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CNN NEWSROOM

SoulCycle, Equinox Owner Blasted Over Trump Fundraiser. Joe Biden Doubles Down on Saying Trump Encourages White Supremacists; White House Rebuffed DHS Attempts to Prioritize Domestic Terror; Rep. Jerry Nadler Presses Ahead with Impeachment Probe as Pelosi Keeps Door Open; Ousted FBI Deputy Director Sues FBI and DOJ Over Firing. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 8, 2019 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: -- criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about. He goes on. I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I have been and will continue to be an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.

So, what's the bottom line here? With me now, Safid Deen, who is sports reporter, for the "South Florida Sun Sentinel." And Ephraim Salaam is a retired NFL player. So gentlemen, a pleasure. Safid to you first, because this owner seems to want it both ways though, right. He says he doesn't agree with Trump on everything. Yet he still is going to endorse him and have this fundraiser. How does he square this?

SAFID DEEN, SPORTS REPORTER, SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL: Quite frankly I'm not sure how Stephen Ross knows how to square this because of the reaction this has had in the last two days in this political landscape, in his businesses and in the NFL.

You know, Stephen Ross has been one of the most outspoken NFL owners, supportive of players like Dolphins receiver, Kenny Stills, who called him out on this, championing things like social equality, racial equality, inclusion. Stephen Ross is trying to champion these things but having this fundraiser is a direct contradiction to all of those things altogether.

Stephen Ross, he is supporting President Trump's re-election campaign. And it's not a good look for him right now. It's not a strong stance that he took by saying he agrees on some views and disagrees on others.

BALDWIN: But to Safid's point -- just back to the football side, for a second -- you know, this is a guy, this is one of few NFL owners who actually says if players want to take a knee, take a knee. He's good for it. He funds RISE, which is an acronym for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. So what is this about, Ephraim? Is this just about business? EPHRAIM SALAAM, RETIRED NFL PLAYER: It is about business. And like

he said, you can't have it both ways. All right, you can't tell me, look, we're going to create these programs for inclusion, equality, and galvanize us, and bring us together and then you go and you throw this type of fundraiser and you support -- now look, you can support whoever you want.

This is America. You can -- whatever candidate you want, you can -- if he wants to support Trump, that's fine. It's a lot of the NFL owners who support Trump. But the problem is you can't spit in our face and tell us it's raining. And that's the problem. That's what we're doing right now. You can't say, hey look, I'm going to have this high-dollar fundraiser for Mr. Trump. We've been friends for years and years and years.

All of the rhetoric coming from the White House has been about divisiveness, inequality. You cannot support both sides of this issue. On other issues, taxes, some of those things, that's fine. But when it comes to racial equality and benefits for those who have been impoverished, and trying to help communities, you can't play both sides of the fence. It's not going to happen.

BALDWIN: You had me at you can't spit in our faces and tell us it's raining. You guys are both are basically saying how can you have it both ways? I'm also just wondering about you know the people who work at these places. Right. SoulCycle, I know it's an LBGTQ friendly multi-million-dollar business, right.

They sent out a statement yesterday saying they believe in diversity, and inclusion, equality, and they say in no way do they endorse the fundraising event. And they called Ross a passive investor not involved in the management of SoulCycle. So Safid, what about long-time employees at SoulCycle and at Equinox. Might

these boycotts affect the employees a lot more than Mr. Ross?

DEEN: This affects employees, this affects patrons, this affects other investors just like Ross himself, and this affects their competitors who are trying to score some new customers because all of this fallout. Quite frankly, the companies have distanced themselves Ross, from this fundraiser, excuse me, you know, distanced themselves from one of their biggest investors, and quite frankly they just have to continue doing their crisis management hoping to smooth things over with all those parties involved.

BALDWIN: But a lot of people are saying, nope, my money is not going to Donald Trump. So Ephraim, I know you say it's a free country, but it's not OK to talk out of both sides of your mouth. What happens now?

SALAAM: Well, there are consequences to your action. It is a free country. And you can support whoever you want to support. But if people, patrons who -- if you own businesses, they don't share the same views you share, then of course it's going to hurt financially and although SoulCycle and Equinox they've come out and they made statements saying, hey look, he's not part of this, he's a passive but we'll see how passive he is. Right, we'll see how passive of an investor he is.

BALDWIN: Do you think -- does Ross pull out of this, Ephraim?

DEEN: I don't think he pulls out of the fundraiser. I don't think so. It's very hard to make billionaires not do something they want to do.

[15:35:00] But the problem is, does SoulCycle, does Equinox, does that management group, does that ownership group, if he's just a piece of that, do they take him out of it? Look what happened to Uber and the CEO there. Look at Papa John's, they kicked Papa John out of Papa John's pizza, right. There're consequences. I couldn't believe it. I'm OK, well. Maybe it's Johnny John's now. I don't know.

BALDWIN: I needed a laugh, thank you, Ephraim. My lord.

DEEN: With what's going on in the media today and in this country, we all do need to laugh. But I tell you this, billionaires are not going to be able to allow to be getting away with the things they're doing now.

BALDWIN: Ephraim, thank you for that. Safid, nice to have you on, gentlemen. I appreciate both of you gentlemen very much. Enlightening conversation here.

Now to this as we learn that White House aides actually don't think the President's trips to Texas and Ohio went well yesterday. New information now that most patients at two El Paso hospitals did not want to meet with the President. We have those details coming up.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Former Vice President Joe Biden doubling down on his condemnation of President Trump in the wake of the shootings both in Dayton and El Paso. Let me play this for you, this is moments ago from the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe everything the President says and has done encourages white supremacists. And I'm not sure there's much of a distinction. As a matter of fact it may be even worse. In fact if you are out there trying to in fact curry the favor of white supremacists or any group that is anathema to everything we believe.

So whether he is or is not a white supremacist, he encourages them. Everything he does he speaks to them. He's afraid to take them on. If you notice the one time he used the word, white supremacy, it was not -- he talked about sleepy. He was awful sleepy and the way in which he talked about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: CNN also has new reporting today that the White House has been wearing what one source called ideological blinders for more than a year about the rise of domestic terrorism and specifically white supremacy. Current and former administration officials say the White House continually rebuffed efforts by Homeland Security to make domestic terror threats a higher priority in the country.

And that detail goes hand in hand with this week's "Time" magazine cover story. You the front cover there and the one poignant word, enough, surrounded by the names of 253 -- let me say that again, 253 cities impacted by shootings this year. The cover article cites one former U.S. Attorney quote, white supremacy is a greater threat than international terrorism right now. We're are being eaten within.

It also reports this quote, since 9/11 white supremacists and other far right extremists have been responsible for almost three times as many attacks on the U.S. soil as Islamic terrorists. Vera Bergengruen is with me, she's Time magazine's Washington correspondent and co- wrote the cover piece. So Vera, thank you so much for coming on.

And in so reading your piece today, you got a lot of -- a lot of interviews, right, more than a dozen with current and former federal law enforcement and national security folks, and so they tell you they're watching domestic terror warnings get ignored and even defunded. Tell me how and why.

VERA BERGENGRUEN, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Yes. So there's been a flood of stories in the wake of these shootings specifically about why law enforcement, why the FBI, why DHS isn't going more. And what we are hearing is that it's not just these reports that we've been hearing for the last two years that the Trump administration has specifically de-funded one office at DHS.

It's an ongoing problem for the last decade. They've been warning about this ever since 2008/2009. And they keep standing up these offices within DHS, and FBI agents devoted to domestic extremism. And because of a range of issues, legal issues, but especially political considerations because it's very tricky to be going after you know white supremacists and far right movements and not encounter a huge amount of blowback.

These offices just keep being defunded. The staffing gets cut. They say, their frustrations speaking to us is really palatable. Because they are seeing these shootings happen. All of this kind of gets ignored within. And they are saying we were warning about this a decade ago. And we could have actually stood up an infrastructure that would have kept pace with the growth of the threat. And now they're kind of pessimistic that it can ever really catch up to it.

BALDWIN: Let me come back to that. Because one other point you make, is you know when you look at the tools, and the weapons that law enforcement has to fight say, ISIS or Al Qaeda versus domestic terrorism, it's night and day. And then you add to that, you mention the politics, right. So you point this doesn't exactly have a receptive audience at the White House. Can you give me an example of what you mean?

BERGENGRUEN: Right, so you know, we're speaking to some -- we spoke to you know a senior official who was in some of these meetings, and they're kind of saying, even if -- for example, we've got 20 percent of FBI counterterrorism agents actually focused on domestic probes and if they're saying we need to expand that, Islamic terrorism isn't the threat it used to be, even those administrations want to refocus federal resources on that.

They are saying that it doesn't matter what they want to do. Because if they are in the room and their assessments go counter to what the President is publicly saying, then they are saying this falls on deaf ears. One official even told us that could cost you your seat at the table.

[15:45:00] So what they're kind of saying is no amount of facts or data will convince the White House and really going to drive these resources if what the President is publicly saying, which is, for example, in the wake of the New Zealand shooting, saying that white supremacy across the world is really kind of a minor threat, they're just not going to get these resources.

If it happened during the Obama administration, where there was that will, but they didn't want to go against even the political pressure. Then now that they are going against the President themselves. So there was some pessimism there, that this would even find a receptive audience.

BALDWIN: Yes. The quote from Jeh Johnson about Republicans throwing a hissy fit over his whole study that he did on some of this. Your article is rich in information and in all these different quotes, so I encourage folks to read, it's the cover story of Time magazine right now. Vera Bergengruen, thank you very much for joining us.

BERGENGRUEN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Breaking news on the impeachment the fight against President Trump. We have learned the House Judiciary Chairman is pressing ahead with a full-blown investigation. Speaker Pelosi is keeping the door open. We have new details from Capitol Hill.

[15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just into CNN, new reporting about how close House Democrats may be to moving forward with impeachment proceedings. Our senior Washington correspondent is up on Capitol Hill, Manu Raju. Manu, this is escalating dramatically. What are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. The House Judiciary Committee is now engaged in a full-blown investigation to determine whether or not to move forward with articles of impeachment against the President of the United States before the end of the year. Now the recent court filings and public statements by top Democrats make it very clear of this dramatic escalation about the Democrats' decision now to move forward to decide whether or not to vote on these articles of impeachment.

Now, Brooke, every single day we're seeing more Democrats come out and say they support an impeachment inquiry, but now what I'm told from Democratic sources that is essentially moot. Because what the Judiciary Committee is doing is essential that, investigating whether or not the President of the United States needs to be impeached, a decision they hope will be decided in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Chairman Jerry Nadler, a supporter of this effort, the leader of this effort is pushing ahead. He has cited in their lawsuit that was filed just yesterday from the House to try to get the former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before

their committee. They say they need him to testify because they're trying to decide whether or not to impeach the President.

Also the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for months has put the brakes on moving forward on impeachment proceedings increasingly is leaving the door open pointing to this effort by the House Judiciary Committee to force these people, these officials, Don McGahn to testify blessing language in the lawsuit that said the committee is actively considering articles of impeachment.

And her public rhetoric has shifted slightly, so her allies believes that she's keeping the door open as we head into the days and weeks ahead. The question, Brooke, is ultimately if the Democrats do decide to go forward or if they're simply taking this more aggressive posture to help their case in court to convince federal judges to side with them by saying they need this information from the Trump administration in order to decide on whether to move forward in articles of impeachment.

But today, Brooke, we at CNN, we are adding Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee to our list of supporters of an impeachment inquiry. Significant given that his role of as Chairman of this key committee. That puts it at 120 Democrats now support formal proceedings into the President. We'll see where it ultimately ends up.

BALDWIN: Yes. That's a biggy. The pressure is mounting. Manu, our senior congressional correspondent, I was going to get there, Manu, thank you very much.

More breaking news. The former number two at the FBI, a frequent target of the President, is now suing the FBI and the Department of Justice. Hear why.

[15:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Just into us as CNN, we have learned fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is now suing the Justice Department and the FBI for wrongful termination. Our justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is following this for us. What's in the lawsuit?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this is a lengthy and scathing federal lawsuit from Andrew McCabe. In it he asks the judge and the D.C. Federal Court to determine that his termination was unlawful, to reinstate him as Deputy Director of the FBI, and also in turn to then reinstate his early retirement benefits and full pension.

But Brooke, really in this lawsuit, this is a direct attack on the President. This was something that was previewed by Andrew McCabe in that "60 Minutes" that happened just a few months ago when he really put it this way, he said, I was fired because I opened an investigation against the President of the United States, and he doesn't hold back in this lawsuit.

In fact, in the opening paragraph of this lawsuit, Andrew McCabe put it this way. He says that he believes the United States remains a government of laws, and not of men, and that he has brought this case to remedy the defendant's unlawful retaliation for his refusal to pledge allegiance to a single man. That single man that he later goes on to talk about, of course, being the President.

Andrew McCabe has brought this lawsuit against the Attorney General, Bill Barr, the Department of Justice, as well as the Director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, and the FBI itself. But really it seems to be that his main target here is the President. For the first few pages of this lawsuit, he talks about the President's unconstitutional scheme, as he puts it, to target members of the FBI, agents, officials who didn't agree with the President.

That's what this lawsuit is about, Brooke, Andrew McCabe saying that he was unlawfully terminated, because he didn't agree with the President here -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it, thank you for the update, Jessica. Appreciate it.

I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being here. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper begins now.

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