Return to Transcripts main page


Poll: Biden Leads Democratic Field, Sanders And Warren Battle For Second; Four Crew Members Missing After Cargo Ship Overturns Off Georgia Coast; MIT Media Director Quits Over Concealed Epstein Donations. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 9, 2019 - 07:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, a new national poll finds Vice President Joe Biden holding a comfortable lead over the Democratic field. But who cares because there's a separate -- there are other separate state polls that show much tighter races in some of the key early-voting states.

Did I frame that well?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Perfectly -- I love it.

CAMEROTA: OK, very good.

Joining us now is former Democratic presidential candidate and DNC chair, Howard Dean. And, CNN White correspondent, Abby Phillip.

BERMAN: I mean, "who cares" might have been a little bit eccentric (ph).

CAMEROTA: OK, I mean --


CAMEROTA: -- maybe some editorializing snuck in, but the point is that national polls are interesting but not as relevant as where we -- when we look at New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina right now.

DEAN: That's right. All national polls do that. Look, you have to understand this is 50 separate races and so a national poll, it really reflects name recognition.

CAMEROTA: OK, so let's --

DEAN: They're not useless but six months out, they're not all that helpful.

CAMEROTA: Thank you -- um-hum. So now, let's dive into some of the state polls. I guess we'll start with New Hampshire because that's really interesting.

Elizabeth Warren, in this state poll -- this is a CBS poll -- has ticked ahead of Joe Biden 27 -- she has 27 percent, Joe Biden has 26 percent, Bernie Sanders has 25 percent.

BERMAN: It's really a three-way tie.

CAMEROTA: A three-way race -- a three-way tie. Then, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris.

What do you see happening in New Hampshire?

DEAN: I -- that's what I hear about what's going on in New Hampshire. I hear that Elizabeth is running a fantastic campaign. Bernie, of course, has a solid group of support from the last time he ran. So it is really a three-way race.

Now, again, this is a long way out but these are -- these are legitimate, important numbers that are a snapshot of where we are today. Who -- this is -- I guarantee this is going to shift dramatically with about three weeks to go.

I mean, I was heavily influenced -- I mean, New Hampshire is heavily influenced by who comes out of Iowa.


BERMAN: Well, let's look at Iowa because we have numbers in Iowa also. Joe Biden at 29 percent; Bernie Sanders at 26 percent; Elizabeth Warren at 17; Pete Buttigieg, seven; Kamala Harris, six percent.

You know, it is interesting, Abby, that the Biden campaign has been holding conference calls with reporters, basically arguing that Joe Biden doesn't have to win in Iowa or New Hampshire. These aren't must-win states. They're trying to lay the groundwork that this is a long national campaign.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. They're playing the expectations game but I think we should be careful about exactly what kind of expectations game they're playing.

I remember when Joe Biden came into the race months ago and his aides were downplaying how his fundraising would go. And then he raised more money than pretty much everyone in the field, beating those expectations. So they're trying to sort of temper where we are on all of this.

But, you're right, Alisyn, that these polls in the national level don't tell us a ton. It's at the state level they tell us a lot more.

I was in New Hampshire this weekend with a lot of these Democratic candidates and it is -- it is really -- you know, I would say it's a street fight. You have these candidates out there really just trying to get folks' attention and trying to get them to take --

There was an interesting dichotomy between the energy that you might see candidates inspire in Democrats and whether or not those same Democrats are willing to actually go and vote for them -- willing to say you're my top choice. And so, that's what candidates are trying to do right now. They're trying to convert some of these people into hard and fast supporters.

But for Biden, I also think that there is a lot -- he's defending a lot right now and Democrats are having -- the rest of the race are having a hard time catching up with him.

If you look very closely at that national poll that we've been discussing for the last few minutes, one thing that is really -- what struck out at me was when you ask people who share their views about what they want the president to believe in, it's Bernie Sanders at the top and then it's Joe Biden.

And so, he's not just sitting at the top of this race just because people know his name. I think a lot of Democrats also think that they share his views. And so, if other people want to change that they're going to have to work really hard at it.

BERMAN: Can I just speak in my defense here because somehow I've been depicted as like the big supporter of national polls.


BERMAN: I am, but we'll leave that aside for a second here. When you look at the national polls you see Joe Biden's lead.

I also want to put up South Carolina here for a second.

CAMEROTA: That's a staple.

BERMAN: Yes, but I'm going to explain. Let me -- let me -- let me make the point here.

So, Joe Biden is way ahead in South Carolina. You know what South Carolina has that New Hampshire and Iowa doesn't have, Governor?

CAMEROTA: I forget.

DEAN: Right -- African-American voters like Joe Biden --


DEAN: -- especially older African-American voters who are the most reliable voters in the Democratic Party. So, yes, I mean -- but that is a local poll.

BERMAN: No, but my point is --

CAMEROTA: I think you're proving your point.

BERMAN: No, but my point is this. My point is we're seeing something nationally because it's a more diverse polling base --

DEAN: Right.

BERMAN: -- to draw from that we are also seeing in other states as we go down and it tells us about the support that each of these candidates are getting.

DEAN: That is true. No, that -- yes.

BERMAN: And I think it's important because obviously, the African- American vote is a key part of -- for any Democrat --

DEAN: Right.

BERMAN: -- to win the nomination.

DEAN: Right.

BERMAN: And, Joe Biden really has very solid standing there.

DEAN: One thing you have to keep in mind about New Hampshire is they allow crossover voters. There is no -- essentially, no primary on the Republican side.

So there will be a lot more quote-unquote "moderates" who are going to leave the Republican Party because they're not going to vote for Trump anyway. And New Hampshire -- New England Republicans don't particularly like Trump and they're going to vote in the Democratic primary, and that's going to be really interesting to see what that does.

This is a phenomenon that mostly did not happen when Hillary Clinton was running against --

BERMAN: A big deal in 2000.

DEAN: Yes, that's right.

BERMAN: I mean, John McCain benefited by a lot of Democratic voters --

DEAN: That's right.

BERMAN: -- who wanted to vote in the Republican Party.

DEAN: That's exactly right.

CAMEROTA: So if you --

PHILLIP: We should keep in mind --

CAMEROTA: Yes, go ahead, Abby.

PHILLIP: Just quickly, keep in mind in New Hampshire something a lot of people talk about is Elizabeth Warren is a neighboring state senator. DEAN: Yes.

PHILLIP: I mean, she is right across the border. They know her, they like her. So when you look at where she is and the fact that she's ticking up in those polls, some of that has to do with people are very familiar with her.

The same is true of Bernie Sanders, even in the last election. Bernie Sanders really blew Hillary Clinton out of the water in New Hampshire, partly because he's a nearby senator. People know them and like them up there in that state.

DEAN: It's true.


DEAN: So, right.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys. Thank you very much.

DEAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Governor, great to have you here. Abby, thank you.

BERMAN: All right.

A cargo ship is overturned off the coast of Georgia. The desperate search for several crew members who are still missing. We have a live report from the scene, next.



CAMEROTA: The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for crew members of a cargo ship that capsized and caught fire off the coast of Georgia. Four South Korean crew members remain missing at this hour, 20 others have been rescued.

CNN's Natasha Chen is live on St. Simons Island. She spoke with some of the rescued crew members. So, Natasha, what did they tell you?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, the specific crew members I spoke to said that they are from the Philippines, though the ship is owned by a South Korean company.

There was a little bit of a language barrier but they made it very clear to me that their captain was with them, so the captain is among those rescued. And they also said that they don't know what happened because they were asleep at the time when the ship started listing.

I want to show you what it looks like here in the Sound because it is a sight that really stops people in its tracks. They see cargo ships passing by like this all the time but never one on its side, not going anywhere. You see the Coast Guard that is standing by around the vessel right now. No one is on the ship and that's because yesterday, during the rescue

efforts, there were signs of a fire. There was black smoke and flames. They had to leave the ship at that time.

And right now as we speak, there are damage assessment teams and specialists who are in a planning meeting to determine the best approach to get on this vessel.


Now, some of the challenges include the fact that there are watertight doors, many compartments, there's no power on the ship right now -- and those are some of their considerations.

Also, I just got off the phone a few minutes ago with a member of the Coast Guard, Petty Officer First Class Luke Clayton, who told me they are not, in fact, 100 percent certain that the four crew members are still on the ship.

Now, they have searched the waters around the vessel extensively but they do not know for sure that the four are on there. But they're doing their best to see how they can get back on the boat and search for them, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Natasha, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right. We're getting new reporting just in to CNN that former vice president -- sorry --

CAMEROTA: Current.

BERMAN: -- current, maybe -- current Vice President Mike Pence actually disagreed with the idea of holding these talks at Camp David with the Taliban. We're going to have much more on this in a second.

There's not -- usually not much daylight between the vice president and the president, and the fact that the vice president is getting this notion out there that he disagreed with holding these talks is interesting in and of itself.

CAMEROTA: Indeed. All right, we'll follow that.

Meanwhile, we need some reality and here's John Avlon. He has our reality check today. Hi, John. How do you like that intro?


And in related news, being Donald Trump's top diplomat is a tough job and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had some explaining to do when he did the Sunday shows, trying to put the best possible spin on one of the worst ideas from a president full of them.

I'm talking about the thankfully canceled plan to host the Taliban at Camp David three days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

So when our Jake Tapper asked Pompeo this question --


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" AND "CNN STATE OF THE UNION": When did you find out that the Taliban were coming to Camp David, and when did you find out that the meeting had been canceled?


AVLON: -- the Secretary of State couldn't or wouldn't answer, twice.

And when Jake pointed out that the former Tea Party congressman probably would have been pretty upset if President Obama had invited the Taliban to Camp David, Pompeo tried to deny it.

But we don't have to imagine Trump's response because there's a tweet for everything. Here's Donald Trump in 2012, condemning Obama for, quote, "...negotiating with our sworn enemy, the Taliban, who facilitated 9/11."

Trump's art of the deal on the global stage has been, so far, the art of the fail, alienating allies and embracing enemies. And that's tough for any Secretary of State to explain away, but that doesn't mean Pompeo didn't try.

So here was Pompeo talking about the state of play with North Korea on ABC.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We know Chairman Kim has continued to make the commitment to denuclearize. We're disappointed that he's continuing to conduct these short-range tests. We wish that he would stop that.


AVLON: Well, wishing and hoping won't make it so.

Since the two leaders started exchanging letters and Trump said they fell in love, the regime has continued its missile testing and its nuclear program, even as the president reportedly mulled over a plan that would accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

It's safe to say that if a Democratic president were behaving this way, Republicans would be going ballistic.

Speaking of that, how about Iran? Again, here's Pompeo.


POMPEO: What I predicted all along is if we stayed in the Iran nuclear deal that we were guaranteeing the Ayatollah a pathway towards a nuclear weapons system. It's why we broke away from the deal.


AVLON: All right, let's not forget that the whole point of the Obama- era Iran deal, however flawed, was to stop Iran from developing nukes for at least a decade.

Now, the U.S. is out and Iran is back at enriching uranium to pre-deal levels. But wait -- the U.S. is pushing a new run of economic sanctions and Pompeo says they're having an effect. That's great, but listen to what he says next.


POMPEO: We think their economy could shrink as much as 10 or 20 percent in the year ahead, and that's important. It's important because it denies their capacity to build out nuclear weapon systems. It denies their capability to work on their missile program.


AVLON: No, sanctions do not deny Iran's capacity to build nuclear weapon systems or work on their missile program. They're doing both at a faster rate than before the deal collapsed.

Beyond all the bluster, here's the bottom line. Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon today than it was when President Trump took office. The same is true of North Korea, even if tensions between the two leaders have been reduced.

And as for the Taliban, 18 years after 9/11, Trump appears ready to treat terrorists as equals at the negotiating table.

And that's your reality check.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Very important. Thank you, sir.

AVLON: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: All right, another twist in the Jeffrey Epstein saga. A top official at MIT has just resigned after being accused of a cover- up connected to Epstein.

Ronan Farrow broke this story in "The New Yorker" and he is here, next, with his investigative journalism.



CAMEROTA: A top MIT official has resigned following an explosive new report from "The New Yorker" revealing the extensive steps that MIT's media lab director, Joi Ito, took to cover up ties with disgraced financier, Jeffrey Epstein.

Here's the quote. "New documents show that the MIT media lab was aware of Epstein's status as a convicted sex offender and that Epstein directed contributions to the lab far exceeding the amounts MIT has publicly admitted."

Joining us now is the journalist behind this expose, Ronan Farrow. He is a contributing writer for "The New Yorker." Ronan, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: What is the relationship -- or was the relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and MIT?

FARROW: Well, as far as they had, prior to this article admitted, MIT took $800,000 over 20 years from Epstein. They apologized. They said they were going to donate that to charity.


In fact, we obtained a cache of documents showing that they had a very deep fundraising relationship with Epstein. That the amounts of donations that he was involved in were far larger, and that includes anonymous donations from him and also donations from other billionaires that he directed or took credit from, anyway.

And then, finally, that they actively sought to conceal this, telling staff to conceal visits that were happening where Epstein would actually come into the offices. Telling them to keep his donations anonymous.

CAMEROTA: We have some examples of that that you unearthed. So he directed people like Bill Gates to give a lot of money to the MIT media lab, and the investor Leon Black to give a lot of money -- millions of dollars to the media lab.

And here is one of the e-mails that you uncovered, and I'll read this in reverse order.

So this is the director of the media lab, Joi Ito, as we just said, says, "This is a $2 million gift from Bill Gates directed by Jeffrey Epstein."

The next response, "Great. For gift-recording purposes, we will not be mentioning Jeffrey Epstein's name as the impetus for this gift. I've let two folks in central development who need to know, know. Thanks."

So they knew that this was -- I don't know -- I mean, are these ill- gotten -- if they're from Bill Gates and Leon Black but they come through Jeffrey Epstein, what is MIT supposed to do with that?

FARROW: Well, Epstein was listed as disqualified, is one thing we learned, in the MIT donor database. And essentially, in the course of the events chronicled in this story, they undisqualified him and then made an effort to keep the donations and the contact that they had ongoing under the radar.

And let me give you an example that I think answers the question.

During a visit that Jeffrey Epstein secretly made to meet with faculty -- and hopefully, to drum up more donations from him, seemed to be the goal -- he actually brought two young women with him. And whistleblowers we spoke to said they were Eastern European, it appeared -- very beautiful women who looked like models, not assistants.

This made everyone very uncomfortable. They knew ahead of time that this was a condition that Epstein would be bringing these women. And, you know, female staff, especially, feared for these women's safety.

And I think it's an illustration of the impact that it has when you cover up a relationship like this. He was using the prestige of these relationships to continue his activities.

Now, whether that had anything to do with these two women or not, we don't know. But certainly, writ large, we know that Epstein was continuing his pattern of predation in this period and a lot of the whistleblowers felt guilty about the cover-up.

CAMEROTA: That is such a great example because it also shows the brazenness with which Jeffrey Epstein behaved. He would trot out different women. Women were always around him. I mean, this was for years and years.

And I guess -- what's the lesson here? That MIT was so money-grubbing that they were willing to overlook all of that?

FARROW: I think the lesson is bigger than that, Alisyn. I think the lesson is that when important institutions that we care about and believe in have relationships that provide a sheen of authenticity and legitimacy to a criminal -- they knew he was a convicted sex offender -- it can be used as a shield and it can allow people to continue to get hurt.

CAMEROTA: Explain how it was possible that somebody like Bill Gates -- scandal-free, virtually -- wanted to associate with Jeffrey Epstein -- or was associated or was even swayed by Jeffrey Epstein asking him to contribute money?

FARROW: So, important to note we have a response from Gates in there. He says that Epstein never directed any of his contributions.

Now, the story from people at MIT who dealt with Gates was different. Some of them said that this seemed unusual. That he seems to take up this donation sight unseen after Epstein claims that he had told Gates to do so. So that is an ongoing question mark, in my view.

But as far as Gate's part is concerned, he says I did not have a close relationship with Epstein.

CAMEROTA: So just to be clear, the MIT media lab director has resigned over this. And what was he hoping? That he would continue to be able to get money -- or money that Jeffrey Epstein was claiming to bundle and that people around who clearly knew that this wouldn't get out?

FARROW: You know, this is a community of researchers and people in the philanthropy world who wanted to do good, I think, and there was an immense temptation to take this money to do good. So I view it in the most charitable light possible in that respect.

But I think what we are finding as this community pours out testimonials about how guilty and conflicted this made them feel, as survivors of sexual violence pour out their testimonials about how this seemed to provide legitimacy to a known predator, that there is a cost to that. And the cost is being felt right now in that community and beyond.

CAMEROTA: And, Jeffrey Epstein did seem to have a particular interest and fascination with these institutions of higher learning. He wanted to be associated with MIT and other places.

And what was that? I mean, he just -- it's more than just a legitimacy, I think. It's that he fancied himself sort of moving in those circles.

FARROW: Sure. He seemed to like the patina of intellectual gravitas it gave him. But also, you know, he wore these sweaters of these universities.