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Trump's Personal Assistant Exits White House; DNC Rejects Caucus Plan; Alabama Governor Apologizes; Biden Dismisses False Story; Trump Considers Blocking Ukraine Aid; Military Construction Funds for Border Wall; Colorado Woman Sues After Giving Birth in Jail Cell. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:38] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: She was seen as loyal to the president like a daughter, according to one former White House official, but several sources say that personal assistant Madeleine Westerhout, crossed a red line after they say she shared details about the president's family at what was an off-the-record dinner with reporters. Now she's out, forced to resign yesterday. Her White House phone already disconnected. Sources now tell us when this happened Westerhout was on a scheduled summer vacation.

Joining us now to talk more about this and other topics, CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," and Daniel Strauss, he's politics reporter for "Politico."

Daniel, as you know, our viewers may not, oftentimes reporters traveling with the president, White House staff will give off-the- record conversations this -- like this one over dinner. So it appears what happened here is that in that off-the-record context she talked about the president's family, and he considers that a red line.

DANIEL STRAUSS, POLITICS REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, and, look, it's not unusual, actually, for administrations or top level politicians to say that family and young children are off-limits. That's what Obama said throughout the '08 campaign. And I think that's sort of what we're seeing here, that this information really didn't have anything to do with the players in the Trump administration.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, the other circumstance here, just briefly, is that it appears that a reporter then shared what was discussed in the off-the- record context, and that's what then led to the -- to the firing.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, and that's not something that usually should happen, or should happen if you're having an off- the-record conversation with a source. I mean for viewers who don't know, off-the-record means you just don't discuss it. It's --


KUCINICH: It's -- in a lot of ways it didn't happen. So the fact that her trust was breached is problematic for that reporter because that's one of our jobs is to protect the people we speak to off-the-record. So -- and this is why, because you can get them fired.

SCIUTTO: On another topic, of course we're just a few months away from the Iowa caucuses. First voting in the 2020 presidential election. The DNC is now blocking Iowa from having caucusing by phone. Now for folks at home, may not remember, but Iowa, they have a special caucus structure for these -- this early voting. People come, they meet, they discuss and then they state their preference. They were going to introduce, Daniel, folks participating by phone. They've stopped it and they're saying because of concerns about hackers getting into the system.

What's the significance of this?

STRAUSS: Yes, I mean, look, we're seeing two sides to this. On the one side you're seeing Democrats looking for ways to activate more voters and make sure they are going to vote and participate in the Democratic presidential primary. At the same time, the fact that the -- this new change is being blocked really demonstrates the fear Democratic Party officials have about some kind of hacking or meddling in the election and the sense that making this change would expose voting to a bevy of a different kind of hacking techniques.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and, Jackie, as you know, this is something that's -- it's a concern in district and states across the country here --

KUCINICH: At a time when the president clearly has not prioritized election security, when everyone involved, including the Department of Homeland Security says that this is a prime concern, that not just Russia but China and other countries will attempt again to interfere in the process.

[09:35:05] KUCINICH: Well, I mean, as you know, there was a report released last month by Senate Intel that detailed that in 50 states where Russians tried to get into election systems in all 50 states and in Illinois they were in a position where they could have deleted voter data. So that's -- and there was no evidence that they did. And, you know, the DNC, in particular, is sensitive to this because, of course, they were hacked in 2016.

But it's not only President Trump. It's Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won't move a whole range of election security bills despite the recommendations of the Senate Intel Committee. Will that happen when they return? We'll have to see. But the fact that the Congress hasn't acted either in the Senate, not in the House, is also problematic to make these voting systems a little bit more universal because every state does things differently.

SCIUTTO: Another topic, Daniel, Alabama governor, Republican Governor Kay Ivey, she apologized yesterday for participating in a skit that involved black face when she was in college. This was in the 1960s. Will we see a similar reaction to what we saw with the governor of Virginia, Northam, when it was discovered that his yearbook in college had him apparently, although he denied it later, in blackface.

STRAUSS: I mean --

SCIUTTO: What are the likely repercussions here?

STRAUSS: I mean I -- the Republicans I talk to, the Republican Party officials I talk to as I reported this story yesterday, were really skeptical that there would be much of a fallout. Governor Ivey, they said, was very sincere in her apology and her office did go out of its way to share the audio of the incident with the members of the Alabama congressional delegation.

And I don't -- in Virginia, I don't really see Ivey stepping down. I think the fact that Ralph Northam is still the governor of Virginia shows that a governor can sort of whether something like this.


Final question, Jackie, before we go. Joe Biden, he's taking heat for misremembering or perhaps combining the details of a story he often tells on the trail about a wounded service member turning down a medal. It's -- the question really is the significance of gaffes like this in the current environment. How significant in your view?

KUCINICH: I don't think we know yet how significant it will be because we haven't really seen the repercussions yet since this just happened yesterday. But certainly, I mean, the one thing is, Biden wasn't puffing himself up, right? He was talking about someone else. And that does matter. He wasn't necessarily lying about something he did.

But he wasn't -- this wasn't the full truth. As you said, it was conflating a couple different stories. And it goes on with the -- you know, the unfortunate narrative that Biden is not remembering things, perhaps like he used to, and that is a concern for some voters.

But, as we've seen, his numbers have not moved. Despite, you know, some of the gaffes and some of the things that have happened over the race, so we'll have to see. I just don't think we know yet.

SCIUTTO: Jackie Kucinich, Daniel Strauss, thanks to both of you.

STRAUSS: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Hope you have a holiday weekend somewhere that's dryer than Florida. Appreciate you coming on today.

The president seems ready to block millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, even as some of his top defense officials recommend doing the opposite. Who wants this aid blocked? Well, Russia does as well.

We'll be right back.


[09:42:53] SCIUTTO: Despite a recommendation from the Pentagon, President Trump seems to be pushing forward on a plan to block $250 million in military aid to Ukraine. Members on both sides of the aisle have opposed this move. One Republican even calling it unacceptable. Joining me now is retired Lieutenant General Mark Hurtling, he's former army commanding general of Europe and the Seventh Army. He's also a CNN military analyst.

General, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: So the Pentagon opposes this. Ukraine depends on it to push back against what has been a Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory. What is the justification from U.S. national security concerns to block this aid?

HURTLING: Yes, there is none in my view, Jim. This is a very critical issue for those of us who have been watching the situation, not only with Crimea, which gathers all the publicity, but also specifically eastern Ukraine, the (INAUDIBLE), where over 10,000 Ukrainians have died fighting the Russian invasion, the invasion of their sovereignty since 2014. This is critical foreign military sales. And it seems unusual that the president would pick this one to review.

You know, the U.S. gives literally billions of dollars to a variety, dozens of countries all over the world, and the president has been shown to say, hey, we want to sell more things to different countries. The one country that we really need to sell things to is Ukraine as they continue to fight for their sovereignty and their freedom. So this makes no sense whatsoever.

SCIUTTO: And, of course, the president has claimed frequently that no one has been tougher on Russia than he has, already an auspicious claim, but this is one of the things he has cited as an example of being tough.

Now, John Bolton, the national security adviser, is connecting this to a decision by Ukraine to potentially sell a jet engine manufacturer to China. There would be national security concerns there. But Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he's connecting this to the pressure that the Trump administration is currently applying to Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden. Rudy Giuliani's traveled out there, et cetera. You hear those competing explanations. What do you believe?

[09:45:01] HURTLING: Well, it's certainly an unusual situation. And as you said, I think the important part is, for the last several years, a lot of the president's supporters have said no one has been tougher. He gave lethal aid to Ukraine when President Obama didn't, which isn't quite true. But the fact, if he were to pull this aid or delay it, this would kind of undercut that whole agenda of saying, hey, the president's been tougher on Russia because all of Europe is watching Ukraine. Very few people thought Ukraine could put up the fight they're -- they've put up over the last five years against the Russians, but they have done so courageously and admirably. And it has changed their entire government and their system. They are less corrupt, their military is more professional and their government is actually doing the things that people of Ukraine want. So this would certainly undercut that messaging by the president that he's tougher on Russia because Russia would really like this to happen.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

HURTLING: That is the illumination of aid to Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: Yes, as they would the return to the G-7, another position the president staked out against his allies.

Multiple administration officials are telling us that the Trump administration is preparing to reallocate money from military construction funds in order to build the border wall. I just wonder, of course, this is money that the president could not get through Congress, Republicans or Democrats did not allocate those funds. Is this an acceptable use of Defense Department money for a wall on the border?

HURTLING: Well, it, to me it's not. Certainly whenever you see something being taken away from critical family issues, which much of this is, there's not only some budgeting being taken away from counter narcotics fight within the Pentagon, but also from some family programs, housing, various builds of facilities like child care centers and things like that.

Now, that's to get into the emotional, Jim, quite frankly. And the Pentagon has said we're going to take it away from the variety of programs. But, to me, you know, forget about the military and what the military thinks. This really has to do with the ability of the Congress of the United States to oversee appropriations. It's a key fact in preventing any government, and Mr. Trump, anyone who comes in the future, from spending money on a whim. And that's the key issue, Congress is there to appropriate. It's to give money to different programs. And it's done in the out year. So depending on who thought they were going to get funs, to suddenly take that away, and put it on a particular pet project, which it seems the president is doing, even though that project has been voted against by the Congress, seems to be contrary to what we believe our government should be doing.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That's written down in the Constitution.


SCIUTTO: That document.

Lieutenant General Mark Hurtling, thanks very much.

HURTLING: Always a pleasure, Jim, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Plus, a Colorado woman says jail officials knew she was in labor and did nothing about it. Now she's suing for giving birth on her own in her jail cell.


[09:52:30] SCIUTTO: A woman in Colorado is suing after she says she had to give birth alone in a Denver county jail cell last year. Diana Sanchez says no one helped her even after she told the guard she was having contractions. Surveillance video shows Sanchez pacing the floor, then lying down on her bed where she eventually gave birth all by herself. The lawsuit claims a nurse entered the cell only after the baby was born.

CNN's Scott McLean joins me now.

Scott, Diana Sanchez, she was more than eight months pregnant when she was jailed, so they knew she'd be giving birth soon. Was there any plan made for that?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, if there was a plan made, Jim, it wasn't a very effective one. According to this lawsuit, Diana Sanchez was brought her breakfast at around 5:00 a.m., and that is when she first told jail guards that she was having contractions. And, remember, at this stage she was about ten days away from her actual due date.

By 9:43 in the morning, you can see on the closed circuit video that she's knocking on the door of her cell trying to get someone's attention because, according to the lawsuit, her water had broken.

Relief, though, only comes in the form of a white absorbent pad that is slid under the door. She puts it on the bed, pulls her pants down to her knees and then lays down on top of it.

About 30 minutes after that, you can see her on the video writhing around in pain. And then at 10:44 in the morning, she gives birth alone in this jail cell. And as you said, it was only after the baby was born that a nurse actually entered the room.

And, remember, this is almost six hours after she had first told the guards that she was having those contractions. The lawsuit also claims that an ambulance wasn't called until after the birth, only a non- emergent van.

Now, I spoke with Sanchez's lawyer yesterday and our local affiliate spoke to Sanchez herself last year. Listen.


DIANA SANCHEZ, GAVE BIRTH IN JAIL CELL: That pain was just so -- so indescribable, and what hurts me more though is the fact that nobody cared.

MARI NEWMAN, ATTORNEY FOR WOMAN WHO GAVE BIRTH IN JAIL CELL: I cannot fathom any legitimate explanation for not providing her with adequate medical care and taking her directly to the hospital where she belonged.


MCLEAN: So the Denver Sheriff Department, which operates the jail, sent us a statement which read in part, Mrs. Sanchez was in the medical unit and under the care of Denver health medical professionals at the time she gave birth. To make sure nothing like this happens again, the Denver Sheriff's Department has changed its policies to ensure that pregnant inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital. [09:55:00] It also said that an internal investigation was done and it

found that its deputies followed their protocols and acted appropriately under the circumstances.

Now, a spokesperson made clear to me over the phone that, look, it is the responsibility of those Denver health nurses to ensure that inmates get proper medical care. We reached out to Denver health. They didn't comment because of the pending litigation. Only to say, though, that the health and safety of the inmates is their top priority.

Jim, I should also mention that Diana is out of jail. She's doing fine. And so far as we know, so is the baby.

SCIUTTO: All they did was slide a pad under the door. I mean that's just remarkable.

Scott McLean, thanks very much.

Hurricane Dorian is getting stronger and it's about to slow down when it reaches Florida's east coast. It could be a monster storm, the biggest to hit there possibly since Hurricane Andrew. We are tracking it all. Stay with us.