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Flights Canceled at Hong Kong Airport; Five Children Die in Daycare Fire; Justice after Epstein's Death; Biden's Weekend Gaffes. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If the Hong Kong government requests from Beijing, whether for a natural disaster or public disorder, it can request the intervention of the People's Liberation Army of China to intervene. So when officials in Beijing start talking about the protesters showing signs of terrorism, that is a not very subtle warning that China could respond. And they've made several warnings in the last few weeks. They could respond with force if the situation here gets out of control. And shutting down this airport is a sign that the government here is losing control.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, as clear a sign as there could be. It is remarkable to see, Ben, especially the length and the breadth, the extent of these protests going on 11 weeks now. Thank you very much, Ben, for the great reporting.

All right, a heartbreaking -- heartbreaking story out of Pennsylvania this morning. Five children are dead. This is because of a fire overnight at a daycare center in Erie, Pennsylvania. That is unbelievable to see burning strollers. The young victims ranged in age from eight months to around eight years old. Now investigators are looking at what caused the fire.

My colleague Jason Carroll joins us now.

Oh, Jason, looking at those images, burning strollers, before we get to the cause of the fire, can you walk me through the victims?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, actually, Poppy, another tragic turn in all of this. It turns out that a man by the name of Luther Jones, he's 29 years old, he's a volunteer firefighter at neighboring Lawrence Park. And it turns out he was responding to another fire when he learned that three of his children were actually staying at this home daycare facility, three of those children died in the fire. Investigators say, Poppy, this is a tragedy that could have been avoided.


CARROLL (voice over): It was a heartbreaking scene as Erie firefighters desperately tried to save the children they had pulled from a burning home. The fire broke out early Sunday morning and spread quickly at the Harris family day care. Neighbors were the first to rush in to try and help.

JOSEPH KIEHLMEIER, ATTEMPTED RECUSE OF CHILDREN: I heard screaming from my porch. So I immediately started coming down the street.

CARROLL: Joseph Kiehlmeier says he tried to get inside the house, but the flames with just too intense.

KIEHLMEIER: I got low. I tried to go inside. I made it to the open living room and just -- I couldn't go any farther.

CARROLL: Five children were killed. The youngest, a baby, just eight months old. Four of the children were siblings. Erie fire officials say they had been sleeping at the day care home because their mother worked overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. I couldn't even experience and then knowing it was a day care. It was day care kids. I can only imagine. I have three of my own.

CARROLL: The tragedy also took a toll on the first responders, who tried to save the children.

CHIEF GUY SANTONE, ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA FIRE DEPARTMENT: Two of my guys and girls, the guys here today, they're -- they're having some -- a little bit of problems. These guys are -- these firefighters are tough, but when something like this happens, you know, it's a little bit different.

CARROLL: Erie's fire chief says the cause of the blaze is under investigation, but it may have been related to an electrical malfunction. He also says investigators say the house where the day care is located had just one smoke detector in the attic. Had there been more, he says, this tragedy may never have happened.


CARROLL: And, Poppy, this morning I spoke to the Lawrence Park volunteer fire chief. He told me that Luther Jones is just beyond devastated. He says there's just no right way to describe his state of mind. He's also asking for people who are watching this to go to the Lawrence Park FaceBook page, fire department FaceBook page, and leave condolences. And if there's any way to try to help out the family, they're hoping people will go to that page and to so there.


HARLOW: I really hope they will. It is devastating. Jason Carroll, I'm glad you're there. Thank you for the reporting.

We'll be right back.


[09:38:29] HARLOW: All right, so this morning, a major question following Jeffrey Epstein's apparent suicide is will his accusers get any justice. The federal criminal case is over now. No one else has been charged according to the indictment unsealed last month.

Lisa Bloom is with me. She's a victims' rights attorney. She is representing two of Epstein's accusers.

Lisa, thank you so much for being with me.

And just to bring this home for everyone, I know their identities is private for obvious reasons, but what can you tell us about your two clients and what they say they endured?

LISA BLOOM, VICTIMS' RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, I currently represent two Epstein victims and I've been speaking to many more over the weekend who are reaching out trying to find out what their rights are.

The two that I represent were over the age of 18, just a little bit, 18 and 19 years old at the time that they were abused by him. They worked as young waitresses at a coffee shop. They were also aspiring models, very attractive young women. And another young woman, a recruiter, came to the coffee shop, befriended them, told them you can make $300 if you just go over to my boyfriend's house and give him a massage. You can keep your clothes on. It will all be aboveboard. And each of them, on different days, did that. And, unfortunately, that they were then sexually assaulted by him.

So we are seeking justice for them, which means that we want to bring a lawsuit and we're going to bring a lawsuit this week against his estate. I want everybody out there to know that the criminal cases dies with Jeffrey Epstein --


BLOOM: But civil cases can go forward against his estate.

HARLOW: Well --

[09:40:00] BLOOM: And I think it's very important that they do go forward.

HARLOW: And we heard the U.S. attorney in Manhattan over the weekend promise, make a promise that he's committed to, in his words, standing brave with the victims. He said, quote, our investigation of the conduct charged in the indictment, which included a conspiracy count, remains ongoing. That conspiracy count has a lot of people wondering, are there others, right, tied to --


HARLOW: Tied to this. You've called on the estate of Epstein, obviously that now oversees, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars, to be frozen, all those assets frozen in order to be maintained for potential compensation for the victim. Have you heard any response?

BLOOM: I have not, but I think it's imperative that any administrators of Jeffrey Epstein's estate hold his assets, do not distribute them, allow the victims to come forward and make credible claims, prove up their claims if necessary, ideally in some very simplified kind of forum, and make them whole.

Jeffrey Epstein was so cruel to people in life. But in death, perhaps the people who survive him will treat the victims with more respect.

You know, sexual assault causes lifelong injuries to victims, to their relationships, to their self-esteem, to their careers. Both of my clients gave up modeling entirely after their incidents with Jeffrey Epstein. That's very, very common. So let's make them whole, let's do the right thing now.

HARLOW: I know, Lisa, that one thing that struck me that you said over the weekend is that at least one of your clients was scared, even when he was behind bars, scared that he in some way, because of his vast circle of influence, would still come after them in one way or another.

BLOOM: Yes. You know, I was -- I do many cases of sexual harassment and assault against high-profile people. I'm going to trial today in one of those cases. And fear is the number one hurdle for all of my clients. They are always terrified of the perpetrator. He's like a boogie man. Even if he's in jail, even if the police are watching him, they are still terrified because these high-profile guys, they can send others out to do their bidding.


BLOOM: And so one of my clients said, you know what, it's a sense of relief, he can't harm anybody else. He can't come after me. The other one said she's angry as hell that the prison officials allowed this to happen. After the long journey that she took to even be able to call a lawyer, to work with law enforcement behind the scenes, as we've been doing, she really wanted justice.


BLOOM: She really wanted to see the day that he was held accountable. And now she'll be deprived of that.

But we are still going to fight for all of them in the civil cases.

HARLOW: Lisa Bloom, I really appreciate your time this morning, especially right before you go to trial, a busy day, thank you very much.

BLOOM: Yes, it is. Thank you.

HARLOW: OK. All right, to politics now. The race for 2020. All eyes and all candidates for that matter were where this weekend? The Iowa State Fair, of course. So what happened? I' will talk to my colleague, Rebecca Buck, live in Des Moines, next.


[09:47:14] HARLOW: All right. Welcome back.

So today 2020 hopeful Kamala Harris wraps up a big week of barnstorming across Iowa. The California senator is on the last leg of a five-day bus tour trying to gain momentum ahead of the Iowa caucuses, just over five months from now. Dozens of Democrats, they descended on Iowa over the weekend. They paid a visit to a campaign rite of passage that, of course, is the Iowa State Fair.

Former Vice President Joe Biden still leading the latest polls by a pretty side margin in Iowa, but there are new questions about whether a series of gaffes could seriously hurt his chances.

Rebecca Buck is in Des Moines with the latest.

So let's start there. He admits, I'm a gaffe machine. There have been a number in the last week. Are voters concerned? Do they care?

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, there's no question, Poppy, that Joe Biden still is the frontrunner in this Democratic race for president. All of the polling has confirmed that for us so far. But his whole pitch to voters essentially in this race is his electability, that he's the strongest candidate to challenge Donald Trump and so he's getting now some unwanted attention from these gaffes, raising some questions about whether he really is the strongest, sharpest candidate to take on the president.

One of these gaffes in recent days when the vice president said that poor kids are just as smart as white kids. He walked that back a few minutes later, but the damage was done. And then in another comment he said that he had met with Parkland students after the shooting at that school when he was vice president, but, of course, that was after he had already left office in 2018.

I want you to listen to the sound from that comment from Biden a few days ago.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I watched what happened when the kids from Parkland marched up to -- and I -- I met with them and then they went off to -- up on The Hill -- when I was vice president -- they went off to The Hill to go into those neighborhoods.

I watched what happened when those kids from Parkland came up to see me when I was vice president. They went and then -- and some -- some of you covered it. And you watched what happened when they -- when they went up on the halls of Congress.


BUCK: And so the pressure now on Joe Biden to have a few stronger days on the campaign trail. He has a very slow week ahead. We won't be seeing much of him. But certainly the pressure will be on, Poppy, in those next appearances to be at his sharpest.

HARLOW: And, Rebecca, let's talk for a minute about Cory Booker. You cover him closely. I remember when you were in Newark the day he launched officially his campaign.

BUCK: That's right.

HARLOW: He had a standout performance at the CNN Democratic debate. He had that speech that was widely applauded at the Wing Ding Dinner. But his polling numbers are not moving. Monmouth University poll last Thursday, he's got 1 percent support. That puts him behind Yang -- Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, some others, even in national polling. He's really not above 3 percent. What's up? I mean will the Booker bump come? What is his team saying and thinking?

[09:50:04] BUCK: So it might come, Poppy. I mean certainly we are not seeing the sort of boost for Cory Booker that Kamala Harris enjoyed after her first debate performance, that big moment against Joe Biden.

HARLOW: Right.

BUCK: But Booker's people do have some reasons right now to be optimistic. They say that -- or they feel that the seeds have been planted for growth in their campaign, that he is on more people's radars after the debate performance.

And I just want to point you to a few things that we've observed on the ground here in Iowa. First of all, it's porn to remember at this stage that many Democratic voters haven't made up their minds in this race. When you ask them who they're supporting, often times you'll get a list of three or four candidates who they really like. And usually you'll hear Cory Booker among those here in Iowa on the soap box this weekend. He had one of the biggest crowds really close to Kamala Harris's crowd here at the state fair and he has more endorsements from Iowa state legislators than any of the other candidates in the race. He just picked up his sixth this weekend from State Rep. Heather Matson (ph).

So he's going to have to turn this at some point into poll numbers, show some momentum in this race. But his team does have some reasons to be optimistic. They think that the seeds are there that can grow in the weeks and months ahead.

HARLOW: OK. All right. Rebecca Buck, thank you so much.

Quick break. We'll be right back.


[09:56:03] HARLOW: All right, so the economy, question mark, how long will it stay this strong? How does the CEO of one of America's most prominent banks see it right now.

David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, is not worried. Our Christine Roman sat down for an exclusive one on one interview with him. This was in Iowa at Goldman's 10,000 small business event. Watch this.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Ten years into an economic recovery, the longest expansion in history, things are -- seem really solid to me. They always say that, you know, expansions don't die of old age, they die from policy mistakes. What do you see out there?

DAVID SOLOMON, GOLDMAN SACHS CEO: Well, you know, first I just want to echo that I think when you look at the base economy, the base economy it's chugging along OK. And while -- while it has been a long cycle, it was a very deep recession the last time and it was a gradual slow climb out. So it's not surprising that maybe this has gone on for a longer period of time.

I'd also say that monetary policy all over the world has definitely played a role in stimulating asset price inflation and growth around the world. I think the economy is doing fine. There are things that are getting added to the equation, in particular the trade war with china that is having an impact. It's having an impact on growth. I don't think that impact is significant yet, but we're watching that very, very carefully. And I think those are the kinds of things, what's going on with monetary policy and what's going on with trade, how that's all linked, that has the potential to slow down growth if it's not handled correctly over time.

ROMANS: You've got the president who is really embarking on a tough trade war with China and then he's at the same time saying that the Fed should be the one to mitigate the damage from his trade war. So in a way he paints the Fed into the corner a bit, doesn't he?

SOLOMON: Well, it's -- you know, I think it's very, very important that we have an independent Fed. But I would observe, and this is not just an U.S. observation, when you look around the world, and I think this is the result of the fact that the world has in some way gotten used to the very, very significant, you know, easy money monetary policy that's a result of the crisis.

Monetary policy is -- policy to me seems a little bit more attached to the markets at the moment and also politics. And that's something -- that's something to watch carefully.

ROMANS: Is that healthy?

SOLOMON: I don't think that is healthy and I think it's something to watch carefully.

And, you're right, when you put trade policies into place, they do have an impact, you know, on the economy and we have to live with that impact. At the moment, I think the real impact of tariffs have been small. But we have to watch that carefully. And those are the kinds of things that can change confidence. I think the administration is appropriate in pushing, but I think we also have to understand that if we want to change this relationship, it's not something that we might get a quick answer to.

ROMANS: Right.

SOLOMON: And we have to be prepared for the consequences of pushing at this for a period of time. And I do think it will be a period of time. ROMANS: American business leaders for years have complained about Chinese trade practices and many are -- say the president is doing the right thing but maybe in the wrong way, you know, and that's what they're concerned about, that maybe tariffs aren't the right way to do it. Is there a better way to do it?

SOLOMON: I think that's a complicated equation.


SOLOMON: I'm not a fan of tariffs, but, you know, we need to find a way to push. You know, personally, I think we've got to be candid and honest about the fact that this is something that's going to be hard. It's going to be hard for all of us as Americans. There will be some friction to all of us as Americans --

ROMANS: Right.

SOLOMON: For pushing at this relationship because we're very economically entwined. But we have to do it. And we have to be prepared to see it through and get to a better place because it hasn't been fair.

And so there's a lot of noise. I think at the end of the day the underlying economy as we discussed is still doing OK. I think the chance of a recession in the near term is still relatively low, but we have to watch what's going on with tariffs, we have to watch the U.S.- China relationship, we have to watch some of the other geopolitical noise that's going on. And confidence can, you know, have an impact on growth. I don't see it now having as dramatic an impact as the markets might be signaling at this moment, but I think you've got to look at that carefully.


[10:00:05] HARLOW: All right, that's -- it's a fascinating interview. You can watch much more of it. Just go to