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The Number Of Democrats Calling For Impeachment Growing Today; GDP Is At 2.1 Percent which Is Both Good And Bad News For The President; Epstein Leveraged His Relationship With Billionaire Leslie Wexner. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 26, 2019 - 14:00   ET

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


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: ... arching in horror. He is yelling out to his daughters, "Don't move." That is what the photographer of this photo said. And then moments after this picture was taken, the house collapsed. That photographer helped get these girls to a hospital. Baby Tuqa survived but at last report, she was still in intensive care. Reham and Tuqa's mother and two other sisters also died in this airstrike along with Reham. And that is it for me Newsroom with Erica Hill starts right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks for joining me this hour. I'm Erica Hill, in today for Brooke Baldwin. The number of Democrats calling for impeachment growing today. And the man who would be in charge of those proceedings should they happen isn't wasting any time. House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler just announcing he is going to court for the secret grand jury material in the Mueller report and he'll try to enforce a subpoena for former White House Counsel Don McGahn -- a key witness.

This message though from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- she's not ready to call for impeachment outright. CNN's Manu Raju in fact asked her whether at this point, she's just trying to run out the clock.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): No, I'm not trying to run out the clock. Let's get sophisticated about this, okay. Okay, would I be --

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But how long will this court fight will it take?

PELOSI: We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner. Their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage. I have no complaint with what they are doing. I'm willing to take whatever heat there is there to say when we -- when the decision will be made in a timely fashion. This isn't endless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: And Manu Raju joins me now. So Manu -- Congress, of course, it's a leave for six weeks of summer vacation today. What more do we know about Chairman Nadler's strategy here?

RAJU: Well, very significant development just happened moments ago when the House Judiciary Committee announced they would move forward with a lawsuit to seek grand jury information related to the Mueller probe. But as part of this lawsuit, they are saying they need that information in order to decide whether or not to recommend articles of impeachment against the President of the United States.

They cite that directly in this lawsuit that's about to be filed in Federal Court and Jerry Nadler made it clear that this is a step, that they guess they consider whether or not to impeach this President. The Chairman of the committee has privately pushed for an impeachment inquiry for weeks. But Nancy Pelosi is not wanting to go down that route.

At the moment, it appears that, essentially what the committee is doing its investigation is essentially the same as an impeachment inquiry. Now, I asked Jerry Nadler about this. Is it the same thing, what you're doing right now -- to investigate the President, is it essentially the same as an impeachment inquiry? He said it essentially is with one difference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Mr. Chairman, but you're saying there's no difference -- you're saying there's no difference between what you're doing now in an impeachment inquiry, correct?

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): In effect. What I'm saying is that we are -- well, I suppose there is one difference which you could draw. I mean, if you said that an impeachment inquiry is when you're considering only impeachment. That's not what we're doing. We are investigating all of this and we are going to see what remedies we could recommend including the possibility of articles of impeachment, we're not limited to that. But that's very much the possibility as a result of what we're doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So they are saying the outcome could be the same, recommending formal articles of impeachment, even if they're not currently an impeachment inquiry, saying essentially the same.

And the interesting point here, Erica, the Speaker's office -- Speaker Pelosi's office signed off on that language that is in the lawsuit, saying that they need this information, because they have to decide whether or not to move forward on impeachment proceedings. So while she's not ready to formally open up the impeachment proceedings, she's at least green lighting that language that potentially could result in an impeachment proceeding -- Erica.

HILL: I want to be a fly on the wall for that discussion when they agreed on that. Manu, thank you.

RAJU: Thank you.

HILL: Speaker Pelosi, also taking care of another important task before Congress leaves for that summer hiatus, meeting face to face with freshman Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The two lawmakers have seemingly been feuding for weeks on a range of issues. So, were they able to come together? Here's the Speaker again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I don't think there ever was any hatchet.

QUESTION: Well, she called you down, right, disrespectful?

PELOSI: Well, that's -- we're in the political arena. Let me just say this because I had some level of confidence and actually joy and seeing diversity in our caucus. I would never even say that it was a hatchet. But I do think that we sat down today. We had a good meeting and the Congresswoman is a very gracious member of Congress.

[14:05:04] PELOSI: So we've had a very positive conversation about our districts. and how we represent them, our country. I've always felt -- again, it's like you're in a family and a family, you have your differences. But you're still family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll also on Capitol Hill. So apparently, there was no hatchet that need to be buried. So we got that out of the way, Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

HILL: Give us some more specifics though. What are you hearing about what the two discussed?

CARROLL: Well look, first of all, you know, you have Ocasio-Cortez and you have the Speaker both saying that things went well. I mean, so that's first off. Before this meeting even got underway, though, Erica. Ocasio-Cortez, made it very clear that she had a couple of goals. First and foremost, she wanted to make sure that there was this open line of communication between her office and the Speaker's office.

And given the sort of Rocky history that we've seen with these two, she wanted to make sure that they were on the same page when it comes to certain issues -- immigration and some other issues, as well.

And just a little earlier this afternoon, Ocasio-Cortez, who had been sort of dodging our cameras, post meeting, our cameras did catch up with her and this was her take on the meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I believe, I think the Speaker respects, you know, the time that we're coming together as a party and that unity and I'm looking forward to us getting back in September.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: So we are going to have to see what happens in the future. It's unclear if these two discussed some of the rocky history that they had had in the past. Pelosi, you heard her talking about families saying, it's important to have family but families bicker no difference in this case -- Erica.

HILL: Jason Carroll joining us from Capitol Hill today. Jason, thank you.

CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer is a historian and a professor at Princeton University. Great to have you with us.

So there's sort of a lot to parse through here. So somewhat mixed messages, I guess, to a point we could say, between what we're hearing from Chairman Nadler, what we're hearing from Speaker Pelosi. The fact though, that as Manu pointed out, they agreed to this language, as we know, in terms of moving forward with the courts. What do you make of all of this?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've been in this state since March, really, where there are ongoing investigations, Democrats talk about the possibility of impeachment, but it's not formal impeachment proceedings.

The two big differences today is one the use of the language, apparently with the sign off of the Speaker's office. And two, trying to get this grand jury information and really being more aggressive about getting what is unavailable to this committee. This is still not an impeachment proceeding.

HILL: Right.

ZELIZER: And so I think, what happens over break will really be important.

HILL: It's also interesting because as we're seeing the number of Democrats, right, who are saying, yes, let's go for impeachment. As we're seeing that number grow, it's also interesting that we heard from Jackie Speier, for example, who's been, you know, fairly outspoken when it comes to -- she said, "Listen, we basically have until September, and then after that, we just have to move forward," almost throwing up her hands, it would seem. That's a far different message.

ZELIZER: Yes, and I think all legislators are looking at the clock. They're looking at the election season and they're worried about these coming together. Ultimately, it's about what the Speaker does. If the Speaker comes out and formally says, "We are now going to look into this investigation," it will put all those moderate members on the spot. It will put pressure on them to make a decision. Until the Speaker is there, I think you're going to be in this in between. And it's still hard for Congressman Nadler to work without her support.

HILL: Moving into this phase, right, where now they're turning to the court and saying, we need this information because we have to decide, right, what we're going to do. Going to the courts can have a benefit. It can also drag things out, as we know. Now, in some ways, if you look at what the President has done, he successfully use the courts in many ways to sort of keep pushing oversight out of the way for him. And in many ways he's consolidating the power of the Presidency. Is he at the same time and your view, also diminishing the power of Congress and really diminishing this checks and balances system that we have?

ZELIZER: Absolutely. That's the way it works. Historically, Presidents try to grab more power, they flex their muscle in new ways, and the real issue is what Congress does. If Congress doesn't respond, we usually create new Presidents. And the next President is that much more powerful. That's a lot of what's at stake right now, many Democrats believe.

For example, if the President can obstruct justice, and Congress says we're not going to do anything about it, that becomes a new base. So we have seen an expansion of power under the President. And that's why the congressional response is what we're watching for.

HILL: I want to get your take on something else. Congressman Ilhan Omar, writing a piece in "The New York Times" or op-ed, which was titled, "It is Not Enough to Condemn Trump's Racism." She talks a lot about her experience and what brought her to running for office, right, into ultimately being elected.

One of the things that stood out as she writes in part, " ... the beauty of this country is not that our democracy is perfect. It's that embedded in our Constitution and Democratic institutions are the tools to make it better."

[14:10:06] HILL: Going on to say, "The proudest moments in our history from the emancipation proclamation, to the Civil Rights movement, to the struggle against fascism, have come when we fight to protect and expand basic Democratic rights. Today, democracy is under attack once again."

This would seem to be a direct rebuke, obviously, of the President. Not just what he said about his racist tweets and what he's had to say about her and her faith, but also the fact that he's called her and fellow lawmakers un-American because they disagree with him, right?

But there are plenty of voters who like what she's doing, who elected her to office. So just give us a sense, and just remind us in history other moments were seemingly going against the President or the government has all of a sudden made you unpatriotic.

ZELIZER: Yes, it is an old tactic during the Cold War in the 1950s. This was often a tactic used against those who are pursuing anti- communists or pursuing communists and if you criticize the technique of a Senator Joe McCarthy, he would question your Americanness, he would question your patriotism. So it's a tactic we've seen before in the 1980s. We saw Republicans do it against Democrats who are opposing funding for anti-communist forces in Central America.

HILL: Ultimately, something changes though. What do you think? Is there something that changes that discussion in 2019?

ZELIZER: Well, over time, there's been more opposition to that kind of tactic. It's underhanded, it tries to squash genuine opposition. And ultimately, both parties need to understand, they will be out of power. And it's important to have mechanisms that allow for opposition and that might be protecting voting rights. But it also is the rhetoric we use and creating certain boundaries on how we talk about opponents and that's why a lot are troubled by hearing the President go after her as un-American rather than criticizing her policies and stance.

HILL: Julian, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

HILL: The debate countdown is on. So could this though be the last dance for some of the Democratic candidates. We will take a look at the top 10 and what they need to do to move forward. Plus disturbing new details in the case against Jeffrey Epstein. The investigation into his ties to the billionaire behind Victoria's Secret and the access it reportedly gave him two young women.

Plus, President Trump making it clear he's not happy about ASAP Rocky's legal situation in Sweden. And yet he said nothing about an American citizen wrongfully detained in his own country.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:12:25] HILL: The Commerce Department says this number is the most popular indicator of just how healthy the economy is in the U.S. And that number the GDP the Gross Domestic Product is at 2.1 percent, which is both good and bad news for the President. So let's get the bad news out of the way, 2.1 percent means the economy is growing at a slower rate than last quarter. The good news here 2.1 is better than what many economists expected. CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans has a look now at just why the economy's growth took a hit.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Erica, economic growth, slow just a little bit in the second quarter, a rate of 2.1 percent for economic growth. You can see that's less than the prior quarter 3.1 percent.

Part of that reason might be because so many companies were rushing at the beginning of the year to buy the goods they would need to build their inventories, knowing that they'd be more expensive later on because of the President's trade war because of higher tariffs and then of course that takes away a little bit of the business you would do in the following quarter.

But something interesting here, when you look at the fourth quarter of last year, that number was revised down. Something was a little bit weaker in the economy in the fourth quarter. And last summer, on the second quarter last year when there was that big 4.2 percent growth rate that the President was so proud of. That got revised down too to 3.5 percent.

So actually, the economy last year didn't hit the President's three percent target, certainly not the four, or five percent that he has said, his supercharged economy with tax cuts and regulation rollbacks would achieve. This is looking like a stable muddling through economy, not the supercharged gangbusters economy the President has promised.

HILL: Christine Romans, thank you. Let's turn now to the race for 2020. The CNN debates just a few days away and the candidates are counting down by touting their new policies and trying to sway voters.

Half the field is swinging through Iowa where the first caucuses will be held in 191 days. We are counting, don't worry, you don't have to. The other half making appearances at the National Urban League's annual conference in Indianapolis.

Senators Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg are among the speakers there this morning. Harris and Buttigieg both releasing big policy plans focused on the economy today. Harris's plan includes closing the wealth gap among black Americans by investing $60 billion in STEM education at historically black colleges and universities. While promoting the policy though, she was challenged on her record as a prosecutor and criticism that could surface during the debates. Here's her response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why do we only have to be on the outside on bended knee or trying to break down the doors?

[14:20:02] HARRIS: Shouldn't we also have a role on the inside where the decisions are being made in a way we can influence the change that must occur? I have the power to create one of the first re-entry initiatives in the United States. I didn't have to ask anybody permission to do it because I was running the office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Mayor Pete Buttigieg also pushing his economic plan, which includes taking aim at big tech companies who are outsourcing their employees. But in a preview of what could be his debate strategy, he wasted no time going after President Trump in front of voters in Indiana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D-IN), MAYOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My generation saw this country elect its first black President and then turn around and elect a racist to the White House and we had a call that what it is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: For a number of candidates, next week's debates just might be their last best chance to both boost support and most importantly to stay in the race.

CNN senior political writer and analysts Harry Enten is here. Okay, so you and Chris Cillizza are out with your most recent rankings. Where you're taking a look at, you know, the chances? This is a big deal next week, especially if they want to move on. You're looking at the top 10 with the best chances ...

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Yes.

HILL: ... of the nomination.

ENTEN: Correct.

HILL: Walk us through my friend.

ENTEN: Yes. So this is our bottom 5, or 6 through 10 and what we essentially see here is, you know, Andrew Yang, has his Yang gang, you know, he's been able to raise a lot of money from a lot of donors, but really got no words during the last debate. I almost forgot that he was there. We have Julian Castro, who actually did fairly well in the last debates, right?

He was able to make some sort of breakthrough get a lot of donors racist polling a little bit. I'm going to be very interested to see how he does on the debate stage with Joe Biden, perhaps bringing up their differences on immigration. Beto O'Rourke though, is someone who's been plummeting down and he's all the way down to eighth.

At one point he was at second in our rankings. Amy Klobuchar, she's up one that's more of an indication that O'Rourke has been falling. Can she make a breakthrough with more moderate voters that Biden's been clamoring so far holding on to? And Cory Booker holding steady at six, very interesting to see him versus Joe Biden go after criminal justice reform.

HILL: That's going to be quite a stage. Really quickly, before we move on to the next five. Beto O'Rourke dropping down one, he also is I understand that CNN has learned his team really taking a look at his debate performance last time around, which I'm guessing will influence what we see Wednesday.

ENTEN: Absolutely. I mean, Beto O'Rourke by any stretch of the imagination. We just didn't have a very good debate performance. You know, he was kind of lackluster boring, Castro really went after him. And that just came on top of the fact that he's just been falling, falling, falling ever since entering the race. He needs a real good debate performance, perhaps reverse that downward momentum.

HILL: So moving on to the top five.

ENTEN: Yes, moving out of it. The top five.

HILL: The top five.

ENTGEN: The top five. So we have at number five Pete Buttigieg who's basically been stable there. Look, if money won nominations, Pete Buttigieg would be well on his way, but he simply has been falling in the polls, only at about 5 percent in national average right now. Can he actually reach out and win some African American support? Let's see if he uses the bait to do that.

And number four, Bernie Sanders. Look, Bernie Sanders was the second candidate last time around. This time around, he's basically in a three way tie for second place with Harrison, Warren in the polls raising a lot of money. But again, he hasn't been able to build on that support, despite universal name ID.

Number three, Elizabeth Warren, very interested to see she and Bernie Sanders on the same debate stage. Are there going to be differences, or are they going to play nice? She's been having some poll momentum going up. Can she sustain that?

Kamala Harris, obviously, in the last debate, she had a real breakthrough moment. She rose up tremendously in the polls. But we've seen her recede a little bit since that debate. Can she use this debate against standing next to Joe Biden to perhaps reestablish that momentum?

And of course, finally, Joe Biden, he had such a poor debate last time. Can he get up on that debate stage? Can he be aggressive? We've seen him be more aggressive in recent days on criminal justice reform, on his record with both Harris and Booker. There's going to be a target on his back. Let's, let's see how he acts with that part.

HILL: A lot of things to look for. Two nights to check it out.

ENTEN: Two nights, you know, I love it. And only 191 days until Iowa. I'm counting down each day with a candle on a cake.

HILL: I knew you would do that.

ENTEN: That's me.

HILL: Harry Enten, happy weekend my friend.

ENTEN: You as well.

HILL: You enjoy your cake.

ENTEN: I will.

HILL: Be sure to watch the debates right here only on CNN. Two big nights as we mentioned, 10 candidates each night Tuesday, Wednesday, it all kicks off at 8:00 p.m. live from Detroit.

Community outrage today after I.C.E. agents violently smashed a car window so that they could arrest an undocumented immigrant. Well now we're learning a little bit more about that including that the man has been deported. Plus, we are close to learning more about just who else could be caught up in the Jeffrey Epstein investigation. What documents tell us about this investigation into so called uncharged individuals.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:28:58] HILL: New details emerging in the case of alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. "The New York Times" outlining how Epstein leveraged his relationship with billionaire Leslie Wexner for more money and for alleged access to young aspiring models.

Wexner owns L Brands that's the parent company of Victoria's Secret and other retailers. He previously owned Epstein's New York City mansion L Brands has hired outside counsel to review its relationship with Epstein.

Meantime, a spokesperson for the company says, "While Mr. Epstein served as Mr. Wexner's personal money manager for a period that ended nearly 12 years ago. We do not believe he was ever employed by nor serve as an authorized representative of the company."

Also knew, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have subpoenaed Jeffrey Epstein's longtime personal pilots. Testimony from the pilots along with flight-log data could be used by Federal Investigators to corroborate some of the claims that Epstein's accusers have made.

CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson and CNN reporter Kara Scannell join me now. So new day, new details, new questions here. We learned that federal prosecutors in a new filing are investigating so called uncharged individuals. That was disclosed as part of our request that all the parties involved stay quiet ...

[14:30:10]