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GOP's Ratcliffe Withdraws Himself as Intel Chief Pick; Granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy Found Dead at Kennedy Compound. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 2, 2019 - 14:30   ET



[14:33:26] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We're back. Here's more of our breaking news. The president's pick for the director of National Intelligence, DNI, has just withdrawn his name from consideration as questions from his experience and relevance has really piled up.

Here's reaction from Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe himself. Let me read the whole tweet for you. He says, "While I am and will remain very grateful to the president for his intention to nominate me as director of National Intelligence, I am withdrawing from consideration."

He goes on, "I was humbled and honored that the president put his trust in me to lead our nation's intelligence operations and remain convinced that, when confirmed, I would have done so with the objectivity, fairness and integrity that our intelligence agencies need and deserve. However, I do not wish for a national security and intelligence debate surrounding my confirmation, however untrue, to become a purely political and partisan issue. The country we all love deserves that it be treated as an American issue."

"Accordingly," he writes, "I have asked the president to nominate someone other than me for this position."

So let's go to CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI, Josh Campbell.

Josh, this choice, Congressman Ratcliffe has been blasted for being too politicized.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: A lot of criticism there, Brooke. We know the president is a fighter. He likes to engage. Whenever we see him backing down, it's usually a signal that there's more of a story here.

If you look at Ratcliffe, there's two issues that apply both to his experience and the politics of the issue.

First, the experience. There are questions about his resume we had reported on. He initially on his Web site and other places talked about his terrorism experience as a U.S. attorney and sending people to prison.

[14:35:14] When we asked his office for the names of people he sent to prison, he couldn't come up with them.

BALDWIN: They could give them to us.

CAMPBELL: They couldn't give them to us. There's a question there.

This isn't a job you can learn on the job. This is a very powerful person that sits atop of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies so you need someone with that kind of experience.

I think a little bit of vetting on the part of the White House probably could have unearthed some of this. But obviously, the work of good journalism is really painting the picture here.

And the second issue, quickly, comes down to politics. Again, these are historically apolitical, non-partisan institutions. We know putting a politician in there of a particular party itself sends a signal.

And this is someone historically who has been critical of Robert Mueller.

And also, when you go back and look at the record, this is someone who was on the record talking about this FBI "Deep State," this secret society of people working to undermine Trump.

When you look at the optics, when you need apolitical people not on anyone's side, it raised a lot of eyebrows when you have someone so political who sat on the cusp of taking over that very powerful agency.

BALDWIN: So now here goes another acting position until they figure out who they want to fill as DNI, as Dan Coats will be out.

Josh Campbell, thank you for your analysis on that.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Also today, another tragedy for the Kennedy family. The death of Robert Kennedy's granddaughter opens up a new discussion about the Kennedys and all the public pain and grief they have experienced through the years.


[14:41:19] BALDWIN: A 22-year-old young woman is found dead at her grandmother's home. It's a family tragedy but one that resonates across the country. That family is named Kennedy, a family so often touched by brutal and public heart break. Saoirse Kennedy Hill was the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy.

In statement, the family said that their hearts are shattered by the loss.

Jean Casarez is at the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Jean, what happened? What do you know?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have gotten information that the island district attorney's office. They're saying the jurisdiction of this case is resting with the chief medical examiner, that he has performed an autopsy, found no trauma to her body other than life- saving measures.

Now they're awaiting toxicology results. That can take some time. But that will determine, they say, the cause and manner of their death.

Her family not only said their hearts are shattered. They said the love and joy and hope that she had within her was what made her.

Ethel Kennedy said, "The world is not as beautiful today." Yesterday she said that on the afternoon of her death.

We also know that she was a volunteer. She loved to help others. Service was something that she was all about. She actually was helping to build schools for the indigenous populations in Mexico.

BALDWIN: So this is what you're learning. I cannot even imagine what this family is going through.

Jean, thank you very much.

I want to big picture all of this. It's impossible to know this summer already brings two somber anniversaries for the Kennedy family. First, it's been 20 years since John Kennedy Jr, his wife, Carolyn Bessette and her sister, Lauren, died in a private plane crash. That was July 16, 1999.

And it's been 50 years since the Chappaquiddick incident where Ted Kennedy's care accident killed Mary Jo Kopechne. That was July 18, 2969.

Professor Barbara Perry is the director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She's also written books on the Kennedy family.

Barbara, thank you so much for being with me.

Everyone is thinking, you grieve with this family but through the years, this family, and as a result, the nation has grieved far too many times.

BARBARA PERRY, DIRECTOR OF PRESIDENTIAL STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: It's so true, Brooke. It's hard to believe. Every time you think, let's hope this is the last tragedy this family has to go through, there inevitably seems to be another. What more tragic than a young woman at age 22, filled with such hope and promise, gone long before her time.

BALDWIN: Every family suffers its own loses. The Kennedy's suffer them in public. I understand you were allowed to read Rose Kennedy's diaries and you worked on her biography. What did you learn about how the family copes not only with personal grief but with the inescapable public reaction?

PERRY: Rose Kennedy, the matriarch of the family, would have been the great grandmother of Saoirse. And she and, I would say, Ethel are among the strongest as far as their religious beliefs. They believe there's a life after this. When one passes on, they believe they will see them. That's in part how they get through it.

But interestingly, I went back through Rose's papers yesterday and noted, in 1970, when two of her grandsons were arrested for marijuana, she wrote to all the grandchildren, and she almost 30 of them, and she said, "Couldn't you lead a Kennedy directive that would be an anti- drug campaign." And she said her hopes were dashed when she realized this wasn't going to be the case.

She tried as best she could as a woman born in 1890, sort of Victorian. She tried to lead a good example. But it didn't work. And the family has had its problems with addiction sadly.

[14:45:16] BALDWIN: They have.

Barbara Perry, thank you very much. We'll talk more about this next hour.

But I want to get back to this. The majority of House Democrats now supporting an impeachment inquiry. Look at them all. We'll discuss the discovery of this.

And Nikki Haley blasts the president for making light of the break-in at Congressman Cumming's home.

We'll be right back.


[14:50:02] BALDWIN: We are back with breaking news. The president's pick for director of National Intelligence has just withdrawn his name from consideration as questions of his experience and relevance piled up. Referring to Congressman John Ratcliffe.

With me on the phone, former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Director Clapper, thank you for calling in.

This is your old job. Your reaction? Is this the right move?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR (via telephone): Well, I think in the good news department, I'm sure that there's, you know, sighs of relief around the Intelligence Community with the revelations about embellishments of his background and his resume, which was thin gruel for the job to start with. I think that's a good thing.

I think a couple of things are kind of hanging out there. One is the president's earlier comment about an announcement on appointing an acting director, which bothered a lot of people in the Intelligence Community because the law stipulates that the principal deputy, Sue Gordon, who is a career law enforcement officers, decades in the business, who is now the principal deputy, would be, under normal circumstances, freed up, so that's a concern.

And importantly, the president has telegraphed the kind of person he wants to find to corral the, quote, "run-amuck" Intelligence Community and replace the confused Dan Coats and neither of those conditions, by the way, are true.

BALDWIN: Well, I think to your second point, can you just remind people why this position, this nomination, is so incredibly crucial, especially right now, especially given that we listened to the Robert Mueller testimony that said Russia is meddling, quote, "as we sit here," and we know how the president seems to think about Russian election interference.

CLAPPER: There are two factors I would mention briefly as the importance of the job. One is the plethora of threats that we confront today, not the least of which is Russia and their continued interference and attempts to undermine our political processes, which, of course, the president is very skeptical about and doesn't really take seriously.

The other thing is it's a pretty complex job. You got tens of thousands of people and the components of Intelligence Community spread all over the planet in very hazardous, risky conditions. Just the challenges of running the enterprise of the Intelligence Community is quite formidable.

I spent about 50 years in the intel profession. And serving for DNI for almost six and a half years is the hardest thing I ever tried do. It's very difficult if you know something about intelligence. If you don't, it's virtually impossible.

BALDWIN: James Clapper, thank you very much, former DNI. Pleasure to have you on and pick your brain given your expertise. Thank you so much.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You've got it.

As a New York Police Department judge has recommended a new punishment for the officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, I will speak live with his daughter and his son.

Stay with me.


[14:57:52] BALDWIN: A sneak peak of this week's episode of CNN's original series, "THE MOVIES," that focuses on the classic films from the 1960s.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In "Cool Hand Luke" Newman is a figure of the counterculture movement, rebelling against the authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He's just going to knock you down again, Buddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Circumstance hasn't made Luke a criminal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost his choice.

PAUL NEWMAN, ACTOR: You're going to have to kill me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or his refusal to do what's expected of him.

STROTHER MARTIN, ACTOR: Don't you ever talk that way to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The warden is played by Strother Martin. It's one of the great 10-line performances in movies.

MARTIN: What we've got here is failure to communicate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it really feels like a '60s line, where in one moment kids and adults could see the generation gap and see each other on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Sorry, Luke. Just doing my job. You've got to appreciate that.

NEWMAN: Na. Calling it a job don't make it right, boss.


BALDWIN: "THE MOVIES" airs Sunday night at 9:00. From "Psycho" to "Dr. Strange Love," "The 2001 Space Odyssey," get the stories behind your favorite films. Here on CNN.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

We continue on. It's Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

Breaking news. The man chosen by President Trump to be the next director of National Intelligence has withdrawn his name from consideration. Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe said he did not want his confirmation to become a purely political and partisan issue.

The president claims Ratcliffe wasn't given a fair shake by the media.

The truth? Congressman Ratcliffe was probably headed for a rocky nomination hearing as Democrats and some Republicans had expressed concerns with his nomination.

CNN senior national correspondent, Alex Marquardt, is with me, as is CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Alex, first to you.

What happened? Why did he withdraw his name?

[15:00:03] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it's been quite a dramatic five days. John Ratcliffe's name came to surface last Sunday when President Trump, in a tweet, said he would be nominating the three-term Texas congressman to the post of director of National Intelligence.