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A.G. Barr: "Appalled" to Learn of Jail's Failure Involving Epstein's Death; Democratic 2020 Candidates Call Out Trump for Peddling Conspiracy Theories on Epstein's Death; Trump Administration Rule Could Drastically Limit Legal Immigration; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Discusses Trump Administration Rule Limiting Legal Immigration, Ice Raids, Growing Calls in Congress to Investigate Epstein's Death; Joe Biden's Campaign Gaffes Worry Some as Democrats Hit Iowa. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:18] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

This morning, the death and now the questions. New details are coming in surrounding the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein inside a federal jail here in Manhattan.

Attorney General Bill Barr says he is appalled by what happened, vowing to investigate. The attorney general spoke just moments ago. Listen.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This sex trafficking case was very important to the Department of Justice and to me personally. It was important to the dedicated prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and to our FBI agents who investigated the case and were preparing it for trial.

Most importantly, this case was important to the victims who had the courage to come forward and deserve the opportunity to confront the accused in the courtroom.

I was appalled, and, indeed, the whole department was and, frankly, angry, to learn of the MCC's failure to adequately secure this prisoner.

We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.

The FBI and the office of inspector general are doing just that. We will get to the bottom of what happened and there will be accountability.

But let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein. Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice and they will get it. (APPLAUSE)


BOLDUAN: That's the attorney general just moments ago.

Even before then, a source tells CNN that the convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, was awaiting trial, of course, on sex trafficking charges in that jail and he was found dead alone in his jail cell. Alone, when he was supposed to have another inmate in his cell. Why?

Sources say that he was also not being monitored regularly on the night of his death. Why? And this is after Epstein was taken off suicide watch just days ago. Again, why?

A New York City medical examiner has performed an autopsy but the cause of death still not determined.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live outside the federal jail we're talking about in Manhattan where Epstein was and died.

Polo, what are you learning there?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the new reporting now in these two potential failures in the system and, as the attorney general just pointed out, the inability to properly secure this individual is certainly a concern here.

At this point, what we do know is that our latest reporting here suggesting that not only was this individual allowed to be in the cell by himself, but also that he was not constantly supervised. I think, understanding, obviously, that the victims, the alleged victims have essentially been robbed of their day in court.

This even expands beyond just the case of this sex trafficker, because this facility has been used to house other high-profile notable figures, from defendants like Paul Manafort to even most recently Joaquin "el Chapo" Guzman, who was recently transported for his full sentence here.

So I think was we see here now, based on what we're hearing from the Department of Justice, mainly, the country's top cop, is that there's concern about the ability to secure this individual that is as high profile as it can get -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Polo, you're absolutely right.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

For more on the investigation, joining me now the James Gagliano, retired FBI special agent, and a CNN law enforcement analyst.

Thanks for being here, James. I really appreciate it.

You've been to this jail many times, worked through that system many times. About this, what has happened, you wrote that you were dumbfounded that he was able to commit suicide. Why?

JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's astounding. And look, we're still awaiting the toxicology reports and that usually takes about a week or so to come in to give more details.

But, Kate, with every new detail that's revealed, I become even more baffled and perplexed. To your point, I've been inside there many times. It is, I want to say, a crown jewel in the federal system.

Now, the Metropolitan Correctional Center was built in 1975. It was slated to house 460 prisoners and they're now just under 800.

Was this a matter of incompetence, indifference, or was it something more nefarious? And I think we'll find that out after the toxicology report comes back.

[11:05:02] BOLDUAN: Polo points out, he was perhaps the most high- profile prisoner in America right now. Is there any reason that someone with his story, in terms of what has even happened since he's been in the jail, the fact that he, apparently, attempted suicide recently, previously, that he would be left alone for this period of time?

GAGLIANO: He was in a special housing unit. Special housing units are cells that are eight to nine feet tall. Meaning you can't hook anything over the top of it.


GAGLIANO: It's tall. The beds are bolted on the floor. There are paper-thin sheets and blankets in there.

And for them not to have checked in on him in that situation when he had already tried to commit suicide -- July 23rd they found him almost unresponsive and marks on his next.

Look, it had to be a PhD, it had to be a psychiatrist on staff or a psychologist who took a look at this and suggested, one week after he tried to kill himself, we're OK taking him off suicide watch. Incomprehensible.

BOLDUAN: Preet Bharara is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Geoffrey Berman is now handling the case. But Preet Bharara knows the system obviously, just as well as you're talking about. He also is dumbfounded. He tweeted about it and said this: "There should be and almost certainly is a video of Epstein's suicide. One hopes it is complete, conclusive and secured."

Do you think that is the case that there's a video?

GAGLIANO: Generally speaking, in prison facilities, any conference room where an attorney would meet with an inmate -- remember, these inmates are there in a pre-trial capacity --

(CROSSTALK) GAGLIANO: Right. But almost every square inch of that facility, just like Manhattan, where the facility sits, is covered by security cameras. Whether or not there was one inside the cell, sources are reporting that there wasn't. But everything leading up to his time in that cell, unsupervised will be on video camera.

BOLDUAN: It's all questions now. What is your biggest single question at this moment?

GAGLIANO: I'm not a conspiracy theory guy. I know that there's been a ton of conspiracy theories floating around. But Benjamin Franklin famously said that three can keep a secret when two are dead.

If anything was done nefariously there, they are going to be able to track this back. They're going to use the digital exhaust that comes off of the guards or prison officials, anybody that would have talked to somebody on that shift.

Were these guards overtaxed? And, look, there are 2.2 million prisoners in a country of 330 million people, and every facility at the state, local and federal levels is always short-staffed. Was that what happened here or was it something worse?

BOLDUAN: Yes. The reporting is that the guards were there working overtime. How that factored in, should that be considered a factor or excuse in this is all to come.

Thank you, James. Really appreciate it.

GAGLIANO: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Then there's the other side of the story, the conspiracy theory side of the story. And it's a side of the story that I've struggled with, because how much attention should any of us give unfounded conspiracy theories? Not much, right?

But when the conspiracy theory is coming from the president of the United States, being pushed by the president of the United States, what do you do with it then?

President Trump pushing the conspiracy theory about Epstein's death, a tweet that we don't want to put up on the screen, because it's not worth the ink that it's written on, linking the deaths to the Clintons.

So many people calling the president out of this, including the 2020 Democratic candidates.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): This is just more recklessness. What he's doing is dangerous.

BETO O'ROURKE, (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is another example of our president using this position of public trust to attack his political enemies with unfounded conspiracy theories.



BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN's senior political analyst, John Avlon.

John, where do you even begin?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Kate, look, this is such an unusual circumstance, but the conspiracy theory in chief is at it again.

I'm speaking, of course, about the president's division to retweet a baseless conspiracy theory about the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein.

We're not going to show you the tweet because it's pure nonsense. I'm surprised to say that the president is suggesting that the Clintons could be behind it.

Trump has promoted conspiracy theories before. Notably, the racist Birther conspiracy theory about Barack Obama. During the 2016 campaign, he suggested the father of his primary rival, Ted Cruz, was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK.

But it's worth noting that the president's latest comes less than two weeks after reports from the office in Phoenix, Arizona, warned against conspiracy theory driven domestic extremists.

When the president spreads these theories, he's not asking questions, as Kellyanne Conway suggested. He's amplifying their message from the bully pulpit of the White House. And that leads some folks to believe it.

That FBI special report says that, "Social media has enabled promoters of conspiracy theories to produce and share great volumes of material via online platforms that larger audiences of consumers can quickly and easily access."

Here's the thing. By that standard, we need to confront the fact that the president of the United States has become one of the most powerful forces for promoting misinformation in the world today.

BOLDUAN: John, can you come over here for a second? I want to ask you a little bit more about this.

[11:10:03] Because what you point out is fascinating and important. But this also isn't going to be the first conspiracy or the last conspiracy that we're going to hear from the president. Just look at history.


BOLDUAN: That's just how he operates. Is this one different from the others?

AVLON: This is different. Search your memory banks or history books for any president to publicly accuse a predecessor of murder. This jumps out from just the background noise.

And there's a danger of normalization with the president's behavior. And I think it's one of the things we need to ignore. We don't follow every tweet.


AVLON: But sometimes it rises to a level. And keep in mind that he's retweeting re-tweeting somebody who accuses two people retired in Chappaqua when the prison system reports up to him.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

AVLON: It's just 80 levels of nonsense. But it's toxic nonsense.

BOLDUAN: And I do hear what you're saying. I struggle with this, though, even if it is the president. Folks say all the time, cover what he does, not what he says. I do think this is -- this has to be different.

AVLON: It is different. And I think here's the thing. You can't separate what he says and what he does. That idea that we can magically separate the two, I think doesn't stand up to the facts. You do need to use your judgment. Not every bleat is worthy of coverage.

But when he accuses a president -- when he retweets somebody accusing a predecessor, a past president of conspiring to orchestrate a jail suicide, yes, that's a different level of crazy. That's worth calling out. That's for the history books.

BOLDUAN: When you put it that way, I hear what you're saying.

AVLON: There you go.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John. I really, really, really appreciate it.

This just into CNN, the Trump administration has just taken steps that could make it much easier to limit the number of legal immigrants coming into the United States. The big implications that this could have on those seeking green cards or visas, and why it's happening.

Plus, this is coming up. "Nonsensical and dissembling" -- that's how former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is describing his former boss and, sounds like, former friend. Why he's no longer supporting the president's reelection bid and how significant that is.


[11:17:57] BOLDUAN: New this morning, the Trump administration announcing a new rule that will make it easier to reject green card and visa applications, which means it could dramatically cut and limit legal immigration into the United States.

The regulation they put out is some 837 pages, published today. And it says, applications can be rejected on the basis of low income or little education, because the administration argues that makes those immigrants, those applicants more likely to depend on government assistance. The rule takes effect in 60 days.

Joining me right now is a Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, from Illinois.

Congressman, thank you door being here.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: You come from a family of immigrants. I've read many times and you've spoken about when your family moved to the United States -- you moved when you were an infant -- but for a time, you lived in public housing and depended on food stamps. What is your reaction to this move, then, by the president?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it's extremely concerning. It hurts legal immigrants in our country.

Just to give your viewers a little bit of background, legal immigrants are allowed to take advantage of certain non-cash programs, such as food assistance and housing assistance, especially in times of temporary economic difficulty, to get them back on their feet and to make them productive contributing members in society.

As you mentioned, I myself am the beneficiary of these programs during a time when my parents went through economic challenges. But thanks to the incredible generosity and goodwill of the people of the United States, we then got back on our feet, became contributing members of society.

And, indeed, I would not be in the halls of Congress today but for those programs.

BOLDUAN: Look, that is a really important story to be told, Congressman, because it's one thing to see it on 837 pages of regulation, but you are living and breathing that. You are the product of this.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, ma'am. And there are a lot of other people in a similar situation.

And, you know, I think America is at its best when it helps people who fall down get up and become independent contributing members of society.

And this is just one example where in the best traditions of America, people like myself and my family were allowed to become contributing members again. And that is something that, unfortunately, this new rule and regulation harms.

BOLDUAN: And one of the president's top immigration officials defended the move this morning, saying that what the rule does is it encourages, quote, "self-reliance and self-sufficiency for those looking to come and stay in the United States."

That's Ken Cuccinelli. He says that is a core principle of the United States. Do you hear him on that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that one of the things that we all have to realize is that everybody goes through tough times. And a lot of times, in those situations, which are often temporary, we very much believe that temporary assistance in helping these people through those tough times will make them independent. contributing members of society.

[11:20:13] And I think that when he makes those statements, I think that he ignores the fact that many, many immigrants, legal immigrants, have come here, experienced some of those tough times, received assistance, and then went on to do great things for our country. And I hope that people remind him of that fact.

BOLDUAN: And this doesn't just happen in a vacuum.

Let's talk about the other side of it.


BOLDUAN: It comes on the heels of raids in Mississippi where ICE agents rounded up almost 700 undocumented workers, leaving many children stranded without their parents. We've played the sound. We've played the video on this show.


BOLDUAN: The head of DHS conceded that the timing was not good. He called it unfortunate that it came on the heels of the mass shooting in Texas that targeted Hispanics.

But asked about those images of children crying, desperate for information about their parents after the raids, the head of Customs and Border Protection said this. Listen.


MARK MORGAN, ACTING COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: They are here illegally. And a lot of times there's additional fraud that goes with this for them to try to get these jobs in the companies.

So I understand that the girl is upset and I get that. But her father committed a crime.

And just so the American people know also, that girl, her mother was home and she was reunited with her mother within a few hours that night.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Look, it's illegal to be in the country illegally. But what is your reaction to that statement? Does that give you any hope of any bipartisan progress on this issue?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think statements like that make it less likely that we can work together for comprehensive immigration reform. I think everybody knows that we need reform and we need to work together for it.

But I would just point to two issues that greatly concern me about those raids.

First, they led to the separation of hundreds of children from their parents. They knew that this was going to happen and, yet, they proceeded in the way that they did. And following on the heels of what we saw in terms of separation of children and families on the border, it looks more intentional every day.

The second issue that bothers me is that they talk about enforcement of our immigration policies against these workers, but we didn't see a single employer who was involved in these illegal acts rounded up. And that goes to questioning the motives, especially on the heels of these massacres in Texas.

I just don't see how saying that the timing was unfortunate makes their actions any less intentional. And especially in the timing. So this really makes me very concerned.

I think that Chairman Cummings has led the charge in the Oversight Committee in calling Mr. McAleenan before us to answer for his actions.


KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think we will be supportive of him doing that again.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you -- you mentioned oversight. I wanted to ask you a very different topic, Jeffrey Epstein, his death.


BOLDUAN: I am hearing a lot of calls for investigations by Congress of what happened in the jail and what went wrong there. Will the Oversight Committee be investigating the federal prison system on this? Do you want them to?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I haven't heard about such calls. I would obviously follow my chairman, Mr. Cummings', lead on this particular issue.

However, one thing I can say is fanning the flames of any conspiracy theories is wrong-headed. And I think that absolutely is the wrong way to go. And I would strongly counsel anybody who does that, including the president, to stop.

BOLDUAN: Let's see. I think no one should hold their breath to see if the president is going to take your advice on that one, Congressman.


BOLDUAN: No offense to you.


BOLDUAN: I'm just saying the reality of where we are right now.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Congressman, for being here. I really appreciate it.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you, again.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Still ahead for us, Joe Biden has called himself -- he has said himself that he's a gaffe machine in the past. But is that now turning from folksy joke to a real problem as the Democratic field descends on Iowa?

[11:24:17] Be right back.


BOLDUAN: It was a huge weekend in Iowa. The Democratic candidates for president flooding the state and the famous Iowa State Fair to meet voters and make their case.

For Joe Biden's campaign, that also meant playing cleanup not once but twice in four days.

Here was the latest one from the former vice president. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I watched what happened when the kids from Parkland marched up -- and I met with them and they went off the Hill, when I was vice president, they went up on the Hill, to go into those neighborhoods. All the congressman were like, no, I'm not here, I'm not here, don't tell them I'm around. They're afraid of it. They should be exposed.

I watched what happened when those kids from Parkland came up to see me when I was vice president, and some of you covered it. And you watched what happened when they went up on the halls of Congress. Congress was basically cowering, not wanting to see them. They did not want to have to face it on camera.


[11:29:56] BOLDUAN: Here's the thing. Biden was not vice president any longer when the Parkland tragedy happened in 2018. And this isn't the first and it likely won't be the last gaffe either from Joe Biden. But when do those gaffes and misstatements become an actual problem

with voters, especially when running against a president like Donald Trump?