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NEW DAY

Hong Kong Airport Cancels Flights; Homeland Security Chief on ICE Raids; Epstein's Cell Not Monitored; Five Children Killed in Day Care Fire; Simone Biles Wins 6th Title. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 12, 2019 - 06:30   ET

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


[06:30:00] ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As he always has been for Donald Trump. I was a little surprised that the president went after him on Twitter. I just --

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: As fate would have it -- as fate would have it, we have Anthony Scaramucci joining us live in just a few minutes. We will see where this goes in the next hour.

Frank, Errol, Margaret, thank you very much.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: A major airport in Asia is closed this morning due to protests. We have those breaking details just ahead in a live report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We do have some breaking news.

We're just hearing that all flights out of Hong Kong have been canceled. Look at these pictures from inside the airport. The violent clashes between pro-democracy groups and police have erupted throughout the weekend and now, as you can see, they are affecting one of the world's most important commercial hubs.

Ben Wedeman is live in Hong Kong with all the breaking details.

Ben, tell us what's going on.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, this is the eighth busiest airport in the world and all departing flights have been canceled. Two hundred thousand people normally pass through this airport on a daily basis. But what we saw was well over 10,000 black clad protesters come into this airport. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they occupied the arrival area. They didn't really interfere with the operations of the airport. And, in fact, the protest today wasn't even supposed to take place. But in reaction to what the protesters say were instances of unusual police brutality, it was declared that there would be this protest today.

[06:35:12] WEDEMAN: So today not only did they occupy the arrivals area, they took over the departures area. And I was up there watching as the protesters were physically stopping travelers from checking in to their flights. It was increasingly clear that the airport simply could not function under these conditions. So all departing flights were canceled.

At this point, surprisingly, the protesters, many of them have left the airport. Although they are still downstairs for those arriving passengers, they are chanting about police brutality. They are handing out pamphlets to arriving travelers. But, as I said, this normally very busy airport has come, at least as far as departures go, to a screeching halt.

Erica.

HILL: Ben, thank you. Amazing to look at those live pictures. Just the sheer number of people in that airport, it is really something.

Thanks, Ben.

The Trump administration defending its immigration crackdown in a series of interviews. The acting border chief is facing criticism this morning for downplaying the emotional video showing a young girl crying after her undocumented father was rounded up in Mississippi last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need my dad with me. My dad didn't do nothing. He's not a criminal.

Governments, please put your heart, let me parent be fee with the -- everybody else, please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: CNN's Dianne Gallagher is live in Jackson, Mississippi, this morning with more.

Dianne.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, Erica, look, here in Mississippi, it's not even been a week since nearly 700 members of this community, most of them undocumented, were rounded up and detained at seven different plants in six different cities surrounding Jackson here. Of course that came just days after that massacre in El Paso where the gunmen directly targeted Latinos.

Now, look. the acting Department of Homeland Security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, expressed some regret, talking about the tone of it, that it was unfortunate the timing, when it came into effect. But it was those images that you just saw there of those children whose parents were snatched up while they were at school and came home to nobody, staying in gyms while they waited for a parent or a guardian to come get them that really gripped this nation. And when the acting border chief, Mark Morgan, was asked about that viral video, this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MORGAN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: They are here illegally and then a lot of times there's additional fraud that goes with this for them to try to get these jobs in these companies. So I understand that the girl's upset and I get that, but her father committed a crime. And just so the American people know also is that girl, her mother was home and she was reunited with her mother within a few hours that night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Now, look. I want to point out that we don't know exactly what crime the acting chief there is -- the acting commissioner there is talking about, whether it's just coming over here undocumented or something else. But, look, it's important to point out that none of the owners have been charged. None of the managers have been charged at this point. There is a job fair where that little girl was in Forest, Mississippi, about an hour from here. Today, they're asking people to bring two forms of I.D. for that plant, one of which was raided just last week.

John.

BERMAN: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thanks for being there on the ground for us. Appreciate it.

How could a high-profile inmate like Jeffrey Epstein get such little oversight in prison? Michael Smerconish with his take, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:42:42] BERMAN: New this morning, sources tell CNN Jeffrey Epstein's cell was not regularly monitored the night he is believed to have killed himself. The accused sex trafficker was alone when he was found dead on Saturday morning, even though that's against protocol for inmates coming off of suicide watch.

Joining us now is Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."

And, Michael, I imagine your reaction when you heard this news Saturday morning was like that of so many people involved with the criminal justice system, which is, are you kidding me? Are you serious?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, mine was actually a little bit different. I mean even not on the suicide watch, he should have been monitored every 30 minutes. That's the protocol and apparently it wasn't followed. We'll find out why. Maybe because of a staffing issue.

But, John, my reaction was a little different. My reaction was one of, even if he had been monitored on a suicide watch, it's very difficult to stop someone in a circumstance like this from doing themself harm if they're intent on doing so. I base that on having litigated a very similar case to this many years ago, admittedly. But unless you're going to have someone in a one-on-one situation where they don't have a door and a person has eyes on them 24/7, you're just not going to be able to preclude them from bringing about this kind of an end. HILL: "The Miami Herald," in an op-ed, writing, Epstein was in control

of every aspect of his case. He exercised it over young girls, prosecutors, wealthy peers, and finally his exit from his life.

We, obviously, heard from the attorneys for a number of the alleged victims or alleged victims themselves talking about the fact that as frustrated as many of them are in what happened this weekend, that they will not make this be the end. They don't want this to be the end for them. And yet you can't ignore that part of it either, the robbing of justice again for all of these people.

SMERCONISH: Well, the case will continue, right? He faced a conspiracy charge at the time of his death. That conspiracy charge suggests that Jeffrey Epstein didn't commit these acts, these alleged acts because he wasn't convicted of that which he was facing. Others were involved, according to prosecutors.

I suspect that Ghislaine Maxwell is an individual of interest and that prosecutors will be taking a look at her conduct and whether she was a facilitator or madam for him, among others. So the case will continue.

[06:45:12] As to whether they received justice, there was no adjudication in a court of law. But, you know, the guy wasn't facing the death penalty and he took himself out. I'm sure there's some modicum m justice for some.

BERMAN: But for the victims I think who want more answers, this does close off one potential avenue. Again, I know there's a conspiracy investigation going on here, but to have Epstein on trial in and of itself would provide an avenue for more questions to be answered to be sure.

Michael, what do you make of the president peddling in conspiracy theories? The president of the United States peddling in conspiracy theories about how this happened over the weekend. What's the impact of that?

SMERCONISH: There's an appetite for this sort of thing, sadly. Whether it's Jeffrey Epstein's death, whether it was the, you know, the underground pizza tunnel, et cetera, et cetera. I'm not excusing him by any means in doing so. But that there's this human factor, curiosity, whether it's Area 51 or the moon landing, there seems to always be an audience for nonsense. And he knows that. And so he throws some chum in the water and the sharks all collect around it. And all of a sudden, you know, another news cycle is lost where his folks are focused on that kind of an allegation instead of looking at what's going on at the airport in Hong Kong, or whether we're at war now with China relative to currency and a whole multitude of more serious matters that we should be discussing.

BERMAN: Or background checks. The president claimed he was for background checks on Friday. Why isn't he out there, if he believes in that, pushing that over the weekend with every statement he makes and with every tweet he makes rather than peddling conspiracy theories. If stopping gun violence is a priority, prove it. SMERCONISH: John, you're so right, because, I mean, that, of course,

remains the issue of the day, the issue of the week, the month, the year. And yet I'm afraid there'll be much more interest -- this is really sad of me to say -- but there'll be much more interest in some of the conspiracy theories that he's now given life to instead of that kind of conversation.

BERMAN: It is sad.

But, Michael, you make us happy. Michael Smerconish, thank you for being with us this morning. I really appreciate it.

SMERCONISH: OK, guys. Thanks.

BERMAN: All right, five children killed in a day care fire in Pennsylvania. Why fire officials say these deaths could have been prevented.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:51:41] HILL: Five children are dead after a fire at a 24-hour day care center in Erie, Pennsylvania. Firefighters too say that this tragedy could have been prevented.

CNN's Jason Carroll is live in Erie with the heartbreaking details this morning.

Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, Erica, this story is just so terribly sad. The two-story home is behind me. You can see that people have already started to leave cards and flowers for the children. And, again, investigators say that this is a tragedy that could very easily have been avoided.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

GUY SANTONE, ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA FIRE CHIEF: 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Four of the five victims, again, were siblings. The fifth victim, that child's mother, she owned the day care. She was injured in the fire, but she survived.

John.

BERMAN: Just horrible.

All right, Jason Carroll for us. What a tragedy there.

He has been one of the president's most vocal defenders. Now Anthony Scaramucci says Republicans may need a different name at the top of the ticket in 2020. He joins us live coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:58:29] HILL: Simone Biles soars into the record books after winning her sixth U.S. gymnastics title.

Coy Wire has more in the "Bleacher Report."

This is exactly the kind of news people need on a Monday morning.

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this will give us some uplifting energy for our morning. Let's take a look at history being made in the floor routine for the ages in Kansas City. The first woman ever to pull off the triple double in competition. Incredible. Three twists while flipping twice. Somebody call the cops because Simone Biles is breaking the law of gravity, taking gold in four of the five events, earning a record-tying sixth all-around title at the U.S. championships. Something that no woman has done in nearly 70 years. She's unbeatable. Simone Biles has won every meet she's entered since the 2013 national championships.

In a true display of sportsmanship in Toronto yesterday, Serena Williams, so close to winning her first title since becoming a mom two years ago, but just four games into the Rogers final against Canada's Bianca Andreescu. She breaks down in tears, back spasms forcing her to retire from the match. But watch the 19-year-old Andreescu. She walks over. She hugs Serena. She comforts her telling her I've been watching you my entire career. She was just two months old when Serena won her first major. U.S. Open in a couple of weeks. We'll see if Serena can get back on track.

BERMAN: That's class on the court right there.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: That is absolute class.

HILL: Look at the ladies leading the charge there. Just saying.

[07:00:01] BERMAN: And Simone Biles is very good at gymnastics.

HILL: This is in --

WIRE: Better than Tom Brady.

BERMAN: Well, at gymnastics? Absolutely.

HILL: Whoa.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

END