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Only One Person Attended Steve King's Iowa Forum After King's Comments About Rape, Incest; James Garner's Family React To Cop's Firing Involved In Garner's Death; Democrats Face Backlash For Participating In Journalist's Book; Mike Pompeo Went From Trump Critic To Trump Loyal Soldier Following 2016 Election. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired August 19, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: But that's not actually how it works, Chris Cillizza.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That's not how it works at all.
KEILAR: It is not.
Thank you so much, sir.
CILLIZZA: Thank you.
KEILAR: So this just into CNN. In the wake of Jeffrey Epstein's suicide, Attorney General William Barr has removed the acting head of the Bureau of Prisons. Barr has said that he is angry about the death of Epstein. He said there were serious irregularities, as he put it, at the Manhattan facility where Epstein was being held. The circumstances surrounding Epstein's death, including his supervision at the time of it, are currently under investigation.
Hugh Hurwitz has been the acting head of the bureau since last year. He's going to go back to being an assistant.
We'll have more on the breaking news, that we're expecting to hear from the family of Eric Garner after the NYPD fired the officer in the case of his death.
[13:35:20] KEILAR: Congressman Steve King is demanding an apology from the media and from Republicans after he made comments that humanity would not exist if it were not for rape or for incest. King says that he was misquoted.
King defended himself over the weekend as he held town hall meetings, including a town hall that only one person showed up for.
And here she is, Jessica Birch.
Thank you so much for being here.
I want to talk to you about this very unique experience. But first, let's have a listen to part of how this town hall that you
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): You have the best audience I've ever had. Not one person has ever individually contributed so much to a town hall meeting as you, Jessica.
KING: If I had a certificate, I'd bring you up here and give you an award today. I appreciate you being here.
I appreciate the press being here today. I appreciate my staff who does a great job every day.
We'll close this thing out and go on to the next one.
Thank you so much for being here, Jessica.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So, Jessica Birch, that's how this town hall ended.
But let's start at the very beginning. Take us through your morning and your decision to attend this event. Because I think some people might maybe who are not familiar with Iowa might be surprised to learn you're not actually a supporter of King. So take us through your decision to go to this event.
JESSICA BIRCH, ONLY ONE TO ATTEND REP. STEVE KING'S IOWA FORUM: So earlier, on Friday, I just saw the event against my -- across my Facebook feed. And I just glanced at it. Then I went out that night. I was like, you know what, I should show up and just -- I didn't really plan on saying anything. I just wanted to be there and support of just the opposition of his latest remarks.
So when I showed up there and I sat at the back of the room and no one else was there. And he came back and shook my hand, and I sat down and I'm like OK, well, I'm not going to leave, so I guess I'll have to speak up. So it's kind of like how I ended up there.
KEILAR: So you arrived at this community center. You only saw a few cars in the parking lot, which explains why that was when you went in and you were the only person who was not part of his staff that was there sitting in the audience. So you decide to engage. So what did you hear from him? What did you want to talk to him about?
BIRCH: So I know that he's been in the news and he's very controversial figure for his latest remarks. I was a little nervous to confront him on that. Just being the only person there. Also, I just -- I just knew I had this opportunity and having him alone for an hour to ask him about issues I cared about.
The first thing, he talked about trade a little bit. And I asked him about China's Belt and Road Initiative.
But after that, I really got into the issues that I cared about. Such as talking about affordable housing and then kind of just snowballed into regular conversation. Then we talked about reparations. And then I think I finished talking and asking about student loan debt.
KEILAR: What did you think about what you heard from him? It was very different from I think maybe what you wanted to hear or what you think on the issues.
BIRCH: It was different. A few times he would answer some of the questions in a round-about way and not get to an answer. But since I was the only person there, I could actually just follow up directly and just ask him to clarify or ask him for more information.
So I just had the unique opportunity to just try to get some more answers out of him than I guess other people would usually get.
KEILAR: So what did you -- I know there was security there. Tell us what you said to the security folks as you left.
BIRCH: It was really funny. I was leaving. I made a little joke. I was like oh, yes, I'm sorry you had to come out this morning because I'm just such a rowdy person. The whole time -- I would say the whole town hall is just very peaceful.
And sometimes it got a little, like, my questions were -- we would have an honest conversation about things. I didn't like his answers sometimes. But I didn't -- I just kept my cool and just didn't get mad. But they didn't find it funny that I was just -- they didn't laugh at my joke.
KEILAR: The security.
And tell us about what your friends thought. You tweeted out while you were at this event, at this town hall. And then you went home to kind of sleep off your late night the night before. Because you did have fun the night before. Which we learned it's pretty funny in this article that we read about you.
But what was the reaction from your friends? Because you had such a civil engagement from him. But what did they want?
[13:40:02] BIRCH: Yes. Actually, it was funny. After this happened, I called my mother like 10 times. She thought something was terribly wrong. But I was like, no, I just had this hour conversation with Steve King.
I went home and I ate some breakfast pizza and went back to bed. And then when I went out that night, I was just like, oh, there's all
these posts about it. And they told me just that if they were there and they would have kind of maybe engaged him more, kind of -- they would have been more upset.
But I think it is easier to say things when you're not personally there and not alone. So I just kind of -- I conducted myself at the town hall the way I try to conduct myself all the time. So it wasn't any different for me.
KEILAR: What did they want? What would they have gotten upset about? What did they tell you?
BIRCH: They would have gotten -- I know a lot of people are upset with his remarks lately. I'm not supportive of them in any aspect. That is just it. I don't support that stuff at all. But I just kind of want to use my opportunity to ask him about things I cared about.
KEILAR: All right, Jessica, well, we appreciate you coming on and joining us from Cedar Falls, Iowa. Thank you.
BIRCH: Thank you so much.
KEILAR: Have a great week.
And we have a fascinating new profile on one of the president's most loyal soldiers that used to be one of his biggest critics.
Plus, dozens of Democrats under fire for participating in a book by journalist, Mark Halperin, a man accused of sexual harassment and assault by at least a dozen women.
[13:46:30] EMERALD GARNER, DAUGHTER OF ERIC GARNER: Good afternoon.
Today, we've got the decision and that the commissioner decided to fire the officer.
I thank Reverend Sharpton who has stood by us for the past five years. I don't believe that if we -- if Reverend Sharpton was not standing beside us, we wouldn't get this far.
I thank everyone that stood with my family for the past five years and I thank everyone who has been out on the front line and who have been screaming, "Fire Pantaleo," because he's been fired.
And for, you know, Commissioner O'Neill, I thank you for doing the right thing. I truly, sincerely thank you for firing the officer. Regardless of however you came to your decision, you finally made a decision that should have been made five years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
GARNER: And it's unfortunate that we went from one administration to the next. We can't talk about what happened in the past. We can only talk about what we're going to do moving forward.
We'll be going for the congressional hearings. We will be trying to reopen the case. We'll be going after the rest of the officers involved because it's not over.
Justice for New York City means Pantaleo is fired and there's no murdering cop on the police force. So, Commissioner O'Neill, while we appreciate you making your
decision, we are definitely still calling for the Eric Garner Law, which will ban the choke hold and ban officers being protected by a shield and not held accountable for their actions.
Eric Garner was killed five years ago. It took five years for the officer to be fired.
I don't want another Eric Garner. I will do everything in my power to never see another Eric Garner. I don't even want to see another video of a person being choked out. Because it's wasn't supported to happen to him and it's not supposed to happen.
I should not be here standing with my brother fatherless. I should be standing here with my father. But Officer Pantaleo took that away from me in August 2017.
So, yes, he's fired. But the fight is not over. We will continue to fight.
KEILAR: That is Eric Garner's daughter, Emerald, speaking after the NYPD fired the officer involved in her father's death, who performed that prohibited choke hold, Daniel Pantaleo. She said the family will still pursue action against the other officers who were involved and that work to pursue the ban of that choke hold by officers with a law.
Now Democrats are facing fierce backlash for participating in a book by Mark Halperin. The journalist, author and political pundit was exiled from the news industry in 2017 after at least a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Halperin apologized for his actions in a way but he denied the more serious allegations against him, including groping and pressing himself against women.
Despite that, more than 75 top Democrats spoke with Halperin for his upcoming book titled, "How to Beat Trump: America's Top Political Strategist on What It Will Take."
I want to bring in CNN's Oliver Darcy. He is following the story for us. He reported on this story when it happened on CNN.com.
This, Oliver, is a story that's been lighting up my phone here in the last day or. Women that I know professionally are incredulous that so many prominent officials sat down with Mark Halperin, despite what they see as a lack of real acknowledgement or atonement for what he's been accused of. What do you know from people that were interviewed for his book?
[13:50:07] OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, if you talk to people who have been accusing Mark Halperin and accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment, you'll quickly get the sense that they are not pleased with the top Democrats to speak to Mark Halperin for this book.
I spoke on the phone yesterday with one woman who has accused Mark Halperin and she said this only serves to retraumatize the people he affected and enable someone who has been accuse of sexual assault and harassment.
So they want answers. They want to know why these top Democrats sat down or spoke on the phone with Mark Halperin.
One person, David Axelrod, who I should not is a CNN political analyst, did express regret yesterday. He wrote on Twitter after this outrage overtook social, he wrote, "By answering Halperin's questions, I did not in any way mean to excuse his past egregious behavior. And in retrospect, I regret responding at all."
But he's actually one of the few prominent Democrats who is expressing regret.
Another person of interest, who spoke to Halperin for this book, is Anita Dunn. And Dunn has a very powerful law firm that does work with Times Up, the organization that formed after the #metoo movement to fight against sexual harassment in the workplace.
She spoke to Mark Halperin for this book. I was interested in why she would do that given the work she does for Times Up. I called her, texted her, and no response from her on this issue.
A spokesperson did tell me she is interested in beating Donald Trump and that is why she decided to speak with them? Probably not most satisfying answer to a lot of the accusers.
The one person standing next Mark Halperin is his publisher, Judith Regan. She issued a statement yesterday that reads, in part, "I do not in any way, shape, form condone any harm done by one human being to another. I have also lived long enough to believe in the power of forgiveness, second chances, and offering a human being a path forward through redemption."
She is standing by him in light of all this backlash. She's not taking any additional questions from the media outside that statement.
KEILAR: All right. Oliver Darcy, thank you so much for that reporting.
Any moment, New York Mayor Bill Di Blasio is going to speak about the Eric Garner case and this decision to fire the officer accused of putting a prohibited choke hold on him that led to his death in 2014.
Why the Republican, as well -- this is a story we're following. Why the Republican who may challenge the president in 2020 would still vote for him.
[13:55:12] KEILAR: Before the 2016 elections, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then a Republican congressman from Kanas, was a big critic of President Trump and his policies. But after the election, he became one of President Trump's biggest cheerleaders. In the latest edition of the "New Yorker," Susan Glasser has a
revealing new profile about the secretary of state. And she is joining us now to talk about her new reporting.
This is a fascinating piece, Susan. I do want to take a look back at what Pompeo said in March of 2016. This is something that you -- this is prominently featured in your piece. This is when he actually supported Marco Rubio for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, Donald Trump, the other day, said that, quote, "If he tells a soldier to commit a war crime, the soldier will just go do it." He said, "They'll do as I tell them to do."
We have spent seven and a half years with an authoritarian president who ignored our constitution. We don't need four more years of that.
Now is the time for this campaign to pivot. It's time to turn down the lights on the circus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: And a very different story, Susan. The quote that is getting a lot of attention in your piece is from a former American ambassador who told you, quote, "He's like a heat-seeking missile for Trump's ass."
So the question is: How did Pompeo change his tune so drastically?
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. Look, first of all, we didn't turn down the lights on the circus after all.
I was really struck by, listening to Mike Pompeo's voice, it is not something that got a lot of attention in March of 2016. He was an obscure Congressman from Wichita. Only a few months later, not only did he change his tune about President Trump but, as soon as Trump was elected, he was pursuing trying to get a job in the administration. He was trying to become CIA director or secretary of the Army.
Trump appointed him two days after they met each other for the first time. He seemed to know nothing at all about him when he was reminded that this was the guy who attacked him back in March. He seemed furious and said, well, gee, you know, I let Vice President Pence pick all the people.
It's a reminder of the breathtaking flip-flopping that we have seen from the Republican Party on the question of Donald Trump. We gotten used to it in a way, so when you hear words like that, you are reminded.
And Mike Pompeo, according to everyone I spoke with, is perhaps one of the most ardent sycophants of President Trump's advisors. That is the strategy he deployed to stay in the president's good graces and to become promoted to secretary of state. It's not like any secretary of state I've ever seen or covered. I
interviewed all the living former secretaries of state. I'm writing a book on Jim Baker. He has neither the background nor many of the attributes that we've seen in Republican or Democratic secretaries of state.
He's about serving the president in a way that is just very different than others have defined the job as serving the national interests.
KEILAR: You tried to -- the thesis of your -- part of the thesis of the piece is, yes, this is a larger -- this is about something larger than Mike Pompeo. This is about how the party has changed to embrace Trump.
But you also make sense of this change, talking about the representation of his business background. Tell us about that.
GLASSER: Well, thank you. I was trying to answer that question for myself, how does somebody change their mind on what appears to be such an issue of principle.
And I realize that, in this meteoric rise of Mike Pompeo, 10 years ago he was unknown, he finished third of three candidates to be the chairman of the candidate's Republican Party. He reinvented his life several times, including covering up what appears to be an embarrassing business failure in Kansas when he moved there.
This was raised early in his political career. He denied it. But, in fact, the allegations were true.
He also told the "Washington Post" that the Koch brothers were not nearly as instrumental in his rise in his business as, in fact, they turn out to be. And those were kind of fascinating pivots to me.
So it's not the first time he's reinvented himself by switching from a Trump basher to a Trump loyalist.
KEILAR: Real quick, because we have 30 seconds here. Susan, what do you think the long game is? What do you think Mike Pompeo's aspirations are?
GLASSER: Everyone I spoke with felt he was an extraordinarily ambitious politician, that he saw his future in politics, that he was interested in one day running perhaps for president of the United States.
He's been talked about for Kansas Senate next year in the open seat. He said no at this time. But he was interested in running for Senate. So we'll see. It depends if he can survive in Trump's cabinet.
KEILAR: So far, he's doing well, as you point out.
Susan, great piece. Thank you so much.
And you can check it out in the current issue of the "New Yorker," "Mike Pompeo, The Secretary of Trump." [14:00:07] That is it for me.
"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.