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Source: Jeffrey Epstein Dies After Apparent Hanging In Jail Cell; 2020 Democrats Push Gun Reform At Iowa Forum; Michael Bloomberg One-On-One, Talks Guns & Gun Control, Disagreement With Elizabeth Warren & Presidential Race; Sen. Kamala Harris Speaks At Iowa Gun Reform Forum; Sen. Elizabeth Warren Responds To Bloomberg's Statement On Corporate Responsibility; Trump Praises Kim Jong-un & Criticizes South Korea; Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) Discusses North Korea, Trump Criticism Of South Korea, Mass Shootings And Gun Control, Death Of Jeffrey Epstein. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired August 10, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:40] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
Our breaking news, convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein, is dead. A law enforcement source tells CNN Epstein apparently hanged himself in his cell. He had been awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges and was in federal custody in New York.
Attorney General Bill Barr was saying he was appalled to learn this news and that Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered.
Here's what we know so far according to authorities. Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell this morning around 6:30 Eastern time. He was given CPR and rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Epstein was already facing numerous federal sex trafficking charges. But yesterday, hundreds of pages of additional court documents were unsealed in federal court in New York from a civil suit. They contained new details of alleged sexual abuse committed by Epstein and several of his associates.
Names are named, including U.S. politicians and a British prince, who have all called the claims untrue. We'll have more on that just ahead.
But first, let's bring in CNN's Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz with more on Epstein's death.
Shimon, less than a month ago, July 23rd, we know Jeffrey Epstein was found in his jail cell with marks on around his neck. He was placed on suicide watch. Any sense of what changed?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, those are the big questions now, Ana, what changed. We know when he was placed on suicide watch after that July 23rd incident, what happened was that prison officials decided he needed to have psychological assessments on a daily basis. And that went on for about a week or so, according to sources we've talked to.
Those assessments went on, at the prison, psychologists were talking to him, were dealing with him, were assessing him on a daily basis.
And then, at some point, the psychologist at the jail decided that he was clear, he was OK to be placed back into this special housing unit of the jail there in lower Manhattan, the federal jail. And they decided, you know what, we're going to put him back in the special housing unit.
And this is where officials this morning found him unconscious. It was around 6:30 a.m. when they were doing a sweep of the jail. They came to his cell and they found him unresponsive.
He was removed to the medical unit where they were doing CPR and an ambulance was called and he was taken to the hospital where he died.
We don't yet know why the psychologists at the prison decided it was OK to take him off the suicide watch and place him back into this unit where obviously he was getting already special treatment in this special unit. He was removed from general population for his safety, for the safety of other prisoners, we're told.
But what happened in the last 24 hours, it's very unclear. Certainly, it's unclear what happened this morning.
There's going to be some major, major investigations. And folks are going to have to answer some questions because this should not have happened.
He's a very high-profile prisoner. He's in this jail. There's a lot of attention on this case. The repercussions are huge. Not just for him, but for perhaps other people who may have been involved. And we know there were several ongoing investigations.
And this should not have happened. And that's why we're seeing all of these investigations that are now going to take place -- Ana?
CABRERA: Do you know if there was any video surveillance?
PROKUPECZ: That's a good question. People who we have talked to and are familiar with the way this special housing unit works say there should be cameras there. We don't know if that's the case as it relates to his cell, his jail cell. But they say that because of the nature of the security around the facility, the jail cell that he was in, there should be cameras.
We're asking those questions and we'll see. We'll see if at some point they put that out. Obviously that's something we're going to want to look at.
And I'm sure jail officials already know whether or not there are cameras there. They probably have reviewed it, if they exist. They have not told us so.
CABRERA: Shimon, what did we learn from the documents that were unsealed yesterday?
PROKUPECZ: These were documents that were significant. We've been waiting for them to come out, and this had to do with a lot of the civil cases, information concerning other allegations concerning Jeffrey Epstein and his interaction, other allegations from victims who have come forward.
[15:05:12] And as you said, it implicated some pretty significant people. And so we don't know if that's -- if Jeffrey Epstein, could this have ignited something in him that would cause him to do this. That's very unclear.
But certainly, Jeffrey Epstein was aware of these documents. He knew what was in them. He knew the issue with them. He knew what would happen if they were released. Those are significant documents. There are more significant documents that are said to be released at some point -- Ana?
CABRERA: OK, Shimon Prokupecz, more to uncover here. Thank you very much.
Joining us now is Mike Fisten. He is a 30-year law enforcement veteran and private investigator who worked with the attorneys representing some of Epstein's accusers for more than a decade.
Mike, first, your reaction to Epstein's death?
MIKE FISTEN, LAW ENFORCEMENT VETERAN AND PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Thanks for having me on, Ana.
The reaction was astounding this morning. Because here, after 10 years of investigating this individual and hoping we finally were bringing him to justice, it's basic justice denied.
In one hand, you know, everyone including myself and all the victims wanted to see him brought to justice and go through a trial, expose so many things that has not been exposed yet that would come out during this trial and, of course, no one is going to have that now.
As far as his death itself, we've learned he was taken off suicide watch at the end of July. We know he had been on suicide watch after that official incident in which he had some marks on his neck last month. Federal officials say foul play is not suspected but now we have multiple investigations into how this could have happened.
Do you have any questions about the circumstances of his death?
FISTEN: Well, this was inevitable. If anyone didn't think that this was going to happen -- he tried a few weeks ago.
Jeffrey Epstein lived his life not in a 4-x-4 cell and he knew he only had two options, one, if he turned and cooperated against every person that indulged in his illegal behavior and he became a witness against these people, or he was just going to spend -- he knew he was going to get convicted, spend the rest of his life in the cell. And there was no way this individual, knowing who he is and how he has lived, was going to do that.
So, yes, this was inevitable. To me, at least it was.
FISTEN: I was very surprised that they did not have him in a suicide cell, suicide watch, you know, at this point.
CABRERA: Right. It's unclear exactly what the protocols were in terms of watching his behavior.
I know, as we mentioned, you've worked with many of those representing victims for a long time. How do you think they're feeling today? Does this provide any sort of closure or do they feel like they've been denied justice?
FISTEN: The victims definitely feel that they're been denied. Again, the justice system failed them 10 years ago. Finally, we have a prosecutor and a team of investigators in New York that had the guts to come forward and indict him and bring him to justice. It was something that these victims have been waiting for, for years and years. And it's a very big letdown to them. At least the ones I spoke to this morning were very, very let down, very upset about it.
CABRERA: We are getting some reaction now from the attorney for Virginia Giuffre. She's one of the women who was involved in some of these documents unsealed as an accuser. Another Epstein accuser represented by this same lawyer.
Let me read you their response, quote, "This is the end of one chapter, but only one chapter of the battle to bring the sex traffickers to justice. Jeffrey Epstein did not act and could not have done what he did alone. Justice demands that those who acted with him also be held to account."
How does Epstein's death now impact the ongoing investigation and outstanding lawsuits?
FISTEN: I think it really helps - unfortunately, it helps the ongoing investigation because, just like when I was investigating him for all of these years, I ran into stumbling block after stumbling block of people that wanted to talk but couldn't talk because they were, number one, afraid Jeffrey would come after them, both civilly, and they were also afraid that he had the power to hurt them.
And a lot of them had these outlandish NDAs, these non-disclosure agreements where -- I remember one instance I went to interview a guy in Palm Springs who worked for Jeffrey for years, and he cried that he wanted to -- he cried tears, he wanted to tell me everything that happened in that house, that he wished he could forget everything he saw in that house, but Jeffrey had such a tight NDA on him, he said he would be sued, lose everything, and he wouldn't talk.
So I think those people are now going to all come forward.
[15:10:22] CABRERA: You believe more witnesses could come forward, which may strengthen the cases that are being brought. But without the accused, Jeffrey Epstein, still alive, I guess where would those lead?
FISTEN: Well -- well, you know, these witnesses who are coming -- all of these witnesses who want to come forward, Jeffrey being alive or Jeffrey not being alive, I don't think it's going to impact it because there's great case against the co-conspirators that helped Jeffrey out.
To be honest with you, I think Jeffrey took the Fifth anyway. I don't think he would have -- like he's done in every deposition and he's done in every court hearing, he's always taken the Fifth. I don't think he was going to incriminate anybody.
I don't think it's going to hurt the government's case because there's a very strong case against these people and individuals. I'm not talking about the people that were indulging only in these girls, but the people who were bringing the girls to Jeffrey, the people who were his so-called pimps that were bringing girls and underaged girls to him.
Those are the people that I believe the government is going to go after. And I believe they have been working in that direction anyway.
So I don't think Jeffrey being alive or dead is going to impact that much.
CABRERA: We mentioned the attorney general, William Barr, is reportedly livid. He put out a statement saying this death raises serious questions. He also says he's working with the inspector general at DOJ now opening a separate investigation into the death of Epstein.
We've heard from sitting members of Congress, also demanding answers. Senator Amy Klobuchar, for example, saying the Judiciary Committee of the Senate should call a hearing. Do you think that's necessary?
FISTEN: I think it's -- I think Attorney General Barr is correct to do an investigation. Something -- something, you know -- in the administration of having him incarcerated, something went wrong with as far as housing him.
But to have a congressional hearing and -- to me, that's a side show. The real issue here is for the U.S. attorney in New York and his team of investigators to go forward, unobstructed, and do what they were doing to bring everyone else to justice.
To have these other side shows from Congress and everything else, trying to do their own investigation is really, I feel, going to take away -- they can do that later on, if they want. It's going to take away from the criminal investigation here. CABRERA: Mike Fisten, really appreciate you joining us. Thank you.
FISTEN: Thank you for having me, Ana.
CABRERA: Also happening right now, gun violence front and center on the campaign trail after mass shootings that killed 31 people this past week. The 2020 candidates are speaking at the gun sense forum in Iowa. We'll take you there live and speak to the forum's host, former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, next.
[15:16:59] CABRERA: After a weekend of back-to-back mass shootings followed by a week of grieving, Democratic presidential hopefuls are taking on President Trump and the gun lobby. And 17 candidates are in Iowa right now taking part in a gun control forum. Live pictures right now. You can see Senator Michael Bennet is the latest.
Here's some of what we've heard so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): In Dayton, when we were hanging out after, I can't tell you the number of Republicans that came up to me and said, Congressman, please, please, this has gone on long enough and it's time for us to act.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): President Trump tried to go to these two places, tried to go to Ohio and Texas, and was yelled at by activists, "Do something! Do Something." People are tired of the B.S.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), SOUTH BEND MAYOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I trained on some of these weapons. A.K.'s, A.R.'s, they have no business in our neighborhoods, in peacetime in the United States of America. They are for war zones.
JULIAN CASTRO, (D), FORMER HOUSING SECRETARY & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's happened with each of these incidents as Americans have seen them over and over and over again is that more people have woken up, more people have woken up and said, that could be my family, that could be me.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): If 90 percent of Americans want to see some basic sensible changes, why do they not happen? They're out there talking about it. I'm out there talking about it. I'll tell you why it doesn't happen, corruption, plain and simple.
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We talk about post traumatic stress. Why do we think it does not impact on our society today and our children today? There's serious, serious post traumatic stress going on for all of these kids who witness this, or even don't witness this, know of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: This gun forum is being hosted by Every Town for Gun Safety, the non-profit founded by former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has personally invested tens of millions of dollars into gun control advocacy and research into gun violence and prevention.
He joined me just a short time ago to talk about whether things are different this time when it comes to actually seeing tangible changes at the federal and congressional level on gun violence.
CABRERA: So when we talk about that sense of hopelessness or cynicism or skepticism about anything being done when it comes to gun violence, you know, there was a crowd of people who fled Times Square this week because a motorcycle backfired and their first thought was that it was someone shooting.
What did you think when you saw that video --
CABRERA: -- of people running for their lives because they heard a loud sound?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (D), FOUNDER, EVERY TOWN FOR GUN SAFETY & FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Well, it's not unexpected that when you read about the chaos that's been going on elsewhere in this country that your first thought might be I wonder if it's happening here.
I think it's also true that we tend to overdramatize that. Not everybody in Times Square ran. It was one bang, and it didn't sound like a rifle bullet or anything from what I read. I wasn't there. That's what people said, they thought it was a car or bike backfiring.
Let's not say that the whole world and America is ready to commit suicide --
[15:20:17] CABRERA: No.
BLOOMBERG: -- because they think they're going to get killed. That's not true.
CABRERA: But it is true, people are on edge and people are scared. That's a reality right now for people right now who think it could happen anywhere.
BLOOMBERG: I think that's true. But what do you mean a lot? What percentage of the public do you think is worried? I don't get that when I talk to people. I think they understand that it's a dangerous world, but if you live in cities with good police departments that are in control, you're pretty safe.
And if you live, for example, in New York, and in New York City, the crime rate is so low, it's almost impossible to measure compared to any other city. We still have crime in New York. A little under 300 people get killed every year, but that's a very negligible number compared to any place else.
So where you live should impact your interest in jumping or getting out of the way. If you live in some of these cities with a very high crime rate and you hear a gunshot, or it sounds to you like a gunshot, it probably is. And if you live in a city with a very low crime rate, it's probably not.
CABRERA: But I don't want to downplay the fear, and I understand what you're saying. But if it could happen at a Walmart, a concert, a bar, a school, all of these places where we've seen mass shootings now, I think the feeling is it could happen anywhere, even in cities where there isn't a high crime rate. That is why people are so jumpy.
And that is perhaps why there's this new sense of urgency to accomplish something when it comes to gun control or gun violence safety.
BLOOMBERG: I agree with you. There's a new sense of urgency. And it's wonderful it's happening because maybe we finally will get the legislation we need. If we do, your coverage of these events will have been helpful.
But it's also true that we live in a society where there's a small number of people who have access to guns, and if we could take away their access to guns, we will all be a lot safer.
CABRERA: And let me ask you about that specifically because, in the cases of El Paso and Dayton, background checks wouldn't necessarily have prevented those shootings because the two people who are either dead now because they committed the crime or accused of the crime, as in El Paso's case, they were able to get guns -- they passed background checks.
What would be the solution in those types of cases?
BLOOMBERG: There's nothing that is going to guarantee 100 percent safety in life. Life isn't that way. But background checks would reduce dramatically the number of suicides and significantly the number of murders.
Red flag laws don't always make a difference. But if you save one life, isn't it worth it?
I think you got to be careful here in saying, oh, there's no solution because nothing works all the time.
The bottom line is, you can, if the public gets behind their city government and their police department, bring down the crime rate such that most people don't worry about it.
And if you look at New York 20 or 30 years ago compared to today, I think most New Yorkers will tell you that they feel very safe and that crime is not one of the things that they worry about generally. CABRERA: And there's overwhelming support across the country for some
gun control measures. Recent polling shows 94 percent of Americans support universal background checks. And that includes nine in 10 Republicans and nine in 10 gun owners. And more than half of Americans support a ban on assault weapons.
CABRERA: So when we talk also about how the NRA has so much power over the president and others who may be afraid of their political future for acting in, you know, some capacity on gun control, should they be more afraid of not doing something than of acquiescing to the demands of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA?
BLOOMBERG: Ana, in 2018, I supported 24 congressional candidates who were good, my definition, good on guns and good on climate. And 21 of them won and beat almost in every case an A-rated Republican, A-rated by the NRA. That goes to show you that the NRA does not have the power and not everybody is running away from them.
And now, you you're starting to see more and more Republican congressman and Senators saying, I don't want to be on the wrong side of this issue.
If you survey NRA members, as you yourself said, the NRA members want background checks.
[15:25:04] And the NRA does not have the power that they had before by any stretch of the imagination. And it defies logic as to why the president and Mitch McConnell seem to still be somewhat influenced by the NRA.
CABRERA: I want to get your reaction to this news, this breaking news, apparent suicide of accused sex trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein. Multimillionaire with a New York apartment who associated with many of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country.
What was your reaction when you heard the news?
BLOOMBERG: It was interesting. I think I met him once 30 years ago. I certainly haven't seen him sense then.
And I don't know what happened. You'll have to ask the government. He was in a federal penitentiary or federal jail, as I understand it. And they'll have to do an investigation and see what happened. And I'm sure they'll do it.
CABRERA: More of my interview with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in just a moment.
But let's go live. Senator Kamala Harris speaking at that gun forum in Iowa. Let's listen.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): We need a president of the United States, who on related topics such as the hate that we are also seeing being displayed, which is manifesting itself in lethal proportion like we saw in El Paso.
We also need a president of the United States who understands in a one of her greatest powers is to use this microphone in a way that is not about beating people down but lifting people up.
People say to me --
HARRIS: -- did Donald Trump cause those folks to be killed? Well, no, of course, he didn't pull the trigger. But he was certainly tweeting out the ammunition.
HARRIS; So let's take all of these issues seriously and work together for a unified America where we understand there's so much that we each as individuals have the power to do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, Senator.
And we have a question for you from the audience from Sara Dubois, who is a volunteer here in Iowa with Moms Demand Action.
SARA DUBOIS (ph), VOLUNTEER, MOMS DEMAND ACTION: Hi, Senator Harris.
You've spoken out about how gun manufacturers and that NRA are able to influence Congress and keep them from passing strong gun safety laws.
But the gun lobby has been able to get Congress to give gun manufacturers special protection from civil liability unlike anything and any other industry in the form of PLCAA.
DUBOIS (ph): As a former attorney general, how would you work to hold the gun industry accountable even while PLCAA is still on the books?
HARRIS: One, I believe we actually have to work to repeal it. And I have been an advocate for that for a long time.
HARRIS: Because there needs to be an opportunity for people to have a day in court to litigate these issues and a court will decide.
But to have this shield against responsibility is not in the best interest of justice. So that is how I think of this issue.
The other issue I'll say is this, we need to also -- as president, I will ensure that the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, can study the effect of gun violence as a public health issue --
HARRIS; -- that is creating crisis and trauma in our community.
HARRIS: One of the related issues that I talk a lot about, and you all know, is the reality of the trauma that is resulting from this in a number of ways.
One, a child having to go sleep each night having to hear gunfire. Where that child is taught, honey, if you hear the guns firing, jump in the tub, because that's a safe place to avoid a stray bullet.
The trauma resulting from exposure to gun violence, the trauma resulting from having a protocol around how to honor a child under the age of 18 who has been killed by gun violence.
There are whole protocols in communities around our country, around how to mourn a child who has been killed because of gun violence in their own community.
Let's also talk about the trauma experienced by our babies, elementary, middle, high school students, who are going to school every day to endure a drill during which they are taught about how to crouch in a corner or hide in a closet in the event there's a mass shooter roaming the hallways of their school.
[15:30:07] I talk about this publicly all the time. I can't tell you the number of 8 and 9-year-olds coming up to me and tugging at my jacket and say almost in a conspiratorial voice, really low voice, I had to have one of those drills.
Our babies are sitting in classrooms where they should be focusing on their teacher and the wonders of science and math and art and instead half their brain is concerned about what might come running through that door carrying a gun.
There's so much trauma that our children are experiencing because of this that has -- is having profound and severe consequences to their life even if a bullet never actually touches them.
So we, who are supposed to be responsible, we, who are adults, have a primary responsibility to ensure and think of the safety and well- being of our children.
I will tell you, I strongly believe you should judge a society based on how it treats its children.
HARRIS: And on this issue, we are failing. We are failing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Senator.
I would now like to turn to a gun violence survivor --
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You've been listening in, live, to Senator Kamala Harris taking questions from the audience about her gun safety plan. We know, in her plan that she's put out, she's talked about taking executive action in the first 100 days she takes office if Congress does not act when it comes to gun control.
Again, she's one of 17 candidates today in Des Moines, Iowa, taking part in this forum about gun safety and gun laws.
Up next, much more of my interview with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, again, is the founder of Every Town for Gun Safety and the host of this town hall. Today, he'll talk about whether he's ruled out his own run for the White House.
Stay with us.
[15:35:50] CABRERA: Welcome back.
Just before the break, we brought you the first part of my interview with former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. In part two, I asked him about a comment he made about presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, and whether he's still thinking about running for president himself.
CABRERA: You made a comment after Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke that's picking up on the Twitter-verse. And I want to play it and give you a chance to clarify what you were saying. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, DIRECTOR, EVERY TOWN FOR GUN SAFETY & FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAJOR: I just said to Senator Warren on the way out, Senator, congratulations, it was a nice talk, but just let me remind you, if my company hadn't been successful, we wouldn't be here today. So enough with this stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Seemed kind of tongue in cheek there.
CABRERA: Go ahead. Where were you going with that?
BLOOMBERG: And when I talked to Elizabeth backstage, she thought it was funny as well. And she understood that. Somebody has to come up with the monies to support some of these changes that we want to make in our society. I'm very proud that my company has made a lot of money. I give a 100
percent of my company's earnings to my foundation. The foundation does things like sponsor this conference here in Des Moines so we can get all 20 candidates, including Elizabeth Warren, who's a very competent, smart Senator, as we all know. I happen to disagree with her on some things. But I disagree with everybody on some things. Different things in each case.
CABRERA: When is the last time you thought about running for president?
BLOOMBERG: Long time ago.
CABRERA: Have you completely ruled it out for 2020?
BLOOMBERG: I think that -- the only thing I'm considering, somebody suggested that I should think about 2024, and run then. So I'll consider that one.
CABRERA: Are you ready to endorse any of the 2020 candidates currently?
BLOOMBERG: I'm afraid I'm not. We'll see down the road. There's 15 months until the election. I think it's a bit premature, don't you?
CABRERA: Again, our thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg for joining us this afternoon.
Moments ago, Senator Warren had a chance to react to Bloomberg's taking the state and saying he told her, quote, "If my company hadn't been successful, we wouldn't be here today, so enough of this stuff." Here was her response to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Look, I got asked in the forum about corporate responsibility and about the power that people have all across this country. And I believe people ought to be exercising their power.
They're here to exercise political power and to talk about how to hold Congress accountable and all of their elected representatives at the state and local level and how to get a president that will fight to reduce gun violence in this country.
But they're also here to talk about the other ways they have power. And has power to say to corporations, I want a corporation that lives values that are closer to mine.
So a big corporation that's going to help finance the NRA, it's not where I want to put my money, not in that kind of bank. Or a big company that's selling guns, guns, assault weapons, that are used to kill people, that's not where I want to spend my money. I want to spend it with people who live -- I want to spend it with
businesses that are living values closer to mine every day. And that's the power that every consumer has.
So I'm really glad to hear Moms Demand Action and every other group to say we're going to use our power as consumers to make our voices heard.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think of Mayor Bloomberg making a political point here?
WARREN: I think we have a gun crisis. And when we have people gathered from all across this country to make this moment of sorrow into a moment of determination, and they're talking about how they can make change, I applaud them and I am honored to stand with them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:40:00] CABRERA: Now, as leaders here in the U.S. are talking about gun control and gun violence, over in North Korea, they're firing more missiles. Five ballistic missile tests by North Korea in 17 days now. Why is the president still praising Kim Jong-un and criticizing a close ally? We'll get reaction from a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, next.
CABRERA: In the past 24 hours, North Korea launched another missile test, it's fifth one in 17 days, yet another provocation that President Trump says is a response to joint military drills between his own country, the U.S., and South Korea.
And instead of sticking up for an ally, the president has been scolding South Korea for paying what he says is virtually nothing for U.S. protection, even though he admits its government pitched in nearly a million dollars last year.
His complaint comes as two U.S. officials says President Trump is frustrated with South Korea for not doing more to contain North Korea. Many regional experts believe the North is trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Seoul to weaken that alliance.
And yet, the president had this to say about a new letter from Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He really wrote a beautiful, three-page -- right from top to bottom -- a really beautiful letter.
Yes, he gave me a great letter. I would love to give it to you, but I don't think it would be appropriate. But it was a very personal letter. It was a great letter.
He's talked about what he's doing. He's not happy with the testing. It's a very small testing that we did. But he wasn't happy with the testing. He put that in the letter. But he also sees a great future for North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:45:09] CABRERA: Joining us now is Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, Senator Ben Cardin.
Senator, thank you, first of all, for being with us.
You know, another missile test on the heels of this additional missile test. You have the president attacking South Korea, continuing to complain about their lack of, I guess -- I wouldn't say cooperation, but really their ability to pull their own weight. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. Does that make any sense to you?
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Ana, this makes no sense at all. North Korea is a country that has a nuclear weapon. They're testing delivery systems. They're discriminating against their own people with human rights problems. They present a major national security issue for the United States. And president gives legitimacy to their leader, Kim Jong-un. It makes no sense whatsoever.
It's the president that's driving a wedge between our relationship with South Korea, not the North Koreans.
CABRERA: President Trump teased a possible third summit with Kim Jong-un. Is that a good idea?
CARDIN: I think it's a terrible idea. The first two summits have not produced any concrete efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. The first thing you need to have is a full declaration and a willingness to denuclearize. We don't have that from North Korea. And there's been numerous reports that there's very little interest in North Korea getting rid of their nuclear weapons.
CABRERA: This week, we heard from a career diplomat with the State Department. He penned an op-ed in the "Washington Post," and it's titled, "I Can No Longer Justify Being a Part of Trump's Complacent State So I'm Resigning.
And he says he saw no evidence of Deep State. Instead, he talks about what he calls complacent state at the State Department.
Quote, "The complacent state sighs when the president blocks travel by Muslim immigrants, shakes its head when he defends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, averts its gaze from imagines of children in detention camps. Then it complies with orders."
He went on to say, "Every day, we refuse visas based on administration priorities. We recite administration talking points on border security, immigration and trade. We plan travel itineraries, book meetings, and literally hold doors open for the appointees who push Trump's toxic agenda around the world."
Senator, this is a man who's spent almost 10 years as a foreign service officer, who tried to spread America's values around the world. But he says he found himself struggling to explain the contradictions at home. Where does that leave the U.S.?
CARDIN: Again, this is very hard to understand. The president embraces these dictators around the world and he distances himself from our allies.
I can tell you, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there's support for a different policy in regard to North Korea, a different policy in regard to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia than what the president is pursuing.
We recognize that both of these countries are moving in the wrong direction. And there's got to be clear signals from the United States. President Trump is giving just the opposite.
CABRERA: Senator, this past week, 31 people died in these two mass shootings that happened just one week ago. And then Thursday, there was this heavily armed man who entered a Walmart in Missouri and created a lot of fear. He was arrested, now facing some terrorism charges.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he's now open to talking about some control, perhaps, background checks, perhaps red flag laws, but after the August recess. Why the lack of urgency?
CARDIN: It's hard to understand. We should be back in session now taking universal background checks, taking up a ban for assault weapons, and, yes, giving the states the opportunity in regard to notice for those that are potentially unfit to have weapons. That should be done right now. We shouldn't wait until September.
Quite frankly, it's part of the solution. Gun safety legislation is part of our solution to deal with this public health problem of guns. We have to do something. We can't continue to do nothing.
CABRERA: How confident are you that something will be done this time?
CARDIN: I'm skeptical. I hope I'm wrong. I hope Mitch McConnell will allow us to vote on these bills. If he allows us to vote on it, I believe the support is there to pass sensible gun safety legislation.
We've seen this before. He always finds a way not to bring it up or to couple it with something else that would do more harm than good. I hope this is the opportunity that we'll have to at last pass sensible gun safety legislation.
CABRERA: Before we go, I want to ask about the breaking news today, the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein. U.S. Senator Ben Sasse's strongly worded letter to Attorney General Bill Barr reads, in part, "Every single person in the Justice Department knew this man was a suicide risk. Obviously heads must roll."
Do you want to see Congress investigate? CARDIN: I want to see the attorney general and the Justice Department
do an investigation. I think that's where the investigation should be.
[15:50:04] But I hope that this investigation will be released to Congress and the American people so that we can see exactly what happened.
It is very difficult to understand how he was not on a suicide watch and how this happened without some involvement of those responsible to hold him safety.
So it's very concerning. There needs to be a complete investigation.
CABRERA: Just to confirm, you believe that there may have been somebody at that jail that may have been involved in some way?
CARDIN: I think we need to understand why he was taken off the suicide watch list, as I understand. That's hard to understand how that could have been done. So let's find out. Before we get into any conspiracy theories, let's get the facts.
CABRERA: Senator Cardin, I really appreciate it.
CARDIN: Thank you.
CABRERA: Thank you very much for being here.
Amid chants of "El Paso strong," crowds of people are taking to the streets of that Texas town demanding change after last week's mass shooting. This, as we're learning what the suspected shooter told investigators about his intended targets.
[15:54:59] CABRERA: As we enter the hottest months of what forecasters expect to be a perilous fire season, thousands of people in Paradise, California, are still reeling from last year's historic and deadly Camp Fire. Like many of us, this week's "CNN Hero" saw the news of that fire unfold on TV, but he was inspired to do something to help. Meet Woody Faircloth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODY FAIRCLOTH, CNN HERO: As news of the fires broke and we saw more of what happened to people and the fire and how many people were impacted, that's when it really kind of hit home. Wow! This is a really big deal.
Tens of thousands lost their homes and entire families were sleeping in their cars in parking lots. It was total chaos. Today, the majority are still displaced.
When we actually hand over the title and the keys of an R.V. to someone who doesn't have a home any longer, such a powerful thing to provide to someone in need. How could we not be in a position to help?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: To see Woody change the life of a Paradise grandmother, go to CNNheroes.com right now.
And a quick programming note for you. Our new CNN original series, "THE MOVIES," continues tomorrow night with the '60s. From "Psycho" to "Dr. Strangelove" to "2001, A Space Odyssey," hear from the actors and directors and the people who brought your favorite scenes to life. Get the stories behind the scenes of the movies you love. "THE MOVIES," tomorrow night at 9:00 here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
[16:00:05] CABRERA: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thank you for being here.
Our breaking news, convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, is dead.