Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

CNN Reports, Epstein's Cell Not Regularly Monitored On Night Of Death; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky Won't Call Republicans Back To Debate Gun Control; Scaramucci Says, I No Longer Support Trump's Re-election Bid. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


DAVID SOLOMON, CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: -- at this moment, but I think you've got to look at that carefully.

[10:00:02]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. That's -- it's a fascinating interview. You can watch much more of it. Just go to cnnbusiness.com.

Top of the hour, good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow.

The autopsy is done and the results are pending. And the more we learn about Jeffrey Epstein's apparent suicide, the more questions everyone has. Why wasn't the accused sex trafficker and registered sex offender being monitored? Why was he alone in his cell after just coming off of suicide watch?

Any moment now, the attorney general, Bill Barr will speak publicly about the Epstein case. He is set to speak in minutes at a convention at the Fraternal Order of Police in New Orleans. Barr says he was appalled when he first heard about Epstein's suicide. He has ordered the Department of Justice Inspector General and the FBI to investigate what happened.

So let's begin this hour with my colleague, Polo Sandoval. He is in lower Manhattan at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. And, Polo, that is a facility that is just so used to holding high-profile inmates like this.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Poppy, that really does expand this case even beyond that prosecution of this suspected sex trafficker that was able to take his own life, because it certainly calls into question some policies and procedures that have been implemented here at the Metropolitan Correctional Facility in lower Manhattan, because it has housed other notable figures that have been prosecuted by the federal government, from the white-collar defendants, like Paul Manafort, to the ruthless cartel kingpin, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman. He was just recently removed here so he serve his life sentence elsewhere.

So you can imagine why this new reporting would certainly be concerning that suggests policies wre not followed allowing Jeffrey Epstein that opportunity to take his own life. Two of those potential failures here include him not being constantly supervised while being housed in this special housing unit. Those inmates, they are supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes, and our source familiar with Epstein's time here telling us that that was not done.

And then secondly, Poppy, he was potentially left alone in that cell. According to what we're hearing, the current policies and procedures require inmates fresh off of suicide watch to not be left alone in those cells, that they should constantly have a cellmate, and we are now hearing here at this point, Poppy, that that was not certainly done. So that is something that not just the FBI but the Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General are looking into. And we could potentially hear the attorney general address that in the next few moments.

HARLOW: I think he certainly will. And the question becomes, Polo, just before you go, about the guards, right? Why was he left alone in a cell with no cell mate? They're supposed to check on him every 30 minutes. He just came off suicide watch. He's as high profile as you get, as politically connected as you get. So the guards now -- are any of the guards facing potential charges?

SANDOVAL: We do understand that there could be potential charges and that's only according to the source, that's only a variable to determine if they could have potentially falsified any kind of documents that would detail those 30-minute checkups that they're supposed to do as they do their rounds through the special housing unit. But at this point, no information has been released from officials that would indicate that they're going in that direction, but that just includes one possible outcome here.

We should note though, Poppy, that the Bureau of Prisons has not commented regarding this new reporting.

HARLOW: Okay. I appreciate your reporting, Polo. Thank you very, very much.

Joining me to discuss, CNN's Senior Reporter, Vicky Ward, former Investigative Reporter of Vanity Fair, and CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan from New York City, homicide prosecutor. Good morning, guys.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good morning.

HARLOW: Vicky, welcome. Welcome to CNN. We're thrilled to have you.

VICKY WARD, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Thank you.

HARLOW: Important time to have you as well.

WARD: Yes.

HARLOW: So can you just update me on some of your reporting? There's a lot of talk this morning about Epstein's friend, a British socialite, her name, Ghislaine Maxwell. Accusers call her is procure (ph), his protector. What do we know about her and that relationship? WARD: So Ghislaine was the perfect front for Jeffrey Epstein, very aristocratic, unlike him, very well educated, went to Oxford University, very clever, was the daughter of Robert Maxwell, very famous newspaper owner and businessman in Britain, who died in very peculiar circumstances, disappearing off his yacht named after his daughter. It was called the Lady Ghislaine.

A lot of people thought that her relationship with Jeffrey Epstein was about money. After her father died, he was discovered to have been a fraudster. There was a disgrace, one of her brothers went to prison. But Jeffrey Epstein paid for Ghislaine to have the kind of lifestyle that she had grown up and was accustomed to. The question is what did she do for him in return.

HARLOW: Because there are a number of women who say in this unsealed indictment that she did things, like go out to them and convince them, young girls, teenagers, to come to his house.

[10:05:07]

WARD: Yes. So back in 2002, when I was reporting this story about Jeffrey Epstein for Vanity Fair, I had two sisters who have since gone on the record, signed affidavits. And they said that what happened, particularly to the younger sister, to Annie Farmer (ph), who was underage when Jeffrey Epstein allegedly molested her, could never have happened without Ghislaine, because Ghislaine got on the telephone to her mother and said she would be there over the weekend as a chaperone and she was incredibly convincing.

HARLOW: So, Paul Callan, this brings your legal expertise view on this to the floor. And that is you point out that any individual who may have conspired with Jeffrey Epstein in the crime of human trafficking can be investigated, can be indicted. Obviously, Ghislaine is going to be someone that authorities are looking at. How likely is it that the tentacles of this, even though he is now dead, reach further criminally?

CALLAN: I think you're going to see an intense investigation. I mean, all the hints are there U.S. Attorney Berman in the Southern District of New York saying, essentially, this is not over, we continue to look at this case very, very carefully.

I think this case is a huge embarrassment for the Department of Justice because they signed off on this immunity agreement that was negotiated by the Southern District of Florida, Acosta, the U.S. Attorney, our Labor Secretary, had to step down, really, because of the scandal related to that.

HARLOW: I should note that Ghislaine Maxwell denies, obviously, and her team has denied any such allegations. But you raise a really interesting possibility, Paul Callan, that the Epstein Estate may actually bring a malpractice suit against any psychiatrist or psychologist who recommended that Epstein be taken off suicide watch in the prison.

CALLAN: I know this sounds crazy, but I've done a lot of medical malpractice litigation in my career and I have seen the strangest suits against psychiatrists and psychologists. And there are many such suits where somebody commits suicide while under psychiatric care and the psychiatrist gets sued for recommending release from a psychiatric institution, or in this case putting Epstein in a step- down unit. This was not a psychiatric unit or a hospital unit that Epstein was held in, in such a short period after he had made a suicide attempt.

Now, I caution by saying even though it's theoretically possible to do this, I don't think Epstein is going to make a very sympathetic victim in this case. So, technically, you might have a case but it wouldn't be one that I would take.

HARLOW: Vicky, you, as you noted, have been reporting on Jeffrey Epstein for well over a decade, since you wrote about him in 2002 for Vanity Fair. What's your read on whether his victims, alleged victims, accusers will see any form of justice?

WARD: So I spoke to one of their lawyers this morning. And, you know, right now they're in a holding pattern. They're ignorant. There are all these questions. Did Jeffrey Epstein, who has no heirs, did he have a will? If so, which jurisdiction is that will under?

For the moment, the victims' lawyers cannot do anything. These answers will come, but we don't have them yet.

HARLOW: I don't know at this point.

Paul, what about you? Lisa Bloom is representing two of the women, who was just on the show with me. She is calling for his estate to be frozen, all of those assets, so that they can be paid out. How likely do you think it is that these women will receive compensation?

CALLAN: Well, it all depends upon what's in the estate. And I understand why Lisa Bloom would be concerned about this. I was one of the attorneys on the O.J. Simpson civil case. And while we proved that he committed the murder of his wife and Ron Goldman. Collecting the $32 million verdict was almost impossibility. It was an impossibility. Only a small amount of the verdict was collected because the funds had dissipated by the times the verdicts came down. The victims in this case may have the same problem.

And is Jeffrey Epstein an empty suit? How did he make his money? What's in his estate and where is his estate? These are all questions that will affect the victims of the many crimes he undoubtedly committed while he lived.

HARLOW: Many more questions than answers this morning. Thank you both, Paul Callan, Vicky, nice to have you. I appreciate it.

Still to come for us, the push for gun control legislation moving at a glacial pace still on Capitol Hill. Coming up the on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take some action.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:10:15]

HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York, and more than a week after two more mass shootings and lawmakers have taken no action on gun control. Right now, it is weeks before either the House or the Senate will be back in session.

More than 200 Democrats in Congress have signed a letter calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back right now.

[10:15:01]

McConnell has yet to commit to any proposals and Trump has waffled on measures like universal background checks that he has previously said he would support.

Let's talk about this with Democratic Congressman Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania. He is one of the Democrats who signed that letter to McConnell. Thank you for being here.

REP. BRENDAN BOYLE (D-PA): Thank you, Poppy, for having me back.

HARLOW: Of course. Look, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said that this issue, gun control, will be front and center when Congress comes back into session. Let's wait. Let's see if anything is different this time. You've signed this letter.

Your fellow Democrat in Congress in the House, Al Green, said on this program to Jim just last week that it's a mistake for you guys not to be in Washington right now. Is it a leadership mistake in the Democratic Party not to bring the House back to session right now to be on the floor debating this?

BOYLE: Well, certainly when it comes to background checks legislation, bear in mind in the House, we passed that legislation exactly six months ago. Every single Democrat voted for it --

HARLOW: I understand, HR-8 and HR-11, 12.

BOYLE: -- and several Republicans. Yes.

HARLOW: Yes. No, I hear you, but should you be there --

BOYLE: The first thing --

HARLOW: Go ahead.

BOYLE: Yes. The first thing is for Mitch McConnell to call back the Senate and move our background checks bill, which I believe does have a chance of passing the Senate, maybe not the 60 votes, but certainly clearing the 51 vote threshold. So that's really the first thing and has been the main focus.

I would be willing to go back to the House. I'm from Philadelphia where, by the way -- and I know you brought up the mass shootings that happened in El Paso and Dayton, and understandably. So let's not forget that right here in my home town of Philadelphia where I represent, 12 people were shot over this weekend. So the Philadelphias of the country, the Chicagos, the other places where we have a slow-rolling mass shooting every single week also need attention, which is why Washington needs to act.

Now, as far as my willingness to go back to Washington, yes, I would be willing to go back. But let's not allow that to delve into some sort of false equivalency. Mitch McConnell has been in the pocket of the NRA for far too long doing their bidding. He needs to stop blocking the background checks bill and to bring back the Senate, move it so that way we can finally put it in front of the president.

HARLOW: Okay. Let's talk about specifics here quickly. I would like to get through two proposals. First of all, would you vote for a standalone red flag law?

BOYLE: It would depend on what exactly that means and is in it. I do get -- I would support red flag legislation. However if that is suddenly the beginning and the end of the gun control conversation, that would concern me deeply.

HARLOW: So listen to this. From your fellow Democratic, former member of Congress now running for president, Beto O'Rourke. Here's his exchange with Jake Tapper this weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You were asked in May whether you supported a plan for federal gun licensing. You said it might go too far. I'm wondering what you think now after the El Paso and Dayton massacres if you feel the same way or if maybe your mind is opening about that. That's a proposal that Senator Booker and some of your other rivals are out there talking about.

FMR. REP. BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should do it. We should have a national licensing program in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Do you agree with him?

BOYLE: It's an interesting idea. I mean, I happen to be a co- sponsor, I think, en Every gun control legislation that is out there, was as a state legislator and had been for the last five years in Congress. That is not one that has been really on the forefront of the agenda.

We do license every single automobile vehicle, though not at the federal level, at the state level. So it seems to me if something like an automobile is licensed, there shouldn't be any problem with some sort of database in terms of guns given the danger they present.

That said though, would it be the most effective way to reduce gun violence? Probably not. I think there are other measures. We talked about background checks, limiting magazine clip size. The fact that these shooters had been able to get off two rounds a second, the ability to shoot over 20 people within one minute, just one minute of damage, can cost us about two dozen lives.

HARLOW: Look, we saw that image.

BOYLE: That's something that we really need to address. Yes. We saw it in Dayton.

HARLOW: Look at the images, exactly.

So on the rhetoric, on the issue, on what we saw in the manifesto from the shooter in El Paso, a number of your Democratic colleagues, as you know, in the last week have gone so far as to call the president a white supremacist.

On July 16th, you Tweeted the president is, quote, a racist. Do you, Congressman, also think that the president is a white supremacist?

BOYLE: This is something that I've really wrestled with, because I think language matters and we have to be careful with how we address these things.

[10:20:06]

When it comes to specifically the El Paso shooter, ultimately, the responsibility is borne by that person who picked up the gun and squeezed the trigger and killed those people.

However, I do believe responsibility also lies with the person who inflamed the shooter, who gave him his cause in life that he was looking for. The fact that you had this mass murderer out of El Paso quote almost verbatim lines that President Trump has used, the fact that he drove the length of Texas, about a ten-hour drive, to go to an overwhelmingly Hispanic city because he purposely wanted to murder Hispanics, and he was using the same rhetoric that President Trump has used.

Yes, I do believe that President Trump bears some responsibility for that action. All of us as leaders have a deep moral responsibility to be the sort of leaders in society that model good behavior and that bring out the best in our people. And when we don't have that at the very top, it leads to the sort of consequences that we're now dealing with.

HARLOW: A number of Republicans and the president's defenders have pointed to the language used by the shooter at the congressional baseball game, a Bernie Sanders supporter as well, and have said, look, Bernie Sanders is no more responsible for that than President Trump is for this shooting. What do you say in response? And just also an answer to my question about whether you agree with your fellow Democrats who have called the president a white supremacist.

BOYLE: Well, first, what happened to my colleague, Steve Scalise, and I was on the Democrat's congressional baseball team at the same time, it was absolutely horrific. I think all of us have to be careful about our language, anyone who has a megaphone. The greatest megaphone of all, of course, is the bully pulpit of the White House.

That being said though, again, let's be clear not to delve into some sort of false equivalency. Bernie Sanders has never used the kind of language or attempted to stigmatize a group of people the way President Trump has with the minorities and with others who are the, quote, unquote, other in society.

In terms of your question though about the president being a white supremacist, there is no question that he has used the language of white supremacy and white nationalism to attempt to inflame things. So he either truly believes it or doesn't believe it but doesn't really care and is willing to use it in a cynical way to gin up support either is wrong and deeply immoral.

HARLOW: Congressman Brendan Boyle, thanks for your time this morning.

BOYLE: Thank you.

HARLOW: Ahead to Iowa, we go to Democratic hopefuls barnstorming the state this weekend. In a few minutes you're going to hear from California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris. She will be live from Iowa right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:25:00]

HARLOW: All right. A former staunch ally of the President, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, really a loyalist, changing his tune on the president this morning in a new interview with CNN. Scaramucci says that the Republicans should consider replacing the president on the 2020 ticket. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think you have to consider a change at the top of the ticket when someone is acting like this, when someone is that lax, intellectual curiosity to take ideas from friends.

I think the policies are very, very good for the American people. But the rhetoric is so charged and so divisive that we have to all just take a step back now and say, what are we doing actually?

So one thing that I find reprehensible, and the president continues to do this, and I think what will end up happening, is sound and reasonably-minded men and women in the Republican Party will say, wait, we can't do this. He is giving people a license to hate, to provide a source of anger to go after each other and he does it on his Twitter account.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: CNN Politics Reporter and Editor at Large Chris Cillizza is with me now.

It's very hard to get Anthony Scaramucci to go in the spotlight and to talk. But --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITCS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: It is very difficult.

HARLOW: But that aside, I mean, it is somewhat meaningful, is it not, to hear someone who is the White House Communications Director compare the president to a meltdown of Chernobyl? What do you think?

CILLIZZA: Yes, so two things. One, people will say, he was only communications director for 11 days. That's less important actually than the fact that he is a Trump business associate and long-time friend long before Donald Trump got into politics. This is someone who knows him. You can't dispute that no matter how much time he has spent on the official staff. That's point one.

Point two, in listening to that Scaramucci interview on New Day though, Poppy, this is Donald Trump. The idea that, oh, wait, Donald Trump goes on Twitter and does things that aren't presidential and he bullies people and he provides cover for hate-mongers, he's been doing this.

[10:30:04]

We're talking about this whole affair (ph).

This is the two-year anniversary of the Charlottesville.

END