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Sixteen Marines Arrested For Their Alleged Involvement In Illegal Activities; Jeffrey Epstein, Found Mysteriously Injured In His Jail Cell; Joe Biden Clearly Ready To Rumble With Two Of His Sharpest Critics. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 25, 2019 - 14:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Erica Hill, in for Brooke Baldwin today and we begin with a post Mueller Capitol Hill, where Democrats debate over whether to impeach the President just got more heated.

One faction hoping for more momentum following Robert Mueller's testimony, instead being met with a consistently cautious witness, who didn't deviate much from his report, as he warned.

The former Special Counsel though did clarify whether he believes the President obstructed justice and that some Democrats say makes impeachment all the more urgent. For her part, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she's not there yet. And even after Mueller's testimony, her advice to members to each their own.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you going to discourage your members, all from a massive support for impeachment in court?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I never have done that. I've never, never have done that for everything that he's done.


HILL: Natalie Andrews is a reporter for the "The Wall Street Journal," joining us now. Good to have you with us. So by our count here at CNN ...


HILL: ... ninety three of the 235 Democrats in the House support impeachment. What are you hearing from lawmakers in terms of their mindset today?

ANDREWS: You know, it's a big enough number that there's a serious coalition supporting impeachment, but even the pro-impeachment Democrats, they don't feel like the Mueller hearing really allowed them to get momentum that it's going to push things into an inquiry. HILL: So that they don't have the momentum. I understand you also

have some new reporting, though, on another divide within the party, because this isn't the only one specifically ...

ANDREWS: No it's not.

HILL: ... between Speaker Pelosi and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Now, they're scheduled to meet tomorrow. As we know, we know they are obviously in different places when it comes to impeachment. What are we learning now? What more can we expect in terms of that conversation?

ANDREWS: The two have disagreed on a range of issues. This meeting is because of a dispute on the Border Supplemental Bill from the last week of June. And they disagree on impeachment. They disagree on basically how the Democratic caucus should be working. Ms. Ocasio- Cortez would like to see some stronger standpoint. She'd like to see some bolder moves.

Nancy Pelosi has eternal political mind. She sees the 31 Democrats that won in districts that Donald Trump one in 2016. She sees those as her path to keep the majority and she wants to protect them.

HILL: When you look at that going in, there's also just the history of how this meeting came to be, which is fascinating in and of itself about the request that was there or maybe it was not there. But now it's happening. How much do you think that's going to, sort of, cast a shadow over the meeting itself -- what it took to get there?

ANDREWS: You know, Nancy Pelosi talks to members on the floor. She is -- you watch during votes, and she's talking to members all the time. So the fact that these two really haven't talked in months, it kind of builds this energy where, yes, you are wondering, what comes out of this? Can they patch over a relationship?

A few months ago, they were on the cover of "Rolling Stone" together, but they haven't really kept up or developed a relationship since then.

HILL: It would be interesting to see what happens.


HILL: Obviously, a lot of conversations happening behind closed doors as well today on Capitol Hill.


HILL: Natalie, good to see you, thank you.

ANDREWS: Thank you.

HILL: Just ahead, we will speak live with the Democratic Congresswoman who questioned Robert Mueller. Her take is just moments away. First, though, we want to get to this breaking news. Sixteen Marines arrested for their alleged involvement in illegal activities, and these allegations here range from human smuggling to drug related offenses.

The arrest of the 16 Marines happening in dramatic fashion this morning at California's Camp Pendleton. It happened actually during a battalion formation. The Marines, for their part in a statement saying, "Information gained from a previous human smuggling investigation precipitated the arrest. None of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the Southwest Border Support Mission."

For more, I want to bring in Rear Admiral John Kirby, former Pentagon Press Secretary and of course, CNN military and diplomatic analyst.

So Admiral Kirby, when you look at this -- just your take, these charges, the seriousness, especially the two -- they are highlighted here, human smuggling alleged drug trafficking, these are very serious to put it mildly.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, very serious indeed, very troubling. When you think about coming from the ranks of any of one of our branches of our Armed Services. It sounds to me like, just looking at that statement, clearly this was additional information gleaned from a previous investigation that was done in the human smuggling.

I'm not sure which exactly -- investigation they're talking about. But obviously, they've gleaned more information, obviously, talked to more witnesses and came to this point where they could make these arrests.

And now, starts a very delicate process in the judicial system inside the military. These individuals will be allowed to have representation. There will be some decisions made about the Marine Corps in terms of which way they move forward on the 16.

[14:05:06] KIRBY: It remains to be seen, I think, whether all 16 will be treated exactly the same given whatever the specific charges are. So, I think there's a lot more information we need to know here going forward.

HILL: In terms of the information, we do have -- I have to say two things stick out to me. And tell me if there's any there, there -- the fact that this was in a dramatic fashion, it's about the battalion formation, that that's when this happened.

KIRBY: Right.

HILL: And also the fact that the Marines did point out here that this was not related to southwest border operations.

KIRBY: Well, yes. It was very clear the Marines wanted to separate this incident from that mission -- to make it clear to the American people that military participation in the Southwest Border Mission didn't lead to these charges.

I think that was very smart on their part, to be able to sort of, you know, disassociate the two because there's a lot of -- the mission on the southwest border is controversial as it is. And I think it was smart for the Marine Corps, when they were able to disassociate.

The other thing about the battalion formation -- that sounds to me, and I'm just guessing here, Erica, because I don't know much more than you do. But it sounds to me like they wanted an element of surprise here to make this arrest.

HILL: Right.

KIRBY: That they didn't want all 16 to be able to, you know, to have information ahead of time that this was coming or to inform their colleagues necessarily. It sounds like they deliberately had them all together in some sort of battalion formation knew that they were, you know, an audience that wasn't going to go anywhere to make these arrests in a very clean, concise, and surprise fashion.

HILL: Admiral John Kirby, always good to talk to you. Thank you.

KIRBY: You bet.

HILL: Accused sex trafficker and multi-millionaire, Jeffrey Epstein, found mysteriously injured in his jail cell. A law enforcement source telling CNN, it's unclear whether the marks on Epstein's neck were self-inflicted or the result of a possible jailhouse assault.

Epstein claims he was beaten up, called a child predator. The 66- year-old financier is accused of sex trafficking targeting girls as young as 14 years old, and bringing them to this Upper East Side mansion and his Florida estate.

A judge last week actually rejected his bail request. He wanted to avoid jail. He instead wanted to be at his New York City mansion under supervision. That was denied. Epstein is facing similar accusations by the way to those he faced in Florida a decade ago. You may recall though, he worked out a plea deal there that allowed him to avoid Federal charges. Instead, he pled guilty to lesser state prostitution charges.

Ed Gavin is a former Deputy Warden for New York City's Department of Correction. So, give us a sense, as we're looking at this here. There's always talk about how, you know, different people in jail fair, depending on what they're there for. The fact that he is in there for these alleged crimes involving sex trafficking girls as young as 14-years-old. How does that play in a prison?

ED GAVIN, FORMER DEPUTY WARDEN, NYC DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION: Well, not well. But he's not -- I think he's going to be in a protective custody in the Federal System. I don't think he leaves his cell. I don't think any other prisoners have access to him.

So, in this particular case, I don't think he was assaulted. I think this attempt was a suicide attempt -- it was not a suicide attempt. It was probably, most likely, a manipulative gesture. He might have been trying to get to a municipal hospital to escape, or maybe he's just trying to go on a sympathy from the public and from the prison officials. HILL: Is that -- is this the kind of, if it is, as you pointed out,

it could be this manipulative gesture, using your words there, to maybe try to garner sympathy or to perhaps make his case that he shouldn't be here. How was that going to play though within the system itself? I would imagine, not well.

GAVIN: No, not well, at all. But you know, he is a high profile notorious prisoner with means, okay. So, the Federal officials are going to be really watching him very closely. I don't think he's going to, you know, have any problems with other inmates. He's just --

HILL: Because he won't really see many to a point, right?

GAVIN: No, he's not. He is probably locked in 23 hours a day.

HILL: And so, when he when he's locked in, just take us inside that cell. What does that mean for him? Especially because he is a high profile person at this point? Because he does have means, does that change anything in terms of location where he is, in terms of what he has access to, even if he isn't that one cell for 23 hours a day?

GAVIN: Well, he's basically going to get his three squares. He's going to get medical treatment when he needs it. But the thing that I don't understand is how, you know, I think his biggest problem now is he's trying to -- he's not going to get a sweetheart deal like he got in 2008.

HILL: Right.

GAVIN: I mean, I was a warden on Rikers Island in 2000. I had a hundred sex offenders. I can't recall any sex offender getting work release. I mean, I think that's patently outrageous. So he's probably coming to the realization now that life is going to be hard for him and, you know, looking forward.

So maybe it's possible that it was a bona fide suicide attempt. Now, I mean, he should have been taken to a municipal hospital. His injury should have been -- the physical injury should have been assessed. And of course, he should have seen a psychiatrist because -- I mean, look, when people do these things, he might do it again. We have to treat it as if it's a real suicide attempt ...

HILL: Right.

GAVIN: ... even though it's likely a manipulative gesture.

HILL: Right. According to what we're told, he says he was assaulted. Well, we will see if we get some more information out of it.

GAVIN: I think that's highly unlikely.

HILL: Me, too. All right, I really appreciate your insight. Thanks for being with us today.

GAVIN: Thanks for having me. HILL: A worker is fired after a doctored seal appears behind the

President at a conservative event.

[14:10:08] HILL: Plus, Joe Biden apparently ready to rumble, punching back now at two of his competitors, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. And the manhunt intensifying after three killers in Canada. You will hear from the father of one of these teen suspects who says, he believes his son plans to go out in his words, "a blaze of glory."


[14:15:16] HILL: No more Mr. Nice Guy. Joe Biden clearly ready to rumble with two of his sharpest critics -- Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, warning he won't be quote, "as polite" when the three face off at next week's Democratic debates in Detroit.

Now for Booker, the issue is really criminal justice. As you know, he's been openly skeptical on Biden's new plan. He's been slamming him on that controversial 1994 Crime Bill.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm disappointed that it has taken Joe Biden years and years until he was running for President to actually say that he made a mistake, that there were things in that bill that were extraordinarily bad.

Now, he has unrolled his -- unveiled his Crime Bill, for a guy who helped to be an architect of mass incarceration, this is an inadequate solution to what is a raging crisis in our country.


HILL: Biden hitting back with a jab about Booker's history as Mayor of Newark, New Jersey.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you look at the Mayor's record in Newark, one of the provisions I wrote in the Crime Bill, pattern of practice of misbehavior. His police department was stopping and frisking people, mostly African American men -- if he wants to go back and talk about records, I'm happy to do that. But I'd rather talk about the future.


HILL: Arlette Saenz is on the trail in Indianapolis. You've been talking, I know, with the Biden campaign. So, what are they telling you about this counterpunch strategy that we're seeing coming out now?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Erica, I'm told that Joe Biden has decided to go ahead and take this more aggressive, assertive approach to push back on his critics. One adviser told me that he's not going to take attacks on his record sitting down. And you've really seen a Joe Biden over the course of the past few

weeks, whether it's Kamala Harris on healthcare, or over the past two days with Cory Booker on criminal justice.

He's really engaging with his rivals in a way that he just hasn't had done before. You know, he started this campaign trying to stay above the fray, trying to keep the focus on President Trump.

But since that last debate, you've seen him start to engage more and more, especially as we're getting closer to that next debate next week when he's going to be standing on stage right in between Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who have really been two of his biggest critics, so far relating to issues of race and also on criminal justice.

So, I think going forward, Biden said that he's going to be sitting down with his advisers in this coming week, trying to map out how his debate strategy is going to go. He had told donors last night, as you mentioned, that he's not going to be as polite this time around.

HILL: Not going to be as polite and in terms of these more aggressive approaches, you put it as the Biden campaign is putting it. He's also taking shots at Kamala Harris' ideas about Medicare-for-All. I want to play a little bit of that for folks who are watching.


BIDEN: Well, you have got to find $30 to $40 trillion somewhere and how you are going to do it? Well, I find the people who say that for Medicare-for-All, that they're not going to tax the middle class because they don't need to do that -- come on. When was this -- is it a fantasy world here?


HILL: Based on what happened with Joe Biden in the last debate with Kamala Harris, on the busing issue, and the fallout that continued in the days afterwards. As you talk about this debate strategy that they're working on, how much of that really is focused on Kamala Harris, since he will be right next to her on the stage?

SAENZ: Well, I had a chance yesterday to ask Biden about what he's going to be doing in these next few days as he prepares for that debate. And he made it a point to talk about Kamala Harris and the issue of healthcare, which is where he made those comments.

And you've really seen him over the course of the past two-and-a-half, three weeks. He's been slowly sharpening his attack in the way that he has criticized certain proposals that she's been out there supporting. He oftentimes, doesn't mention her by name, but it's clear who he's directing the criticisms of when he's out on the campaign trail.

So, I think going forward, you're going to see him next week on the debate stage when he says he's not going to be polite. That's been in response to questions about Kamala Harris. And he also this morning, made this comment on a radio interview saying that he thought they were friends and hope that they still will be going forward.

But that he did feel that they had a close working relationship in the past. We're going to see how exactly they face off and interact in that next debate.

HILL: Oh, there will be a lot to watch. It won't just be about what we're hearing. It will certainly be about the visuals as well. Arlette, good to see you. Thank you.

CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN political commentator, Michael Smerconish with me now. As we dive in a little bit deeper. So Michael, when we look at all of this shaping up here, there's certainly a power struggle of sorts that we're seeing between these three candidates.

Kamala Harris, as we know, saw a bump in the polls after she challenged Biden at that last debate. What we are seeing from Cory Booker -- do you see that is him following her lead or is it more of a personal attack on his part?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I see it as him following her lead.

[14:20:06] SMERCONISH: And, Erica, I doubt he'll be the only one to follow her lead. When I look at that stage as it will be comprised next Wednesday night, the second night of the debates, you have Cory Booker, you have Kamala Harris, you have the former Vice President in between and that he will take incoming from the two of them, it's a given.

But look now further out at the fringes, because the rules are going to change for the September debate. And many of those folks are not coming back for September, and I think they may throw a Hail Mary.

In fact, I'll go a step further and say, my eye is on the New Yorkers. I'm looking at Mayor de Blasio and I'm also looking at Senator Gillibrand, and I'm wondering, will the two of them look at this, this final opportunity unless their numbers rise as a last ditch opportunity to score some points, take a page out of the Kamala Harris playbook and similarly, go after Joe Biden?

HILL: I think we can all count on some fireworks, that's for sure that we can definitely count on. We also have some new polling out from Quinnipiac, and I want to take a closer look at some of this.

So we're looking at the key voting state of Ohio here and Joe Biden doing pretty well -- the support of 31 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaning voters. Sanders and Harris then come in at 14 percent, Warren with 13 percent, Buttigieg at 6 percent.

Nia-Malika, when you look at these numbers, Ohio as we know is key for many reasons. Does this tell us anything about the strength of the Biden campaign at the moment?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think it tells you that he is a strong candidate. It also tells you that they're sort of coalescing around the top four or five candidates, right, even though there is this big field of candidates, 20 or so, we'll see him on stage next week.

A lot of voters have sort of settled on this top tier of candidates with Biden ahead in most of the polls we've seen so far. He did take a hit over Kamala Harris. She has done herself some good. You can see, I guess she's tied with Sanders in this poll. Good for her.

But still, you've got Biden with a fairly commanding lead at this point. If you got 30 percent of a field of 20 people, that's really, really great for him. And I think it goes back to this idea that he is the most electable candidate.

You've got him obviously talking about policy and other candidates going after him on policy. But his big strength is electability and a lot of those voters who think he's electable, they're moderate voters. They're not necessarily thinking about policy, not necessarily thinking about the crime bill in a way that somebody like Cory Booker wants to bring attention to.

So listen, I think as long as he keeps the electability going for him in that sort of mantle in these polls show that people think he can win. And I think in the general election matchup, even though it's very far away, that he beats Trump and he's the only one who beats him in Ohio ...

HILL: You're right, yes.

HENDERSON: ... in this poll.

HILL: Yes, we can put that up too to your point.


HILL: He does beat him. He is the only one who beats him. And so that is an important point, as you say. There's also this Monmouth University poll, which looks specifically at South Carolina. I'm going to stick with you for this one for just a minute, Nia-Malika, because this really is your wheelhouse.

When we talk South Carolina, as we know, Joe Biden 39 percent. His next closest competitor, Kamala Harris, just 12 percent. But what really stands out in this poll is his support ...

HENDERSON: Fifty one percent, right?

HILL: ... among black voters, and that, you can't ignore.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, this is not a surprise to me, right. I mean, you know, I'm from South Carolina. I go talk to black folks down there all the time and it's not that they don't like Kamala Harris, right?

They will say to me, they love Kamala Harris, but they don't think she can win by which they mean, they don't think she can win white voters, right? And you flashback again to 2008, literally, there were black voters who were with Hillary Clinton, all the way in on the night that Barack Obama won Iowa, they flipped.

My mother was one of them. She was volunteering for Hillary Clinton. When Obama won Iowa, she immediately switched to Obama. So, I think that is what Kamala Harris -- the big test is, can she start to catch fire among white voters?

And if she can, that will make the argument for electability, which Biden has sort of a lock on at this point. But these polling numbers, I think, if you are Kamala Harris, you have got to be a little disappointed because it seemed like, you know, she was kind of making a play for black voters. It didn't seem to work.

She is also making a play for white voters, sort of the liberal white voters, as well who were spread out among other candidates like Warren, Buttigieg, and Sanders.

HILL: Michael, as we look at these last few days leading into next week's debates out of Detroit, you mentioned of course, that we could see some more fireworks, perhaps a little bit more grandstanding from some of the candidates.

What do you -- what are you looking for, though, in the days leading up to the debates in terms of trying to get attention in the next few days as well?

SMERCONISH: Listen, they want to get some attention, but they better be behind closed doors going through the equivalent of a murder board, if it were Senator House testimony, and making sure that they've got the mechanics down for this process.

[14:25:08] SMERCONISH: Especially the former Vice President, because although I didn't think he turned in a performance that was as bad as the conventional wisdom, he wasn't as sharp as he could have been. And you know, you have got to be ready to respond within 30 seconds.

I'll just say this, relative to Nia-Malika's great points -- there's some sensitivity there because of the racial dynamics as to how Vice President Biden responds to Senator Harris or to Senator Booker.

Because if he's taking incoming from two charismatic candidates of the future, who are both people of color, and his key thus far in a state like South Carolina, is his African American support. He's got to be careful in terms of how he wards off whatever challenge, they may hit him with.

HILL: Michael Smerconish, Nia-Malika Henderson, always good to talk with you both, thank you.

HENDERSON: Thanks, Erica.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

HILL: And a reminder, be sure to tune into "Smerconish" Saturday mornings right here on CNN, nine o'clock Eastern. Also, in terms of those debates, where will you see them right here on CNN? We have two big nights lined up for you next Tuesday and Wednesday, kicking things off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern live from Detroit.

Just in, the ratings for the Mueller hearings. We will speak live as well with one of the Democrats who was there, who did some of the questioning. Did the hearing change her mind on impeachment?

Plus, as the manhunt intensifies for two teen suspects in multiple murders, one of their fathers says, he believes his son is on a suicide mission.