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White House Officials Have Discussed Payroll Tax Cut Amid Recession Fears; Presidential Candidate & Former Rep. John Delaney (D) Discusses the White House's Proposed Payroll Tax Cut, the Economy, China, Trade, the TPP, the Presidential Race, Jill Biden's Unusual Pitch to Voters; Jeffrey Epstein Signed New Will 2 Days Before He Died; Sargasso Sea Full of Microplastics Damaging the Ecosystem, Aquatic Life. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 20, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:34:04] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: U.S. Steel says it is temporarily laying off about 200 workers at its Michigan plant as the steel industry continues to falter. The company notified the state earlier this month there would be job losses at this facility near Detroit.

A slowdown in demand from Europe and U.S. manufacturing has resulted in these plant closures. In 2018, President Trump placed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports, but the resulting rise in steel prices proved to be short lived.

And it turns out that the White House may be worried about the economy after all. White House officials are considering a payroll tax cut in an effort to stimulate the economy, even though the president is trying to paint a rosy picture, saying this about the economy over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States, right now, has the hottest economy anywhere in the world.


BOLDUAN: I want to bring in John Delaney. He's a 2020 presidential candidate. He's a former congressman from Maryland. And he was the youngest CEO on the New York Stock Exchange when he took his first company public at the age of 33.

[13:35:08] So, Congressman, payroll tax cut, good idea or bad idea?

JOHN DELANEY, (D), FORMER CONGRESSMAN & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, listen, I'm always in favorite of helping out American workers. And I obviously hope we don't go into a recession because that would not be good for American workers.

But I think the myth of this you Trump economy is actually, unfortunately, wearing off. I mean, the trade war that he started is really causing a global slowdown and it's hurting the U.S. economy.

The sugar high from his tax cuts and spending is wearing off and he didn't make the kinds of infrastructure investments we should have done.

His whole economic strategy has been a myth. It's been a fraud. In many ways, very similar to the ways he was in business. Which is a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of debt. And when it's all done, there's no substance. Unfortunately, I fear he's doing that to the U.S. economy.

I hope it doesn't happen, but that's why I think the White House is panicking. That's why he's bullying the Federal Reserve. That's why he's out there saying the economy is great. Yet, behind the scenes, they're talking about a barrel tax cut, which is a pretty dramatic step to take to try to improve the economy.

BOLDUAN: Do you like it? Do you like the idea of the payroll tax cut or no?

DELANEY: Listen, on its surface, I always like giving tax breaks to hardworking middle-class Americans. It would be good to pay for these kinds of things by actually increasing taxes on high earners or getting the corporate tax rate at a better level.

But what we need is a real economic vision. And the economic vision has to starts with investing in communities and people. We need a lot of money in infrastructure. I called for the biggest infrastructure plan since the creation of the federal highway system.

We need to invest in basic research. We need to creative incentives for companies to invest in communities that are struggling.

And we have to get ourselves back in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was President Obama's signature second-term economic initiative. I was one of his point people on it in the Congress. And I'm the only Democrat who supports this thing, if you can believe that. Most of them support --

KEILAR: And I hear -- I hear that.

DELANEY: -- Trump's view of global trade.

It's crazy. It's crazy.

BOLDUAN: I want to talk to you about that because you've said, look, the U.S. should be tough on China, but the U.S. needs to stand up with its global partners.

You support the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


KEILAR: But I covered Hillary Clinton in 2016 and I remember being there in Michigan. She had been for the TPP, obviously, when she was secretary of state. She called it the gold standard. That hurt her so much. It hurt her with Bernie Sanders in the primary. It hurt her with Donald Trump in the general election.

Arguably -- it was almost a dirty word in these states that delivered for the Donald Trump and cost Hillary Clinton the election and delivered it for Donald Trump.

So what do you say about that when, politically, it seems so not feasible to have that position? There's a reason you're the only Democrat with that position.

DELANEY: Right. And what I say is we see the results of Trump's approach to trade, which is what all these other Democrats support. We see the results firsthand. We see what a global trade war is doing. We see what isolating ourselves from our allies, tearing up Paris, questioning NATO, building physical walls.

The Democratic Party cannot be the party of building economic walls. So I agree with you that was the sentiment in 2016. But now we have a real-life example of what that isolationist economic policy actually does.

What we're seeing unfold in our economy and the global economy is that it's terrible. And we have to be engaging.

Now, what we have to do is pair it with real programs to help communities, which is why I favor getting back into the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the same time as we launch a $2 trillion infrastructure program.

Because we should be thinking globally from an economic perspective because we have to compete in a global economy. But we have to be investing in our communities. That's what no one else really seems to get.

Elizabeth Warren puts out a trade plan that would prevent us from actually having a trade agreement with Germany. That's how isolationist is. It's very similar to Trump's approach. It just has a nicer veneer on it.

The Democratic Party cannot be the party of building these economic walls. We have to engage globally. That is fundamentally good for the U.S. economy. It's good for the world.

But at the same time, we have to invest. We have to invest in communities and people in our country. And if we do those two things together, we're going to have a bright economic future. And that's the basis of my economic message.

BOLDUAN: You are, at this point, struggling in the polls. You have not qualified for the next debate. You have announced a shake-up in your campaign team, moving a top aide to campaign manager and relocating your former campaign manager to Iowa. Tell us why you decided to do that.

[13:40:00] DELANEY: So I think a shake-up is exaggerated because they're switching back to the positions they had less than a year ago. So I think that's a bit of a dramatic term. The person who was my campaign manager has moved back into that position. The other person wo was my senior adviser, kind of directing my Iowa strategy and moved to campaign manager, and now he's back with the Iowa focus.

Because we think Iowa is really important to the campaign, which is why I'm here on my 35th trip. I've been to all 99 counties. And we're going to have a very strong Iowa focus this fall. So this refocus in my campaign is designed around that strategy.

But it's almost a recognition that this economic discussion is going to become more important. Because, unfortunately -- and, again, I hope this doesn't happen -- but, unfortunately, we're seeing signs of an economic slowdown. We're seeing a lot of uncertainty around the world because of Trump's foreign policy and his trade policy. And I think that's going to become the discussion in the Democratic primary.

Who actually has a message and is the only person, as you said in the beginning, who was successful in business and successful in government, who is running for president, is me. And I'm the right person to lead that discussion. And this refocus of my campaign team is designed to actually put us in a campaign to do that more effectively.

BOLDUAN: Have you seen -- Jill Biden made a pitch to voters for her husband. It was unusual. She basically said, even if they prefer another candidate, they should go for her husband because he can beat Donald Trump. What do you say to that argument?

DELANEY: So I think the argument about putting forth a more moderate candidate, who can build a big-tent Democratic Party, is the way we beat Donald Trump, right, because we have to win the center. We have to win Independents. That is what we did in the 2018 midterms and that's how we took back the House.

So this message around building a big-tent party, which I stand for, which the vice president stands for, and other people stand for, is the right message.

The problem is, we also need new ideas. The world is changing. Our economic and technological future is coming at us really fast and it's changing dramatically.

And I think the vice president is running, to some extent, on an old playbook. And we need new a new playbook. And we need new ideas. We need new ideas to fix health care. We need new ideas to deal with climate. We need new ideas to create jobs in all these communities around the country that are being left behind, to improve rural health care, to build infrastructure. And i have them. And I think he's just running effectively on President Obama's playbook.

So they are right in that we need a candidate who can win the center, right, who can is more moderate, who can build a big-tent party. That's absolutely right. That's the only way to beat Donald Trump. But we also need a candidate with new ideas because the world is changing. And the next president will be president from, 2020, hopefully, to 2028. Not from 2008 to 2016. That is kind of where my campaign is dramatically different.

And the trade issue. I mean, Joe Biden has backed away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This was President Obama's signature second-term economic initiative. He was right about it. And the fact that these people aren't standing up for President Obama, I just don't understand it. Because President Obama was right about it and I'm right about it.

And the only way to beat Donald Trump is to have a different vision about the U.S. role in the world. And I have it.

BOLDUAN: All right, former Congressman John Delaney, thank you so much for being with us.

Just days before convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein, took his own life, he signed a will giving millions upon millions of dollars in assets to his brother. So was it a warning missed by authorities?


[13:48:29] BOLDUAN: Convicted pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, signed a new will just two days before he hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell. Epstein's brother is the only potential heir to his $577 million fortune. Epstein also created a blind trust for all his holdings, which includes airplanes, boats, artwork, and several properties, right before he died.

I want to bring in CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero, to talk about all this.

This was a net worth of almost $600 million when I died. Is it really as simple as this that his brother will get this money?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think it's quite that straightforward. Obviously, the timing of the new documents is pretty suspect, a couple of days before he died, knowing that even if he would have -- in any case, he had people who were going to be suing him for his assets. So the timing is suspect.

Certainly, normally, putting assets in a trust would protect them more from creditors or from lawsuits. That is the general rule. But this is such an usual circumstance. The timing is so suspect that certainly these documents will be challenged. Whether or not those challenges will prevail is a question, but they will definitely be challenged.

BOLDUAN: Challenged likely by his alleged victims, right?



CORDERO: He could have other creditors, but the most likely is these victims, who now that they are not going to be able to have their day in just with him, the perpetrator actually standing trial for the acts that he was accused of while he was alive, the only recourse they potentially will have, and this is what their lawyers will argue, is that the only recourse they have is now to go after his assets and be compensated in some way for that.

[13:50:09] BOLDUAN: If they can make a good case in civil court, it seems logical that they would, after his death, be entitled to some of this money. That seems to be -- I think that's what a lot of people watching this would think.

And yet, it sounds like you're not saying it is for sure that they would be successful in a challenge.

CORDERO: I don't think it's for sure they would be successful in a challenge.

If his will is determined to valid, if his trust is determined to be valid, that they were validly executed, they are proper documents under the jurisdiction that they're filed, and they have the appropriate signatures and notaries and all of those things that those types of documents would normally have, then the question -- one challenge would be whether or not they were fraudulent because of the timing, that they were done to specifically avoid these potential lawsuits.

And I think that's what's going to play out.

BOLDUAN: Very interesting.

Carrie Cordero, thank you.

CORDERO: Thanks.

KEILAR: A disturbing CNN special report finds that extreme amounts of plastic are invading an area in the middle of the Atlantic, that scientists are calling a plastic death trap. We'll have that, next.


[13:55:53] BOLDUAN: In a special report, CNN investigates a plastic death trap found floating in the middle of the ocean, roughly 140 miles off the coast of Bermuda.

Our Arwa Damon takes a closer look at how the everyday items that we use are helping to form a massive island made up of algae and microplastics, and not only damaging the ecosystem but the aquatic life caught within it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see more there.

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is humbling to be out in the deep blue, hundreds of miles from land. We're in the Sargasso Sea, named after sargassum, a free-floating seaweed dubbed, "The Atlantic Golden Rainforest."

Under the cloudlike mats, there is an unexpected array of biodiversity. But along with our awe is also the shocking realization of what we are doing to it.

(on camera): In one little chunk, look at all that.

(voice-over): There are also tinier pieces, hard to see but everywhere.

(on camera): You find little pieces like this throughout. I have to say, I was quite struck by the pieces that you actually can see, and hoe much of it is located down there.

(voice-over): Each time we got into the water, we found countless plastic pieces, all different shapes and sizes.

Most plastic is not dumped directly into the ocean. Much of what you see has been discarded on land, traveling thousands of miles and breaking up along the way.

The Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic is the world's only body of water without shores. It's defined by the currents of the North Atlantic Gyre, currents that also carry with them our plastic filth, making it one of the five ocean garbage patches.

ALEXANDRA GULICK, MARINE BIOLOGIST:: I think this one's a good one to do first.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, there's big plastic in that spot.

GULICK: Got it.


DAMON: Alexandra Gulick and Noreen Constant (ph) are marine biologists.

GULICK: Oh, these are bite marks, like animals taking bites.

DAMON (on camera): Really? Out of the plastic?

GULICK: Yes, you can tell these are fish because they are little half circles.

DAMON (voice-over): The sargassum provides a habitat for baby turtles and fish, shrimp, plus hundreds of other marine organisms. In the oceans, degrading plastic becomes even more poisonous as it binds with other manmade chemical pollutants. All that toxicity ends up in the digestive systems of marine life, and travels up the food chain, all the way to our dinner plates.

On board the Esperanza, a manta trawl collects water samples, part of a Greenpeace study into microplastics in this remote body of water, and its broader campaign for a global oceans treaty.

(on camera): You can see quite a bit of plastic already, just when it's in here. Has this been fairly common in most of samples that have been coming up? CELIA OJEDA, MARINE BIOLOGIST: Yes, in most of the samples that we

have been sampling, while there was sargassum in the sample, we have seen a lot of plastics because I think -- because they get entangled in the sargassum.

DAMON (voice-over): The initial results of the study are alarming. In its samples, Greenpeace found similar or greater concentrations of microplastic to what they found in the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch last year.

OJEDA: We need to change our consumption, our patterns, the way we rule (ph) the planet, the way we do things.

DAMON (on camera): You have a son?


DAMON: When you see the way things are now, are you worried about his future?

OJEDA: Yes, I am. A lot. Because I think what -- with this and with climate change, what are we leaving them? It's insane.

DAMON (voice-over): Being out this far from land, you can't help but be struck by how interconnected our world is, and how destructive we are being to marine ecosystems. And with that, also to ourselves.

[14:00:06] Arwa Damon, CNN, in the Sargasso Sea.


BOLDUAN: That's it for me.

"NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts --