Congress can do -- that public sentiment probably needs to be in a different place than it is today.

And I don't blame her for making that judgement. Again, she's thinking about the whole country and how people think and Ohio and Michigan and California, not just how people are thinking in Connecticut.

BROWN: Congressman Jim Himes, thank you for coming on.

HIMES: Thank you. BROWN: CNN is getting some new information this hour about sex trafficking suspect Jeffrey Epstein. He was reported by injured in prison. We're going to have a live report up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:49] BROWN: Lots of questions today about what happened in the jail cell of accused sex trafficker and financier, Jeffrey Epstein. According to a law enforcement source, he sustained injuries in his cell. Epstein is accused of abusing dozens of young girls in Florida and New York. A federal judge denied Epstein's bail last week as he awaits trial.

I'm joined by my colleague, CNN's Shimon Prokupecz.

What have you learned, Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: He was found in his jail cell, as you said, injured. The big thing now, as a precaution, the jail has put him on suicide watch. So they have folks, jail employees that come in and check on him every 30 minutes or so just to make sure he's OK.

There's a lot of concern that something much more seriously could have happened to him. He's a big target now, certainly at the jail. And for federal officials who are continuing to investigate him, there's a lot of concern that something could happen to him. So they're treating this very seriously.

And there's different things that we're hearing. He was found in his jail cell injured. There were marks on his neck, so it's possible that this was a suicide attempt.

There's also what we're told is they're looking to see if someone in the jail, another inmate may have assaulted him. He has claimed that he was assaulted by one of the inmates who was accusing him of being a child predator, saying you're a child predator and then he was assaulted.

And the other thing they're looking at was possibly he did this to himself to try and get moved from the jail. Obviously, he's very unhappy with being in jail. He tried very hard to get out of jail and go home to his mansion on the upper east side. That didn't happen. So now there's a lot of question as to what's going on.

The Bureau of Prisons says that he's at the jail, he's there, he's not at the hospital. There were some reports that he was transported to the hospital. That doesn't appear to be the case. He was treated there. And they're telling us that it wasn't that serious of an injury, so they were able to treat him there at the jail. So we'll see.

Now they're investigating, trying to figure out exactly what happened. But it does appear, at least for now, that he did this to himself. That's what authorities believe.

BROWN: That's the leading theory?

PROKUPECZ: that's the leading theory.

BROWN: OK, Shimon, thank you.

Coming up, some new information just into CNN. After nearly two decades, the Justice Department is now directing the federal government to resume the death penalty. Details straight ahead.

Well, the nation's opioid crisis sparked a dramatic rise in children entering the foster system. A 147 percent increase from 2000 to 2017. In in today's "IMPACT YOUR WORLD," we see how one non-profit is helping foster families by providing training and resources.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YOLMADE WILEMSON (ph), FOSTER PARENT: When I get a foster kid and I look in their eyes, I look at a kid that wants to be loved. And that's what I'm willing to give.

BECKY DAVENPORT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BLOOM: These children, they need people who will step up for them, who will be their heroes. What we want to do here is set up our foster families for success.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVENPORT: At the Bloom Closet, we give away free clothing and supplies to foster children. Last year, at the Bloom Closet, we saw 3,800 foster children.

GERALD WILEMSON (ph), FOSTER PARENT: Oftentimes, these kids come into the system with nothing. So an advantage of Bloom Closet is it's right there. You can come the same day and get what you need to provide for these kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're learning all the tools to make these children safe and comfortable in our homes.

DAVENPORT: At Bloom University, so often, these kids come into care and they've had significant trauma in their lives. They've had loss. And so Bloom University equips families to deal with the needs of these kids and it allows positive outcomes to take place that these kids begin to heal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having a support system, also having the social workers help you. Like they always say, it takes a village to raise a child, and that's what we've got here with Bloom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[11:44:48] BROWN: And to find out how you can be the hero to a foster child, go to our Web site, CNN.com/impact.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:50:08] BROWN: Attorney General William Barr has given the federal government the go ahead to resume capital punishment after nearly two decades.

CNN's Evan Perez joins us now.

What's behind this decision, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, had ordered the Bureau of Prisons to essentially find a way to resume federal -- the federal death penalty, which has been on hold. Nobody in the federal system has been put to death since 2003. So this is the result of this.

The Bureau of Prisons has now come up with a way. They're going to adopt a protocol, a set of drugs that the states have started using and that's essentially been blessed by the federal courts, at least in the last few years.

So we expect that, according to the Justice Department today, they have identified five federal inmates that they plan to put to death beginning in December. So they have established dates beginning December and January to put these five people to death.

BROWN: Why these five? Why? What --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: These people are -- these are five inmates who have exhausted their federal appeals. Of course, now that they have now been identified to be put to death, now that we have dates for them, we expect that there's going to be new appeals challenging, perhaps, the new protocols that the Bureau of Prisons is putting into place for them.

So we may or may not see these executions in December. We should wait and see what the courts decide.

BROWN: And no surprise, there's also the politics side of this.

Presidential candidates already weighing in. Kamala Harris, I believe, just tweeted about it. So what are they saying?

PEREZ: Well, Kamala Harris and all the others are, of course, very much opposed to the use of this.

She says that, "The Justice Department announced that they would resume capital punishment. Let me be clear, capital punishment is immoral and deeply flawed. Too many innocent people have been put to death. We need a national moratorium on the death penalty, not a resurrection."

This is something that the Justice Department under the Obama administration had observed. They had essentially put a stop to all of this while there were challenges over the use of the drugs that were being used to put people to death.

So now, obviously, there's going to be a new fight over this new protocol. BROWN: Evan, thank you so much.

New video evidence emerging today in the case against rapper, A$AP Rocky. CNN talks with his lawyer. Details on what he has to say about the upcoming trial and about President Trump's support for Rocky.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:57:15] BROWN: Well, this is a case that has the attention of celebrities, politicians, even President Trump. And now we are learning rapper, A$AP Rocky, will have to stay in jail in Sweden until he stands trial.

The 30-year-old, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested three weeks ago and charged with assault.

Take a look. This is new video obtained by TMZ. As you can see, the rapper is seen throwing a man to the ground and kicking and beating him with what prosecutors say was a glass bottle.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins me live from Stockholm.

So, Melissa, you talked to A$AP Rocky's lawyer. What did he say about these charges?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, A$AP Rocky was extremely disappointed. It was the worst possible news for the American rapper. He's been kept in this detention center now for more than three weeks, ever since that assault on June 30th. And it was this morning that he learns that far from being released he was being charged.

Now, what the prosecutor says -- and you're right to show those new images -- is that he based his conclusion that A$AP Rocky and two members of his entourage had committed a crime, not just in those videos so widely shared on the Internet but on fresh video evidence and CCTV footage and witness statements that the prosecutors say back up the version of events given the other guy involved in the street fight.

Clearly, it was just after the prosecutor announced those findings, that ruling, that A$AP Rocky's lawyer contradicted that, saying far from that being the case, he regretted the prosecution went with a version of the events that he said was the same as the victim involved. A$AP Rocky continued to say it was he who had been attacked and he simply tried to defend himself.

We also asked him specifically how his client, A$AP Rocky, felt about getting the backing of the American president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SLOBADAN JOVICIC, ATTORNEY FOR A$AP ROCKY: We have put in a lot of time explaining the situation and the Swedish laws for our client, so he was not surprised and disappointed -- I mean, he was disappointed last Friday when the court, in spite of all the evidence and good argumentation, let him stay in his cell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BELL: New, crucial to the defense when this comes to trial next week will be that question of the bottle that the prosecutors say A$AP Rocky and his entourage used to beat the victim. A$AP Rocky's lawyer points out that was mentioned in the evidence released today, but no DNA evidence was ever found -- Pamela?

BROWN: All right. And that trial begins next week, of course. We'll be watching how all of this plays out.

Melissa Bell, thank you.

And thank you for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now. Have a great day.

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