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Hurricane Dorian On Track To Hit Florida As A Category 4; Trump Praises Florida After Slamming Puerto Rico; Washington Post: Biden Mixed Up The Details Of At Least Three Real War Stories Into One Story That Never Happened; Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) is Interviewed About Trump Considering Blocking $250M in Military Aid to Ukraine; Powerful $2B Bond Bail Industry Makes Money Off the Poor. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 29, 2019 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: ... against climate change. To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, bracing for impact. Hurricane Dorian on track to become a category four storm heading straight for Florida, residents now stockpiling food and fuel. New details on the storm's path. Plus, the former vice president tells an emotional war story on the campaign trail, but does it add up? And Trump cozies up to Putin again. The President considering a move that would put him in Russia's good graces. Let's go out front.

I want to go straight now to Reed Timmer. He's an AccuWeather network extreme meteorologist. He's been following all the storm news this hour. Reed, as you watch this today, tell us what you're seeing as the storm moves forward.

REED TIMMER, ACCUWEATHER NETWORK EXTREME METEOROLOGIST: Well, today in Cocoa Beach, Florida is actually a beautiful beach day today. Some thunderstorms initiated on a sea breeze front just to the east of Cocoa Beach, but that happens every day usually this time of year during the summer. But Hurricane Dorian is still well off to the southwest. Maximum sustained winds still at 85 miles an hour, that pressure is down to 986 millibars and that likely is the beginning signs of an intensification process. Through tonight, through this weekend, it is moving Northwest at 13 miles an hour and it's expected to continue that Northwest movement through tomorrow.

But I do expect another nice day out here in Cocoa Beach, Florida. But one thing that I am noticing that's different are the gas stations. There are huge lines that all of the gas stations across this area, including Cape Canaveral and inland all the way to Orlando.

In fact, some of the gas stations were even out of gas already today. They did expect the delivery of gasoline at about 5:00 pm today, that already happened. But it already shows you that people are starting preparations very early which is a good thing, because we do expect this hurricane to intensify potentially to a category four as it approaches the East Coast of Florida.

And also some bad news is that it looks like this hurricane is going to be putting on the brake as it approaches and that's usually a worst case scenario, because those dangerous conditions can batter the coastline for days. But there still is quite a bit of uncertainty in that forecast track. Time will tell here over the next few days if it's going to recurve a little bit to the north or if it is going to continue that westward turn and then head across the heart of the Florida peninsula.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Our meteorologist have talked about that very possibility, sitting off the coast there. Tell us the difference now that it's been upgraded to a category four storm as it head towards the coast. What kind of damage could it wreak across the state?

TIMMER: Well, right now it is a category one storm, but it is expected to reach category four status as it approaches the northwestern Bahamas and eventually possibly the eastern coast of Florida. And if you have a storm that's a major hurricane that's also putting on the brakes. It looks like that's going to happen on Monday.

This area will get hammered by a devastating storm surge that will last for multiple title cycles. Also, the very heavy rainfall is something that is a little bit overlooked when these large hurricanes approach. But when stall out, those prolific rainfall rates just hammer the area and you also have the storm surge flooding, I just mentioned and those winds are gusting over 150 miles an hour with a category four storm just battering the coastline here across the Florida peninsula.

If that scenario does unfold, it would be an absolute devastation here across basically the entire peninsula.

SCIUTTO: Yes and just in time for, of course, the holiday weekend. Thanks very much, Reed. We know you're going to stay on top of it.

This is Dorian from the International Space Station. It is expected to become a category four storm over the next several days. That would make it the strongest hurricane to hit Florida's East Coast since Andrew in 1992 and right now there is nothing in its way but the warm waters.

Hurricanes, of course, feed on those warm waters, makes them stronger, more powerful. Tom Sater is out front live in the Weather Center. So Tom, if Dorian hits Florida on the course that it is, third major hurricane it has been these years to hit the peninsula there. Tell us what we're learning.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST AND WEATHER ANCHOR: Yes. I mean we just had Michael last year and Irma the year before. I expect this to be at category two late tonight or overnight. It's still small in size, Jim, but it should grow a little bit larger obviously in days, notice the trailing band.

Puerto Rico is getting a lot heavier rain today with thunderstorms than they did yesterday when the center was a lot closer. As we take it though in the future, what has changed for our viewers from yesterday, the National Hurricane Center making landfall at category three, they've increased that to a category four.

That's not a surprise, because yesterday we had it at category three well out into the waters. So that's plenty of time for to really surge in those warmer waters that are going to go from the mid 80s to the upper 80s. But the biggest thing here and Reed mention it, this is a cone of uncertainty and it's titled that for reason.

[19:05:02] The European model put on the brakes like he mentioned and that means more than just sitting off the coast and churning and churning up the coast, that's terrible. But it also will sit there for a while and give the surrounding environment time to decide where it wants to take it. It's anybody's guess.

One thing is for sure, the last several days the models have been jumping all over the place and they will continue to do that. This is what we're looking at now, in red is the GFS, that's the U.S. model. We like to compare these two, there are many more. And, of course, the yellow is the European.

Both of these today drop significantly from the north down to the south, more of a drop for the European model and historically this is a pretty good model that we like to rely upon. We're going to see, I know this may be hard to see but there's a blue dot and we put both models on top of each other and let's see what they do.

Right now they're in agreement. You can't see the U.S. model, it's just the European. We go forward. Now, this is now Monday morning. Instead of a late Sunday night, it's still offshore. But look at the European, it's down toward Nassau in Bahamas when the U.S. model is still offshore as well.

So again, this is uncertain as far as even when the timing may occur. The U.S. takes it to the south, well south. You can see we're around West Palm here and this is Tuesday overnight. So I know there are so many people just want to know what's going to happen in my community right now, we can't really tell you.

American model, south of Fort Pierce, there's about West Palm and then you come over the European and you're still down in Nassau, Bahamas. So it could go to the keys and into the gulf. This could slide up to the north and still get to Georgia or the Carolinas. Even the American model, Jim, from Wednesday night run headed up south of Jacksonville and then you look at tonight's and go down to the south, so this is up in the air.

Anybody who tells you that they know exactly where this is going to make landfall, they'll sell you oceanfront property in Arizona. Do not buy it right now. But because that system may stall off the coast, this ball game, Jim, could be played in anyone's backyard.

The steering currents are still undecided here. We know there will be though tropical storm force winds moving in toward Florida and this will be late Saturday and toward Saturday night and Sunday morning, obviously. So there's still a lot of preparation that can be done. Instead of one good day, we may be able to squeeze two to finish those jobs up.

SCIUTTO: Well, one thing they have in common, it seems that Florida is in their sights. Tom Sater, we know you're going to stay on top of it.


SCIUTTO: These things can change in the final hours and days.


SCIUTTO: Out front now, the Mayor of Fort Pierce, Florida, Linda Hudson. Mayor, you've been listening to these reports. I know you're watching very closely to the storm's path. Fort Pierce though on the current path could take a direct hit. Tell us what your biggest fear is right now.

LINDA HUDSON, MAYOR OF FORT PIERCE: Well, we need to take this storm seriously as we always do, but we have lots of preparations in place. Our city is prepared and our county is getting prepared. The biggest fear probably would be a kind of a repeat from 2004 when this storm, one of those storms, Frances or Jeanne hovered around our area and went through to title cycles.

So that would be a big concern, but we can weather this storm. We're very experienced in hurricanes and we're ready for it and we will be ready for it.

SCIUTTO: Well, that's a good point. Like does the storm hit when the tide is high, of course, that leads to storm surge, that means flooding.

HUDSON: Right.

SCIUTTO: The entire state currently under a state of emergency. At what point will you urge residents to start evacuating? I know it's early, but how long before the storm hits the coast do you start to make those recommendations?

HUDSON: Well, our residents are already paying attention and if they're going to evacuate, they've already started. And probably tomorrow will be a big push to leave the area and they make their own decisions, but they're following the weather reports and I have a feeling the biggest push will be tomorrow and Saturday.


HUDSON: The people that will be leaving will be leaving then.

SCIUTTO: All right. Well, all I could say to folks watching now is when you get those warnings, listen to them. Oftentimes people don't listen and, of course, they pay the consequences. A category four storm, this is significant, sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. What could that mean for your city? HUDSON: Well, we're an older city by Florida standards. We were

incorporated in 1901. We have a lot of older housing stock. But by the same token, our houses have withstood a lot of hurricanes and we've been through quite a few recently as you said earlier. So the damage could be foliage and trees down and yards ruined and maybe roofs blown off, but a lot of the storms recently has encouraged us to improve our housing stock. So I'm hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

[19:10:03] SCIUTTO: Listen, we wish you the best we know you have a lot on your plate in these coming days. Mayor Linda Hudson, best to you and your community.

Out front next Trump changes his tune after attacking Puerto Rico. The President now has this to say about those now in the storm's path in Florida.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're very ready also in Florida, and we have a great governor there. He's incredible, doing an incredible job.


SCIUTTO: Of course, the governor is Republican there. Plus, Vice President Joe Biden telling supporters an emotional war story.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER UNITED STATES VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This guy climbed down the ravine, carried this guy up on his back under fire and the general wanted me to pin a Silver Star on him.


SCIUTTO: Well, there reported are some problems with what he's been saying. And it's a billion dollar business that the 2020 candidates want to abolish. And tonight CNN investigates this controversial industry.


[19:14:40] SCIUTTO: Tonight, President Trump's dramatic change in tone on Hurricane Dorian, now that the storm is barreling towards Florida where the President, of course, own nine properties and it's also the state he won in the 2016 election. He is praising the state's leadership and urging everyone to be careful.


TRUMP: Unfortunately, the bad news is it looks like it's going to be making a turn into Florida. We're very ready also in Florida, and we have a great governor there. He's incredible, doing an incredible job. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well, just yesterday as the hurricane was poised to hit Puerto Rico, the President called the island one of the most corrupt places on earth, lashing out against the island's leaders and complaining about disaster relief funding.

Out front now Scott Jennings, he served as Special Assistant to President George W. Bush and is CNN Political Commentator and Maria Cardona, she's a Democratic Strategist and CNN Political Commentator.

Maria, you look at that very different tone from the President as the hurricane was heading towards Puerto Rico versus Florida, what's behind it?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sadly, it is something that is incredibly infuriating, but not surprising after the vile way in which Trump responded to Hurricane Maria two years ago, it shouldn't surprise us. Look, the hurricane is now headed to Florida which as you mentioned it has nine Trump properties. It also has 29 electoral votes versus Puerto Rico where there are certainly 3 million American citizens which I think this president forgets conveniently but they are Hispanic, they speak Spanish and clearly zero electoral votes.

And so I think that there is not a coincidence in terms of the difference in which this president has treated the American citizens living in Puerto Rico since two years ago with Hurricane Maria and then now when he blamed the island for being in the path of the hurricane in the first place versus how he is treating Florida and showing compassion and showing sympathy, which is exactly how he should act. But he should act that way towards all American citizens, including ones that live in Puerto Rico and frankly in other territories and he has been unable to do that.

SCIUTTO: Scott, do you have an explanation for why the President behaves differently as the hurricane barrels down on Puerto Rico versus Florida?

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, first of all I'm grateful that the hurricane is not hitting Puerto Rico and I'm sad and will pray for people in Florida because the hurricane is hitting them, that's number one. Number two, I think the President has well known problems with the way Puerto Rico has managed and any objective observer would argue that Florida is a much better managed piece of land than Puerto Rico is, that's unobjectively true.

SCIUTTO: As the storm is barreling down, Scott, is that acceptable for a U.S. President to talk about it in those terms as the people are awaiting the approach of a devastating storm?

JENNINGS: Number three, my preference would be for the President to treat all American territories and States the same. They're all American citizens. They all deserve the same compassion and the same note towards disaster relief, so I think the President should treat everybody the same if you're an American citizen living in a territory that we manage.

But to argue that the President of the United States only cares about Florida because it is a state that has electoral votes or to argue that he doesn't care about Puerto Rico because it has people of who are Hispanic when a quarter to 30 percent of Florida is also Hispanic. I think only the most mindless partisan would argue that this is a hurricane, it is an emergency situation.

Florida gets hit with hurricanes all of the time and so if your argument is the President should turn a blind eye towards this, I don't even know what to say to that. I think this is ...

SCIUTTO: Well, that's not the argument. The question is the President's words.

CARDONA: Well, what's the difference?

SCIUTTO: But Maria, what's your response?

JENNINGS: This is bipartisan at its worst and at its worst time.


JENNINGS: And I think it's terrible.

CARDONA: I mean, Scott is kind of making my argument for me. Yes, he should respond to every hurricane and natural disaster where people's lives are in the path of that disaster, the way that he is responding to Florida. He did not do it to Puerto Rico twice now.

What is the difference between Florida and Puerto Rico or frankly between Puerto Rico and Florida and Texas when Texas was in the eye of a hurricane also two years ago before Maria and then during Maria as well. What is the difference Scott? The difference is that Puerto Rico most of the people there speak Spanish, have brown skin, are Hispanic and they have zero electoral votes.

I'm sorry but those are the facts. If there's any other reason that you can think of as to why the president treats the three million American citizens in Puerto Rico differently, and don't tell me it's because of the corruption from the leaders, the people in Puerto Rico, the 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico should not be blamed for the corruption of their leaders.

And yes, I believe that they are corrupt and guess what, the people of Puerto Rico got that government out. That has nothing to do with the fact that this president should act in a humane way towards all American citizens and he's been unable and uninterested in doing that.

SCIUTTO: Scott, I just want to quote some words the way the President - just ...

JENNINGS: Maria, what you're arguing is that because people in Puerto Rico have brown skin, the President doesn't care about them during the attack of a hurricane.

SCIUTTO: Let me quote if I can, Scott, the President's words.


JENNINGS: How many Hispanics live in Texas and Florida?

CARDONA: Not the majority.

JENNINGS: That's an insane argument.

CARDONA: Not the majority.

JENNINGS: There are millions of people of Hispanic origin in the states.

CARDONA: Not the majority.

[19:20:09] SCIUTTO: Scott, let me quote the President's words if I can. "The Mayor of San Juan, she's horrible, I think she's terrible, she's so bad for her people." And then when he describes the Governor of Florida, Ron - one, he's been great governor for Florida. He goes to San Juan, "frankly, she doesn't know what she's doing."

I'm just wondering, I mean the difference in the language as the storm was barreling down, I mean, what explanation do you have for that?

JENNINGS: Look, I think it is a well-known fact that the President and the mayor of San Juan do not get along. And look, my preference would be that the President would save these political beefs for after the storm or when there isn't a storm. I totally agree with you on that.

But it is objectively a fact that Florida, under this governor, under the previous governor and the previous and the previous it is a much better managed place in times of emergency than is Puerto Rico. And so I think ...

CARDONA: That has nothing to do with it, Scott.

JENNINGS: ... the President should not go on political attacks during storms. I'm with you on that.

CARDONA: Yes, he shouldn't.

JENNINGS: But I think to argue that this is race-based or political- based, when the storm is barreling down I just ...

CARDONA: It's kind of obvious.

JENNINGS: ... I don't see it. I don't see it.

CARDONA: Well, the majority of the people in Puerto Rico see it. They can't stand Donald Trump and they can't stand him because of how he reacted to them during Hurricane Maria, because of how he denied his vile response that frankly led to 3,000 deaths of American citizens and to this day he hasn't been able to live up to that ...

JENNINGS: The hurricane. The hurricane led to deaths.

CARDONA: ... and to apologize for it.

JENNINGS: The hurricane led to deaths, Maria.

CARDONA: His response led to their deaths as well. The lack of a response, the lack of his humanity, the lack of his caring.

JENNINGS: Lack of a response? The U.S. government ...


JENNINGS: ... has spent billions there.

CARDONA: The lack of his caring.

JENNINGS: We had massive amounts of resources there.

CARDONA: That is what has led to the deaths.

JENNINGS: He did respond.

SCIUTTO: All right. We're going to put it there. Scott Jennings ...

CARDONA: It is true.

SCIUTTO: ... Maria Cardona, thanks so much to both of you. If there is one place we'd like to have politics taken out of, it might be response to hurricane.

CARDONA: You would think.

SCIUTTO: I appreciate you joining us tonight.

CARDONA: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, Joe Biden facing questions about a moving story that he told on the campaign trail.


BIDEN: This is the God's truth. My word as a Biden. He stood at attention, I went to pin him, he said, "Sir, I don't want the damn thing."


SCIUTTO: And President Trump is considering a move that is sparking bipartisan outrage but it is making Vladimir Putin very happy.


[19:26:19] SCIUTTO: Tonight, Joe Biden's campaign trail story that is raising questions. Moments ago the Vice President responding to criticism that he was conflating three different true stories by trying to tell a moving story about a war hero in Afghanistan. Here's what he told The Washington Post which had been fact-checking Biden's claims.


BIDEN: What is the gaffe when I said there was a young man I tried to pin a medal on him he said, "I don't want it, sir. He died. He died. He died." Now it was a young man, my recollection was that in fact pulled a colleague of his out of a burning Humvee, and he risked his life doing it, and the young man died, that he tried to save."


SCIUTTO: That is not entirely the story, he told. Here is part of the story Biden told last week.


BIDEN: Young Navy captain, Navy, Navy, up in the mountains in the Kunar valley in Afghanistan. One of his buddies got shot, fell down a ravine about 60 feet. This guy climbed down a ravine carried this guy up on his back under fire and the general wanted me to pin the Silver Star on him.

I got up there and stand. That's a God's truth. My word as a Biden. He stood at attention, I went to pin him and he said, "Sir, I don't want the damn. Do not put it on me, sir. Please, sir. Do not do that. He died. He died."


SCIUTTO: Out front now, one of the reporters that fact-check Biden story Matt Viser of The Washington Post. Matt, you heard Biden's response to the questions about the story. What's your reaction?

MATT VISER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean the reaction is he's emphasizing today in an interview with my colleague Jonathan Capehart the story of Chad Workman which is a very compelling story, involving an incident in Wardak province in Afghanistan that happened which he got a medal, a bronze medal in 2011.

And the incident does occur as Biden has described it and as Workman who we spoke with describes it. The problem is that, that's not the story that Biden told last week. It's also not the story that he was telling in 2016 on two occasions. So he's been telling a different story that has, at the core of it, this emotional story about Sgt. Workman, but in a different context.

SCIUTTO: So what did he get right what crucial details did he get wrong?

VISER: So on Friday he got wrong several elements, talking about going to the Kunar province which is in a different area than the one that Workman was in. In Kunar he went as a senator, not as a vice president as he stated the other night. There was not a Navy captain involved as he said the other night. It's an Army sergeant in Workman's case. He's not pinning a medal on anybody in Kunar province. He's pinning a

medal on somebody later in Wardak province. And then the other element is that he's describing this ravine and somebody falling down a ravine and going to retrieve a fallen colleague. That is an incident that did occur in Wardak province and the military member involved with that Kyle white got the Medal of Honor which was given by Barack Obama at the White House.

So there are several different stories that are true that are told in a way that is not true. And the emotional core, again, involving one of the soldiers did in fact happen.


And that climax you hear where Biden is emotional is one that occurred just not in the context in which he is describing it.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Matt Viser, thanks very much.

OUTFRONT now, April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, and Lisa Lerer, she's national political correspondent for "The New York Times."

April, are these significance differences in the story he is telling here.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they are significant differences. But, Jim, what you have to look at, we are in a climate of lies being thrown at us from the president of the United States. And we're so hypersensitive about issues of lies.

People who are prone to gaffes we are holding them to the same standard, putting a bright spotlight on, looking at it like a lie like this president tells versus saying, oh, that's Joe Biden, he is prone to gaffing. At issue is the fact that this Staff Sergeant Workman, did say, you know, he died, do not pin the medal on me. All the other stuff is important.

But was it something that -- it's been so long, and he just couldn't get the story right? Or was it an out and out lie? That's the question.

And we have someone in the White House who we know is a liar, point blank. And now, this person running for president is known to gaffe. He needs to get it right if he tells the story. But what is it intentional? That's the question. I don't think it was.

SCIUTTO: Lisa, let's play more of what Biden told "The Washington Post". Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are. This generation of warriors, these fallen angels we have lost. And so that -- I don't know what the problem is. I mean, what is it that I said wrong? (END AUDIO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: I mean, Matt Viser, Lisa, was making a point about location in Afghanistan, different provinces, et cetera. Does that fundamentally change the meaning of the story he was trying to tell?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: You know, I think the emotional core is there as matt pointed out earlier in the show. But I think the question for Joe Biden is whether this becomes part of a larger narrative about his gaffes and not only about that but his readiness and his ability to go head to head with Donald Trump.

You know, you have this very risk adverse Democratic Party electorate that just wants to find somebody more than anything else that they feel is the strongest candidate to beat Donald Trump. And Biden has positioned himself as the most electable. If he starts looking like a riskier choice, you know, through getting details in stories lake this wrong, through offhand comments that he would argue are misinterpreted and just little mistakes like last week when he was in New Hampshire and said he loved Vermont, things like that, he starts looking like someone is more risky to Democrats. You could see this race start to turn.

And there is a possibility that he could lose his commanding position in this primary. And that's really where I think the real risk comes in for him.

SCIUTTO: April, to your point, though, we do have a sitting president who deliberately propagates falsehoods every day.

RYAN: Deliberately.

SCIUTTO: Have the metrics of a campaign changed? In the past, a gaffe, a mistold story might be inconsequential, I mean, are the standards different now when you have someone who deliberately lies every day?

RYAN: The standards are different. Everything is changed. Donald Trump is a game player who changes the whole game of spades, I declare war whatever you want to play or monopoly, be it that. What happens is now we are very hypersensitive as anything anyone says, because we're holding this president at such an account with fact-checking. That's one of the big things.

I mean, for us to watch a president deliver a speech and in real time fact check, this is saying something. We have never had to really do that before. I mean, you have pundit it's talking back and forth after. But to fact check during the time. We want answers, we want truth.

This is saying today what's happening with Biden is that we don't want to have a repeat of what President Trump is doing. That's why they hold Joe Biden and others to this higher standard. Fact check is always great. But, you know, people like Joe Biden, that's one of the things we love

to love about him and love to hate about him is the fact that he is who he is, the this guy who is real. You know me. You know me but he's prone to gaffing. But he has to hold himself to a higher standard because we are fact checking.

SCIUTTO: Lisa, I suppose, before we go, just a quick thought, the question gets to sharpness for what is going to be a long and brutal presidential election campaign.

LERER: Right, and I think the question and the question that April is posing is whether the standard Trump has been able to coast by on. His party, Republicans, his sky high approval ratings, they don't care that he lies and that he gets things wrong. The question is whether that standard applies in the Democratic Party and applies to candidates who don't have the last name Trump.

[19:35:05] And that's part of what this primary is going to test at least when it comes to Joe Biden.

SCIUTTO: And the difference between lying versus factual errors. We're going to be watching closely. Lisa, April, great to have you on.

OUTFRONT next, Trump going against his own Pentagon by considering a move that Russia certainly welcomes.

And the 2020 candidates want to put a multibillion-dollar business out of business. Why is that? CNN investigates.


SCIUTTO: Tonight, Trump gives Russia a favor. Against advice from the Pentagon, President Trump is seriously considering blocking $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, the money would help Ukraine defend itself against Russia which invaded and annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014, also has invaded parts of eastern Ukraine.

OUTFRONT tonight, Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman. He sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, we appreciate you taking the time tonight.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): Good to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, your reaction to the move, is this a -- is this a weakening of America's position towards Russia?

SHERMAN: Well, it's terrible foreign policy. McCain, Mattis, Rubio, Graham have all recognized how important it is that we help the Ukraine defend itself. Two parts of the Ukraine are now occupied by Russia. And more will be if the Ukraine can't defend itself.

[19:40:04] It's also a twofer, though, for Trump. He can reward Putin for interfering in our last election, and he can try to pressure the Ukraine into interfering in our next election. It's terrible foreign policy and an electoral policy that makes us wonder whether Trump is trying to win the Electoral College votes in Pennsylvania or -- or figures that Putin has Electoral College votes.

SCIUTTO: Do you genuinely expect that president Trump is seeking Russian help here to interfere again in the 2020 election?

SHERMAN: Well, it's clear Russia will interfere in our election. It's clear that Trump has welcomed their interference in the past. And it's clear that the interference that Russia will perform next year will be in an effort to help Trump.

There is also an ongoing investigation or on again off again investigation in the Ukraine that Trump hopes will embarrass Joe Biden. And so he is trying to pressure the Ukraine to go in that direction as well.

So, he wants the Ukraine to hurt Biden, just as he got Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

SCIUTTO: And it is true. Rudy Giuliani has been going to Ukraine seeking out dirt on Biden as 2020 advances.

Now, there is a different explanation being offered by Trump's national security adviser John Bolton. He is warning Ukraine against allowing a Chinese company to buy a Ukrainian aerospace company and that that is, he says, the cause of holding back this military aid.

Would that be a reasonable concern and a justifiable concern for holding back this aid?

SHERMAN: It would be something that we would want to change. But clearly, this aid has not been expended the way Congress intended over the last 11 months. And the Chinese interest in this aerospace company is far more recent than that.

No, I think that the real attempt here is to reward Putin and to encourage him to interfere in the next election. But you can always come up with a red herring and say that's the reason, don't pay attention to Trump's demonstrated desire to have Eastern European countries help him win American elections.

SCIUTTO: There is one Republican lawmaker who is pushing back against the president on this. He's Congressman Adam Kinzinger.

He tweeted the following: This is unacceptable. It was wrong when Obama failed to stand up to Putin in Ukraine. And it's wrong now.

Do you hear opposition from your Republican colleagues who have -- and we should note this in the past when the president tried to water down U.S. sanctions on Russia, et cetera, Republicans along with Democrats have stood up to him. Do you expect the same now?

SHERMAN: I expect some to push back privately and some to push back publicly. It's good to see Kinzinger, a member of our committee, come forward. But so many leading Republicans have talked about now important it is that we give the Ukraine the weapons it needs to defend itself. And I went through them before. Rubio, McCain when he was alive, you know, the Secretary of Defense Mattis, et cetera, have all recognized how important that is.

And I think that this Chinese interest in an aerospace company in the Ukraine is just a red herring. What's really going on here is a president trying to help Putin and pressure -- pressure the Ukrainian government.

SCIUTTO: It's quite a charge. Congressman Brad Sherman, great to have you on the program tonight. We appreciate you taking the time.

SHERMAN: Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, CNN investigates a powerful billion-dollar industry that preys on the less fortunate.

Plus, Jeanne Moos on the new era Trump wants to slap his name on.


[19:48:00] SCIUTTO: Top 2020 Democrats are promising a huge change to the criminal justice system -- Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders among those saying they want to get rid of cash bail which they say disproportionally hurts poor, low risk defendants.

Bernie Sanders tweeting, quote: No one should be sitting in jail because they are poor. Cash bail is a disgrace and must be abolished.

But a new CNN investigation finding out just how tough it could be to make that happen. Drew Griffin is OUTFRONT.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two billion dollars is roughly how much money the bail bond business reportedly takes in cross the country every year. Who pays? Underprivileged people, under arrest, who find themselves facing a decision -- sit in jail for months to await trial or pay a bail bondsman to get them out.

CHERISE FANNO BURDEEN, CEO, PRETRIAL JUSTICE INSTITUTE: Most people who are arrested are actually low income or almost no income individuals. And when we put a ransom on their liberty, it has dramatic impact on people.

GRIFFIN: Here is how the bail system works. Let's say you are arrested and the judge sets bail at $50,000. If you have money, you can pay it. Go free. And get it back when you show up for your court date. If you don't have the money you can sit in jail until trial or hire a bondsman to bail you out.

The bondsman will likely charge you 10 percent, $5,000. That's a fee paid to a bondsman that you will never get back even if you are not guilty, even if the charges are dropped.

Add on interest from payment plans and fees, often the debt can last for years.

Iowa District Judge Robert Hanson says the system is flawed.

JUDGE ROBERT HANSON, IOWA DISTRICT JUDGE: The thing that I know is that monetary bonds do not guarantee that the bad people stay in jail. And monetary bonds do not guarantee that the safe people are released.

GRIFFIN: Many states are making changes to move away from relying on money bail, but CNN found out that the business that profits from the current system, the powerful bail industry is working hard to stop reform. It has derailed stalled or killed reform efforts in at least nine states.

[19:50:06] One of the best examples, Iowa. A pilot program called the Public Safety Assessment Tool gave judges more information about defendants, and those deemed low risk could get out of jail without having to pay bail.

Antwoin Stewart arrested for stealing beer was able to walk to his job at a bakery every day while waiting for trial instead of sitting in jail.


GRIFFIN: CNN talked to more than a dozen officials of the Iowa justice system -- corrections officials, judges, public defenders -- who supported the program. But here is where Iowa's story takes a dark twist, because in the middle of last year's state budget process and out of the blue, this line was inserted into an appropriations bill which stopped Iowa's bail reform in its tracks. The public safety assessment pilot program shall be terminated.

It turns out, behind the scenes, there was an explanation. You just had to follow the money.

RICK OLSON (D), IOWA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Lederman Bail Bonds didn't like the program because there were defendants, people being held in jail, that were getting out of jail without having to post any type of bond. They were losing business.

GRIFFIN (on camera): That's it?

OLSON: Market share.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Lederman Bail Bonds, a huge bail bonds company in Iowa, with 150 agents across the Midwest and a drive-through service just outside the gates of Iowa's Polk County jail. It's run by the Lederman brothers.

This is Jacob in Des Moines who told us to talk to his brother Josh. Josh in Davenport declined interview requests.

CNN did some digging and it turns out the Ledermans may have decided money would do their talking. Since 2017, Josh Lederman has paid a powerful Iowa lobbying firm more than $74,000. He's also donated more than $36,000 to Republican campaigns in 2018. That's more money donated in one year than he spent in the past 15 years combined.

And Josh Lederman, for the first time ever last year, made a donation to a Republican representative in rural Storm Lake, Iowa, named Gary Worthan.

Worthan's district had nothing to do with the pilot program, but he submitted the amendment to the budget bill to kill the program. Worthan is co-chair of the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee.


GRIFFIN (on camera): Representative Worthan, this is Drew Griffin with CNN. Thanks for picking up the call.

(voice-over): Worthan would speak only reluctantly by phone.

(on camera): Can you explain why you were trying to -- or why you did get rid of the public safety assessment pilot program?

WORTHAN: Well, from your tone of voice, you are a decided -- what direction this article is taking. And I'm not here to be misquoted or having my comments taken out of context. This is why I don't want to be associated in any way with CNN.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): This year, Gary Worthan, once again, included language in the budget bill, making it nearly impossible the program will ever restart.


GRIFFIN: Jim, what's still unanswered in all of this is why the program was killed, especially in a budget bill? This pilot program didn't require funding and was designed to collect two years' worth of data to determine if it was even working. Republican lawmakers killed the program before anyone could even find out -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, in that interview, you just asked him why. Wouldn't answer the question.

Drew Griffin, glad to have you on the story.

OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on Trump's new golden age.


[19:58:08] SCIUTTO: Tonight, the president believes he is one for the ages. Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who better to christen his own time in the sun than President Trump? After all.


MOOS: Modesty --

TRUMP: Thank you, Mr. President.

MOOS: -- has never restrained him.

So when he called his time in office the Age of Trump, it didn't take ages for age of Trump to trend. Thanks to alternative suggestions, ranging from the age of embarrassment to the age of insanity. And even to the age of covfefe, with extra hamburgers, references to two of the president's classic Twitter malfunctions.

Very few Trump supporters played the game as critics egged on other critics. What age would you name it? The snark ages. Or how about the age of nefarious. Oh, no, that was Aquarius.

And though many Twitter users skewered the president, the Age of Trump is the term you often see used by magazines, at think thanks, and even in book titles, it's almost humble compared to other presidential jokes.

TRUMP: I am the chosen one.

MOOS: How could you choose not to mock that?

SONG: Cheeto christ. Cheeto christ. He's like if Jesus were pumpkin-spiced.

MOOS: Many took the question, what is the Age of Trump literally? The Age of Trump is roughly 6 1/2. Age of Trump is 5. Four years old is the age of Trump. The age of nefarious sure seems the opposite of the Age of Aquarius.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

SONG: No more falsehoods or derisions --


SCIUTTO: Thanks so much for joining us tonight. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AC360" starts right now.