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Dems Count Rises on Impeachment; Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) is Interviewed about Impeachment; Robert Kennedy's Granddaughter Dies; Miners Protest after Bankruptcy; Wildfires Rage across Siberia. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 2, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Pro-impeachment column since the Mueller hearing. But is it going to change Pelosi's mind?

LAUREN FOX, CNN POLITICS CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, you know, it was just a few months ago that my colleague, Manu Raju, asked her in her presser, what are you going to do when a majority of your caucus is supporting impeachment? And she said, look, it's not even close. Well, a few months later, we're now at 117 Democrats who support impeachment, and more than 20 who have come out, like you said, since Mueller testified last week. So this puts Pelosi in a difficult position.

She was on Capitol Hill yesterday. We were asking her, you know, what are you going to do when you meet this threshold of half or more than half of your caucus supporting impeachment. She said she didn't want to answer the question. She would have a statement. We still haven't seen that statement, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. You know, it's interesting, her dad, who, as you know, worked in Democratic politics, I guess, gave her this great advice one time and she recounts it a lot saying, he taught me how to count. Not like one, two, three, but he taught me how to count votes, right, and that's what she's -- that's what she's looking at right now.

Before you go, on the Republican side of the House, Will Hurd, the only African-American Republican member of the House, will not run for re-election. And I find this incredibly telling because just a few weeks ago he said to our Christiane Amanpour, I am the face of the new Republican Party. But apparently not right now.

FOX: Well, that's right. And it's such a significant loss for the Republican Party that's lacking diversity in its ranks in the House Republican Conference. And, you know, one of the things that has come up that I think is really interesting is just how outspoken he has been at times against the president.

Here's what he told "The Washington Post" about these "send her back" chants. He said, quote, when you imply because someone doesn't look like you or telling them to go back to Africa or whatever, you are implying that they are not an American and you are implying that they are -- have less worth than you. So that just gives you a sense of sort of how outspoken he's been at

times against the president and about -- against his party for not speaking up against the president. So, obviously, a significant loss here in not just diversity, but also just in diversity of opinion.


HARLOW: OK, Lauren Fox, appreciate the reporting on both counts. Thank you very much.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: With me now is Democratic Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York. He serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D-NY): Thank you, Jim. Thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: So among Democrats, you're nearly at half of your caucus supporting impeachment. What is your message to Nancy Pelosi? Is now the time to proceed?

ESPAILLAT: Well, I -- as Poppy said earlier, I think our leader can count. I think more will come. By the way, I think that if we get access to the testimony in the -- in the Mueller grand jury and if we are able to subpoena them again before the Judiciary Committee, we will hear -- we will have a greater insight into what happened. I think more will come our way.

I think our leader has been very fair, even handed. I think she will listen to the caucus. I think more members will come towards impeachment. But she also recognizes that we need additional facts and evidence.

I'm already there.


ESPAILLAT: I was there last year. I think that we're getting closer.

SCIUTTO: So question, though, where are the American people? An NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll just a couple of weeks ago found that support for impeachment, this among registered voters, dropped to 21 percent in July, down already from 27 percent. Are you out of step with the American people here?

ESPAILLAT: I think that if we -- if you want to take impeachment for -- from a perspective of politics, you know, then -- then, of course, you will have to consider polls. But --

SCIUTTO: But it is. It's a political question. It's --

ESPAILLAT: Well, it's also --

SCIUTTO: Do you have the support of the American people to impeach a sitting president? It doesn't appear you do.

ESPAILLAT: I think that the House of Representatives has a responsibility granted to us by the Constitution and I think that eventually good government results in good politics. And if we see that we have to act and there is sufficient evidence that we must go in one direction, we must not abdicate our constitutional responsibility.

Good government is good politics. We could look to this from the political perspective and try to score political points or we can look at this from the constitutional perspective and try to do what's right. I believe in the latter.

SCIUTTO: Well, your jobs, of course, depends on politics. As you know, Democrats swept back to a majority of the House in 2018 by winning a lot of swing districts. And those candidates ran on issues other than impeachment. And I'm curious, I know that the Democratic House has passed a lot of bills, but without the Senate, a lot of those bills haven't gone anywhere.

In 2020, what are you going to have to present to voters, particularly in those swing districts, to say, hey, makes a difference, give us another couple of years in office?

ESPAILLAT: I think we've been successful in passing very important legislation. The minimum wage legislation. We passed --

SCIUTTO: But it's not going to get through the Senate, man. It's not -- it's not going to become real -- law.

ESPAILLAT: Well, you know, but then that's -- that's on the Senate that we're fulfilling our responsibility. We have a host of pieces of legislation that I think are historical in scope. We did LGBT legislation. We've done voter protection legislation, gun reform legislation. We've done -- we've basically gone through the whole list of legislations that we promised the American people.

[09:35:17] Now, it's up to the Senate, obviously.

SCIUTTO: But what does all this mean if it doesn't become a reality? It's nice, it looks good on paper, but it's not making guns any more difficult to be bought, it's not, you know, it's not enshrining any of this stuff into law. It's all aspirational at this point.

ESPAILLAT: Well, I think that we should engage the Senate and insure that they -- they know the full scope of our legislation. But we are fulfilling our responsibility, both politically and governmentally. I think that the fact that you see many Republicans stepping down, like Will Hurd did this week, it shows that the American people understand that we are passing those pieces of legislation. And those Republican Congress members also understand that they're not -- they're not sitting, looking pretty for this next election.

So we still have a long way to go until next year. I hope that we can pass an infrastructure bill. I think an infrastructure bill is a bipartisan bill that the American people want. SCIUTTO: We'll see. Afghanistan, the president, the White House

negotiating a deal with the Taliban. As you know, the Taliban has killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, killed thousands of the Afghan people, and the president has telegraphed that he want to reduce U.S. forces here on an election timetable by the 2020 election.

You sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

ESPAILLAT: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Are you concerned that this deal would represent surrender to the Taliban and Afghanistan?

ESPAILLAT: No, I think that we should pull out of Afghanistan. I think that our soldiers, the men and women of our armed forces, have been there for far too long. Obviously, Afghanistan is still in major chaos. Should we be a policeman of the world? That's the question that we must answer. Or should we address those national issues that are bread and butter issues for the American families. I think it's a -- we have to approach those bread and butter issues of the American family. And, by the way, when we engage militarily, we have far less money to invest domestically.

I think we should pull the troops out. We've done the best we could in the region.

SCIUTTO: All troops? Pull all troops out? Al Qaeda still has a presence in Afghanistan and, as we know, al Qaeda plotted the attacks on 9/11 from Afghanistan with the Taliban's welcome.

ESPAILLAT: I think that we should -- we should incrementally pull them out. I think that they should be eventually out of Afghanistan and the region for that matter. You know, we've given our blood, sweat and tears to that region. We're not happy where Afghanistan is right now. But we've done the best we can to stabilize the region. Let's bring our soldiers back home. Let's invest in the development of America.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Espaillat of New York, thanks very much for joining the broadcast, sir.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much. Thank you so much.

HARLOW: A really important conversation.

OK, so a group of outraged Kentucky miners are protesting on the tracks in front of a train. They've been doing this for days. They're keeping the coal they mined from going anywhere. How much longer could they be there?


[09:42:25] HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

Sad news to share with you this morning. The Kennedy family is once again dealing with unimaginable heartbreak after the death of Robert F. Kennedy's granddaughter, Saoirse Kennedy Hill. She died at the family's compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, just on Thursday. She was 22 years old.

SCIUTTO: Just heartbreaking. The family said in a statement that their hearts are shattered by the loss.

Jean Casarez is in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, by the Kennedy compound.

You know, Jean, I've been outside that compound for a previous tragedy, the death of John F. Kennedy Junior. And it just seems all too often.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Which was 20 years ago this last month it was the anniversary.


CASAREZ: You know, it's so peaceful here this morning. I mean it's the heart of the summer. But there is just so much tragedy here. The Kennedy compound is behind me.

And here is what we do know. It was about 2:30 yesterday afternoon a local fire lieutenant tells CNN that medical response teams were summoned to an address which is the Kennedy compound and they took an individual to the Cape Cod Hospital and they were pronounced dead there. And the family does confirm with us it is the granddaughter of Robert Kennedy, Saoirse Kennedy. She is the granddaughter of Robert Kennedy, attorney general, presidential candidate for the United States presidency. She is the granddaughter of the living Ethel Kennedy. And her mother was one of the 11 children of that couple.

Now, the family did give us a statement, and here it is in part. Her life was filled with hope, promise and love. She lit up our lives with her love, her pearls of laughter and her generous spirit.

In 2016, when she was a student at Deerfield Academy, she penned an op-ed publicly and she said -- we want to read some of the struggles she said she was going through at that time. She said, my depression took root in the beginning of my middle school years and will be with me for the rest of my life. Although I was mostly a happy child, I suffered bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy burden on my chest. Many people are suffering but because many people feel uncomfortable talking about it, no one is aware of the sufferers.

And we do not know the cause of this death. But one thing is certain, this family has gone through so much tragedy and here is another.


HARLOW: It is tragic and people, you know, regardless of the cause of death here, we don't know, but people need to talk about that depression more and take it very seriously.

[09:45:07] Jean Casarez, thank you for bringing us that news this morning.

Jim. SCIUTTO: Yes, heartbreaking. You see the Kennedy features in her face there, I feel.

HARLOW: Yes, you do.

SCIUTTO: Well, this morning, a group of Kentucky coal miners are still blocking a coal train on the tracks amid a day's long protest now. Just part of a standoff between the workers and a coal company that filed for bankruptcy, leaving nearly 400 workers, including these, without work and pay for a month.

HARLOW: CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval in in Harlan County, Kentucky.

Talk to us about this. I mean this is -- this is a big deal. How long could it go on? What are the workers saying?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A big deal for many families, Poppy and Jim.


SANDOVAL: Btu first let me explain quickly. We had to overcome some lighting challenges, so we said to turn our camera away. It's one of the reasons why you can't see the presence behind me. But when you see some of the images that were captured by our colleague, Steve Sorg (ph), it really will give you an idea of what I'm looking at literally just yards away from where I'm standing. You will see this peaceful and constant presence of Blackjewel employees, coal miners, men and women who have been here since Monday. So today is day five of uncertainty.

They were essentially caught off-guard here. They were not given any warning when the company, the coal production company that they were working for, declared bankruptcy on July 1st and essentially were left with no way of putting food on the table. And to explain just a little bit of what it's been like for many of these employees, including for the people in nearby Cumberland, Kentucky, I'm standing here with the mayor, Mayor Charles Raleigh.

If you can step right up here, sir. Thank you for joining us as we have this conversation live on CNN.

I want you to tell me a little bit about what this means for so many families, not only in your city, but in surrounding coal country.

MAYOR CHARLES RALEIGH, CUMBERLAND, KENTUCKY: It's just overwhelming that the support they've got with people coming to help. But what it means for the coal miners here, it's their livelihood. I mean to see them having to sit here and you -- you can tell it's pretty hot, but they are dedicated to sit here, no matter how hot it gets or how political it gets, they're going to stand here until they get some answers.

To many of these families, when you see them struggling to make car payments or house payments and they have no health coverage, they can't get unemployment, their 401(k)s are locked and it's so gut- wrenching to watch. I've seen several ladies here break into tears and say, we don't know what else to do, but we're going to come out here and we're going to sit until we at least get some answers because they feel like they're doing something rather than sitting at home waiting on the phone to ring, they're sitting here demanding answers. And it's men, women, children, their grandmas, grandpas. They come out and they're determined that they're going to show the support for them.

SANDOVAL: Mayor Raleigh, thank you so much, sir.

RALEIGH: Thank you.

SANDOVAL: And, thank you so much. We'll let you continue with your day.

And, Jim and Poppy, something that -- it's a really important note here. Many of these miners, they basically took on many of these financial obligations because of the promises that it, in their eyes, were kept by the Trump administration that the coal industry would essentially receive this boost. So they went out and they made some of these purchases, like a home for their family. And sadly now they're faced with the reality that the company that they work or worked for was not able to provide them with a paycheck. So now they're left wondering, again, five days straight, and they expect it to carry on into the weekend.


SCIUTTO: It's hard to fight the economics of coal, right?


SCIUTTO: And you're seeing it -- the consequences there.

Polo Sandoval, thanks very much.

Right now wildfires are burning out of control in a place that normally sees temperatures drop below zero. Where is it happening? We'll tell you coming up.


[09:53:12] HARLOW: All right, wait until you hear this story and see these images. Right now wildfires are raging in the Russian arctic, one of the coldest places on earth, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Not cold now.


SCIUTTO: And now the fire is raging. They've spread across almost all of Siberia, creating what green peace calls, quote, an ecological catastrophe, covering cities in a toxic haze. President Trump says that he has personally offered to help Russian President Vladimir Putin in that fight.

Frederik Pleitgen is live in the midst of it, in eastern Siberia, with the latest.

I mean these are really almost incredible conditions there. Ninety degrees where it should be much colder and now these fires.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Jim, and this is really one of the front lines of the global climate crisis where you can really feel the climate crisis. You can smell it also with the smoke that's in the air as well.

And you were talking about these fires. They've been out of control here in Siberia for months. And it's really difficult for people to put that in perspective. But if I take a commercial flight from where I am right now In Yakutsk and fly three and a half hours toward the west, I would still be inside the fire zone. And those fires are nowhere near being controlled.

And that's really two issues with that, Jim. On the one hand, of course, it's absolutely toxic for the people who live here. A lot of the cities here are under smoke. A lot of people are suffering from it as well. But, of course, it also contributes even more to global warming because these fires are pumping so much greenhouse gases into the air.

Now, the Russians are saying -- they're sort of stepping things up a little bit. They have some more planes that are in action now. But they're saying that they are not going to fight any fires unless they're close to urban centers. So the ones that are in remote areas are still pumping all of that CO2 into the air. So certainly a very dangerous situation that's going on.

[09:55:00] At the same time with these really warm temperatures, you have a lot of the permafrost ground here just simply melting and collapsing. And that's setting free a lot of methane and a lot of other carbon as well. That's also contributing to this.

And one final note. This is also hitting pretty close to home to America as well, because we've just learned that the smoke from the wildfires here in Siberia has already reached the western parts of the United States, guys.

HARLOW: Oh, my gosh.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. All right.

HARLOW: That is astonishing.

Frederik Pleitgen, thank you for being on that story. Keep us posted.

The United States may start testing cruise missiles not allowed for decades because of a treaty that we had with Russia. But after departing that, everything could change.

SCIUTTO: Is the world a less safe place?

HARLOW: Yes. SCIUTTO: Plus, our new original series, "The Movies," continues Sunday night with the 60s, from "Psycho" to "Doctor Strange Love," to 2001, "A Space Odyssey." Hear from the actors, directors and people who brought your favorite scenes to life. Get the stories behind the movies you love. "The Movies," Sunday night, 9:00 Eastern Time here on CNN.