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Barr Appalled by Epstein's Suicide; Scaramucci Breaks With Trump; Trump Targets Legal Immigration. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Move up on the second chance.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Brianna Keilar starts "RIGHT NOW."

Have a great day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, he was one of the most high-profile inmates in America, so how could Jeffrey Epstein die by suicide behind bars, and what happens to his sex trafficking case now?

President Trump's former attack dog now the latest loyalist to make a public break with the commander in chief, saying Republicans should replace him on the 2020 ticket.

Plus, it's being called one of the worst nuclear accidents since Chernobyl. Did it happen during a nuclear missile test by Russia designed to evade American defenses?

And, in the wake of two more mass shootings, a 2020 candidate is brought to tears and another makes a sweeping proposal to combat gun violence.

KEILAR: Right now new revelations and a flurry of questions about the night leading up to Jeffrey Epstein's apparent suicide in his jail cell. CNN has learned that the convicted sex offender who was awaiting trial on multiple charges of sex trafficking underage girls was not monitored regularly by prison staff the night that he died. He was also housed alone after officials decided to remove his cell mate. Both of those factors violating standard procedure for any inmate who comes off suicide watch, which Epstein had less than two weeks ago. Both the FBI and the Department of Justice have launched their own investigations. And Attorney General Bill Barr addressed Epstein's death publicly this morning.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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.

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.


KEILAR: Now, Polo Sandoval is our correspondent there on the ground following this.

And, Polo, tell us about these procedures that were not followed.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those two procedures, Brianna, that you mentioned a little while ago, that Jeffrey Epstein was left alone in his cell after he was taken off of suicide watch and that he was not regularly monitored, those two failures are certainly concerning. I mean you just heard a little while ago, it's extremely worrisome, especially when you hear it from the nation's top cop, William Barr, because this really does potentially speak more about the conditions and the protocols and procedures that are in place in that building you see behind me, of course referring to the Metropolitan Correction Center here in downtown Manhattan where Jeffrey Epstein was found unconscious in his cell early Saturday morning.

The reason why this essentially broadens it out beyond the case of this suspected sex trafficker is because that building is used to house many high-profile defendants that are being prosecuted by the federal government. Of course most recently Joaquin Guzman, we know him as El Chapo. This was home for him for many, many months as his trial proceedings were ongoing.

So what this death, what this suicide does, it certainly calls into question the protocols and the procedures. And as William Barr himself described, the irregularities that have been found inside. So I think that this is really the main focus of investigators right now, not only with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but also with the Department of Justice, mainly the Office of Inspector General.

Now, as for the Epstein case itself and the investigation, we do understand that that autopsy was conducted over the weekend. However, we have not been told the specific results that have come out of that, as those questions and, of course, that call for justice continues from Epstein's alleged victims, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Polo, thank you so much for the update from the Metropolitan Correctional Center there in New York.

These lapses that may have contributed to buy enough time for Epstein to orchestrate his apparent death by suicide have experts questioning if prison officials completely dropped the ball here.

Eric Young is the president of the National Council of Union Locals that represents guards there at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Epstein was held. Eric, first, let's listen to the attorney general -- or you just heard

some of what he described. He said that there were these irregularities. How could an inmate, one of the most high profile in the country, not be monitored?

ERIC YOUNG, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF PRISON LOCALS: Well, I'm unsure of the irregularities that the attorney general is actually speaking about, but some of the irregularities of the staffing shortages have been made aware by particularly senators and congressmen has been brought to his attention upon his installment as the attorney general of the United States. Just only a couple of months ago he actually testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee about some of those irregularities, and that is the large deficit in staffing shortages that has plagued our agency bureau wide.

[13:05:21] KEILAR: But is it possible -- and I do want to talk about this staff shortage. For instance, tell us how many hours guards are working because we know in the case of one of these guards, he was on his fifth overtime shift in a week.

YOUNG: Well, and I -- and I haven't confirmed that, but I can tell you that there's been a significant issue of the staffing shortage made aware of individuals there at the management level since going back to the government shutdown. Now, that is when I was informed about the significant problem where we had staff working upwards of 60, 70, 80- hour workweeks as you basically just explained. Those things have been of significant concern to me, where I have actually involved myself higher up in the central office where they actually deemed the facility as hard to fill. In --

KEILAR: But isn't -- isn't one of the reasons why the staffing shortage concerns you is because it would lead to irregularities when you're asking people to do more than they're physically able to do to secure a prison like this?

YOUNG: And that's correct. And, you know, we have a collective bargaining agreement that states the staff should have seven and a half hours in between shifts. So if you are mandating staff to work and also requiring them to volunteer to work just to be able to fill all the correctional posts that is assigned on a correctional services mission critical roster, it is very difficult for staff to commute to and from work out of the New York City/Manhattan area and to get to work, it's a lot of fatigue actually that could take hold for many of those staff members.

KEILAR: You can see how that is with just seven and a half hours between shifts, and if you have less than that.

In your capacity, you represent a lot of correctional officers. They're in federal prisons across the country. Epstein was taken off suicide watch in late July, then less than two weeks later he's back to rooming alone. What would prompt prison officials to remove a cellmate of an inmate who had recently been on suicide watch?

YOUNG: I could believe Mr. Epstein probably told the correctional professionals that are actually responsible for his care while he was on suicide watch, this psychologists, and pretty much I'm sure other administration officials above the psychologist had personal interactions with him, told them everything that they probably -- that they needed to hear to take him off of that status.

I don't know the circumstances and directives that came from the department or the central office that was imposed upon Mr. Epstein to make sure that he's given greater scrutiny than other inmates in our custody, control and care. But a decision was made and eventually an investigation will weed that out.

KEILAR: Are you in touch with the guards in this case?

YOUNG: I'm in touch with the correctional officers or our law enforcement --

KEILAR: With the correctional officers?

YOUNG: That's correct.

KEILAR: That's right, with the correctional -- my apologies for that.

So you're in touch with the correctional officers. Do you know if they were regularly checking his cell?

YOUNG: Well, I'm in touch with the local president, who actually oversees the correctional law enforcement officers there at the facility and I --

KEILAR: Do you know if they were checking regularly?

YOUNG: And that is something that I just cannot say publicly exactly. Those staff are entitled to due process and investigations will --

KEILAR: Can I ask you then hypothetically, because you have so much experience with correctional officers and representing so many. Hypothetically, why might guards not regularly check on an inmate?

YOUNG: As I indicated before, the hiring freeze that was imposed by the Trump administration has had a significant effect on all of our facilities, particularly this facility here. So you're talking about staff constant low working 60, 70-hour work weeks. That is very detrimental to the safety and security.

KEILAR: Can I ask you a quick question about that, though --


KEILAR: Because when you look at the hiring freeze, this was something that went into effect for several months and then it was lifted last year. Is DOJ, is the bureau of prisons, are they operating under a, I guess, informal hiring freeze? You're talking -- explain this hiring freeze to us and how it's not just something that is from a year ago.

YOUNG: Well, when Trump came in, he initially put a government wide hiring freeze. But that hiring freeze, once it was lifted by the president, the administration, the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, continued the hiring freeze for the Bureau of Prisons. All other components within the department was not held to a hiring freeze but the Bureau of Prisons were. And, subsequently, we had multiple positions eliminated as a result of directives that came from the department during Jeff Sessions' tenure.

[13:10:00] Jeff -- Attorney General Barr, as I indicated, testified before the Appropriations Committee in the Senate that he, upon his arrival and learning some things, he had lifted the hiring freeze. And this was only just a few short months ago. And he was on video and testifying before America about it. So some of those irregularities is things that he's talking about that resulted in us being down deficits of thousands of positions nationwide. But particularly at this facility there was a lot of positions that was missing because they had to, what we call TDY staff to the facility from other neighboring facilities.

KEILAR: Temporary duty, that's right.

YOUNG: Yes, just to fill to correctional services post.

KEILAR: Right.

YOUNG: And I brought awareness of it because of the individual like Chapo Guzman who was there being housed at the facility and I didn't want any, you know, negative publicity in the event that he tried to attempt to escape.


All right, Eric Young, thank you. Really appreciate you being with us.

YOUNG: Thank you.

KEILAR: Anthony Scaramucci, the man who lasted just 11 days as the president's communications director, has an ominous warning for the Republican Party. In an interview on CNN this morning, he publicly broke ranks with President Trump, saying that he doesn't support his re-election and he said the GOP might have to replace him on the 2020 ticket, equating Trump' presidency to the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: But the rhetoric is so charged and so divisive that we have to all just take a step back now and say, what -- 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 a minute, 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.

But he goes after individuals as the president of the United States on his Twitter account, OK, which incites hate, which incites death threats. I mean at some point I think the people in my party will have to look at all this stuff and stop being anesthetized to it. 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 (ph) intellectual curiosity to take ideas from friends.


KEILAR: And joining me now to discuss this Wajahat Ali and Doug Heye.

And, Doug, to you first as the former RNC communications director.


KEILAR: You know a thing or two about what's going on in GOP politics.

Where is this anti-Trump groundswell that would be required in the Republican Party in order for him to be bumped from the ticket? What do you think about what he said?

HEYE: The reality is it doesn't exist. And while I take heart and agree with a lot of the things that Anthony Scaramucci said this morning and before, some of us were saying this two years ago and weren't listened to, that we're going down a dangerous road. The problem is, we won the White House, we confirmed two Supreme Court justices and for a lot of Republicans that's been enough even though we had massive losses in the House.

KEILAR: What do you think?

WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean when you lose Scaramucci, I mean you lose America. I mean I think all those independents were on the fence like what's Scaramucci going to say?

Look --

KEILAR: This means -- no, you're saying this means nothing?

ALI: This means nothing. I -- look, the Republican base is about -- still, what, 87 percent to 90 percent still for Trump. Scaramucci not going to tilt them. Scaramucci has known for two years what this man was. He was angling still for a job. He was the White House press communication director for a whopping 11 days. And now in -- I also want to mention this -- everyone's praising Scaramucci for these comments. He's still neutral on Trump, Brianna. In that interview he says, I'm still neutral on him.

But he compares him to a nuclear react melting down. I think most of us have been saying he's been melting down for two or three years. It's not going to shift anyone.

But the fact that Scaramucci is yet another person who was part of this administration, who has turned on Trump and Trump turned on him just goes to show that Trump is loyal only to Trump.

KEILAR: There's a "Washington Post" story, Doug, and it's about the president's brand and that it may be suffering. It says, quote, President Trump considers himself a branding wizard but he is vexed by a branding crisis of his own, how to shed the label of racist.

Do you see him really trying? Or if you were giving him some sort of guidance, effectively trying to shed that?

HEYE: Well, I think he's trying to yell at staffers that they're doing it wrong. The reality is, you change your rhetoric. You change your policies. You know, not all of them, not everything touches on race that he does. But so much time and time again on when he decides to weigh in, weighs in with the wrong foot first and then puts the foot down on it.

And that's what so much of the country is reacting to. And as a Republican who's worked for the highest ranking Jewish Republican, Eric Cantor, the former African-American RNC chairman, Michael Steele, I'm really troubled by not only the rhetoric that comes from the president every time he talks about race, but how accepted or at least ignored it is within the party.

KEILAR: Wajahat, let's talk about what we saw in El Paso and the president's response to that. "The New York Times" is reporting on a manifesto that was posted online that says the killer wrote that he was, quote, simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion. So this word "invasion," and then also this idea of replacement theory. Invasion is something the president has used over and over. Fox News has used "invasion." They've also this idea of replacement, that you -- that Democrats want to replace Republicans with people who will support Democrats.

[13:15:34] Is there a connection between the president and these ideas?

ALI: Yes. It's very important for people to know that the entire replacement theory and the word "invasion," specifically the invasion of immigrants is a white supremacist conspiracy theory. That's where it came from.

Donald Trump tripled down on it for the 2018 midterms. He used the word "invasion," "caravan," "rapist," "immigrants," "criminals." Around the same time Robert Bowers (ph) walked into a Tree of Life Synagogue and killed 11 Jews using the same word "invasion." In March, the Christchurch terrorist left behind a manifesto using the word "invasion." He wasn't talking about Hispanics. He was talking about Muslims. In that manifesto he said Donald Trump is my renewed symbol of white identity and I share a common purpose with him. The Christchurch killer's manifesto inspired the El Paso terrorist. He says it right at the top. He goes, once I read that manifesto, I decided to target Hispanics. He uses the word "invasion."

Donald Trump has helped to mainstream a white supremacist talking point and Tucker Carlson, who is on Fox News, mainstreams all these talking points. And he said that white supremacy is a hoax. Guess what, it's not. According to the FBI, Christopher Wray, appointed by Donald Trump, white supremacist terrorism is the number one domestic terror threat in America.

So, the buck stops with the president and we have to ask ourselves, if you don't want to be called a racist, why are you promoting a racist, white supremacist conspiracy theory, which now has been mainstreamed by the right wing media infrastructure.

KEILAR: Wajahat Ali, Doug Heye, thank you so much to both of you.

HEYE: Thank you.

ALI: Thank you.

KEILAR: Democrats are worried after Joe Biden is forced to issue statements after several verbal stumbles. His campaign is going to join me live.

Plus, breaking news in the investigation of the gunman in the Dayton shooting. What we are learning about charges against one of his friends.


[13:22:08] KEILAR: A new regulation released today by the Trump administration is targeting legal immigrants by making it easier to reject visa and green card requests based on income. The so-called Public Charge Rule will likely make it tougher for poor immigrants to enter the U.S. or to stay in the U.S.

Here's how acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli framed it.


KEN CUCCINELLI, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES: Today, USCIS, the agency I head as part of the Department of Homeland Security, has issued a rule that encourages and ensures self- reliance and self-sufficiency for those seeking to come to or to stay in the United States. It will also help promote immigrants' success in the United States as they seek opportunity here.


KEILAR: Now critics say that the new rules could also penalize immigrants who only need a small bit of assistance from the government.

Here with me to discuss this now is CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider, and we have former assistant director of ICE, Elliot Williams, as well.

So, Jessica, lay this out for us. What is the objective of the Trump administration?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you read -- you heard it there from Director Cuccinelli. They're saying that they want to ensure and encourage this self-reliance by these people either looking to come into the United States or stay here in the United States. Critics are blasting this, of course, but the administration is

saying, look, this is a public charge rule. It has been on the books for generations. And what we are doing is we're coming in here and we're -- we're merely tailoring the definition of public charge. It used to encourage or include just those who got cash benefits. Well, this time the administration is sort of broadening that definition and saying that it's not only cash benefits, but it's also, we're going to consider a negative factor, if you will they call it, if you're receiving Medicaid, food stamps, government subsidized housing. So they're going to look at all of that when determining who gets the permanent, legal residency here.

KEILAR: Critics are blasting it, as you said. They're calling this a racially motivated wealth test.

Do you agree with that?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, ICE: Well, it's hard to not separate this out from every action the administration has taken on immigration going back to the president even as a candidate for the presidency, how he announced talking about Mexicans and implementing a travel ban right after they got here, then to restricting asylum rules and on -- and, frankly, the ICE enforcement actions over the last week, which were specifically targeted at immigrants, not at businesses or anything else.

So, out of context, it's hard to see this as anything other than an action that's going to have a disproportionate impact on immigrants and immigrants of color. And the bigger thing is, if they want cab drivers with Ph.D., like to only let in individuals who are high- skilled workers, then that's a policy choice they're making, but they're choosing to only go after low-skilled black and brown workers. That's what's been happening.

KEILAR: Let's talk about these raids that we saw at food plants in Mississippi last week. We -- we've heard that the White House is saying we should expect more raids, right?

[13:25:04] SCHNEIDER: Right. We've reported last week that the White House had told ICE to go ahead and do more of these workplace enforcement actions. Then we heard it reiterated and acknowledged by Director Cuccinelli today. He said that, yes, we do expect more of these raids to happen. I mean we saw huge raids last week, close to 700 immigrants arrested in these enforcement actions. But Director Cuccinelli, you know, their -- the line on this from the administration, he put it this way, he said, we are going to enforce the law. So that's their line. But given the huge amounts of people it's affecting, it really is reverberating around the country.

KEILAR: They're going after immigrants. They're going after the workers. Are you surprised they're not targeting the people who hire them, Elliot?

WILLIAMS: I'm not at all. I think in the last year they've gone after 11 businesses and I think 120,000 immigrants. That's one stat that I saw. Yes, the law is challenging. You really have to show that the business

had the intent to hire people unlawfully or engage in visa fraud. But, again, look at the administration's actions going back two plus years now and what they're trying to do is restrict even legal immigration and just make it tougher for people to be here. So I am not surprised in the least, even though the law is challenging.

KEILAR: Elliot, Jessica, thank you so much.

It's being called one of the worst nuclear actions since Chernobyl, but after a Russian explosion, the U.S. is racing to figure out what Vladimir Putin was doing.

Plus, breaking news. One of the Dayton shooter's friends is now facing charges relating to body armor. Stand by for that.