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Trump's EPA Repeals Obama-Era Clean Water Regulation; NTSB Says Dive Boat Didn't Have Crewmember on Required Watch; How John Roberts Killed Trump's Citizenship Question; Justify Failed Drug Test before 2018 Triple Crown Win; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Accused of Lying to The Queen; An Army First, Two Sisters Earn General's Rank; Female General Weighs in on Women in Combat. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 12, 2019 - 15:30   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Breaking news out of Trump's EPA. Rules protecting clean water in the U.S. now joins other Obama era regulations on the Trump administration's chopping block. Moments ago the Environmental Protection Agency announcing it is repealing federal protections of wetlands and streams. Rene Marsh is with me now. And Rene, explain exactly what this does.

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: So Brooke, this is a move that environmentalists say will mean just one thing, less protection for these small waterways and in turn that could mean more polluted waterways and put drinking water for millions of Americans at risk. So what this regulation did was define what bodies of water are protected under the Federal Clean Water Act.

And the complaint from Republicans has always been that the federal government was essentially overreaching, taking control of rural America's land. And if you remember, very early on President Trump promised that his EPA would repeal the regulation and today they officially did. I want you to listen to the head of the EPA just a short time ago.


ANDREW WHEELER, ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: Today's final rule puts an end to an egregious power grab. Eliminates an ongoing patchwork of Clean Water Act regulations and restores a long-standing and familiar regulatory framework while we consider public comments on our proposed revised definition of waters of the United States. We're delivering on the President's regulatory reform agenda.



MARSH: Well, this will no doubt, it's going to face litigation. That's without question. But, Brooke, what was really striking about today's announcement, wasn't just what was said, because we expected that the Trump administration would eventually do this. What was striking is where this announcement was made. It happened at the National Association of Manufacturers. That's a trade group that lobbied against this Obama era rule and whose legal arm actually sued to block it.

We saw the CEO introduce the head of the EPA there to make this announcement. So again, you have a federal regulatory agency making policy announcements at the offices of a lobbying group. So Brooke, gone are the days where optics and ethics are certainly a concern.

BALDWIN: Rene Marsh, thank you very much for that.

Also some breaking news out of California, where the National Transportation Safety Board has just released its preliminary findings on that Labor Day scuba diving boat fire that killed 34 people. The report found that the "Conception" dive boat did not have a crew member on roving overnight watch, which is a violation. This is what the NTSB Chairman told CNN just moments ago.


ROBERT SUMWALT, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: -- news to this point have indicated that the five surviving crew members were in fact asleep at the time that the fire broke out.

MARSH: That is a clear violation of the regulations, the fact that all of these crew members were sleeping when the fire broke out.

SUMWALT: Part of the certificate for this vessel required that there be constantly a roving watch person to keep an eye on the safety of the vessel, and the interviews to this point have indicated that that did not transpire.


BALDWIN: And we have just gotten a statement in from the owner of that boat. This company Truth Aquatics issuing this statement saying they have witness testimony that, quote, seems to contradict the notion that the entire crew was asleep. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is preparing to finally lift this boat out of the water. The last missing victim was found and recovered from the wreckage just yesterday.

Coming up next, a CNN exclusive. New details about why Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind and blocked the citizenship question on the 2020 census.



BALDWIN: Are you a U.S. citizen? The President of the United States wanted to put that question on the upcoming 2020 census. The U.S. Supreme Court voted it down back in June but we're just learning that Chief Justice John Roberts who cast the deciding vote against it actually changed his mind at the last moment to swing the ruling. And CNN's Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic, has more on this 11th-hour switch. Joan, this is fascinating. Because obviously, initially, the conservative Chief Justice, you know, suggested there were grounds for adding the citizenship question. So why did he change his mind?

JOAN BISKUPIC, SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes. He first of all, from start to finish, believed that Secretary Ross should have great discretion to do that, but what he came to believe sometime between late April when the Justices first took up the case and June when he announced the ruling from the bench was that Secretary Ross had invented his rationale here for why the citizenship query should even be on the census.

Remember, that Secretary Ross said that the administration needed to ask about citizenship to help enforce the Voting Rights Act. And you know, initially the chief was open to that rationale, but the more he looked at it, the more he was persuaded by colleagues, he came to believe that was contrived and most importantly that it mattered to the bottom-line ruling. You know, as I said, the chief was willing to give great latitude to the administration and he says that in his ruling for the bulk of the ruling, but then says, this just went too far.

BALDWIN: This isn't the first time there's been this, you know, unpredictable shift. Remember, it was his surprising vote that saved the Affordable Care Act in 2012. What does it say to you that Justice Roberts, Chief Justice Roberts, is willing to switch it up on these issues?

BISKUPIC: You know, it's interesting you recalled that, because this is reminiscent of 2012 when he, again, joined with the four liberals on the bench to uphold President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. And separated himself from the four conservatives even though he gave the conservative side something back in 2012 just as he did this time around in the census case. Both of those cases were of immense national importance. Both politically fraught and they both came down to the wire.

BALDWIN: Joan Biskupic with the SCOTUS scoop, thank you very much. Good to see you.


BALDWIN: Now to this. The prestige of the Triple Crown is now being clouded by this new report in the "New York Times." It claims the 2018 winner, Justify, failed a drug test before he raced in the Kentucky Derby. The "Times" is reporting that those results would have disqualified this horse from competition. But what's more here,


The "Times" also reports that the California Racing Board and Justify's trainer knew about the test results and that the Board secretly made the case disappear. Dianne Gallagher is our CNN national correspondent. Dianne, how could something like this have happened and what kind of drug was it? DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So Brooke, it's a drug

called scopolamine, and it can occur in two different forms, basically. This could have been given to a horse as a performance- enhancing drug that opens up the airwaves and sort of allows their heart rate to be better for racing. But it can also occur as a natural contaminant in something that basically, it's kind of like a, around like horse dung and things like that, that they could eat it. But it's not just how they found it in there. It's what happened with this California Horse Racing Board afterwards.

So naturally what they normally would do according to their own standard, is that would report this immediately. They would do a speedy disqualification and they would have made a public complaint. And in this particular case, after Justify failed the drug test, they did everything behind closed doors according to this "New York Times" report. And then they just went ahead, dismissed the case behind closed doors and they went to move to where they would lessen the penalty for scopolamine found in a horse's system.

Afterward and again the "New York Times" says all of this happened completely opposite of what the standard of the horse racing board was supposed to do.

BALDWIN: So what is -- I know the California Racing Board is speaking out. Justify's trainer is speaking out. What are they saying?

GALLAGHER: So Brooke, I'm going to tell you, these are strong, strong responses to this article. I want to go first to Justify's trainer, Bob Baffert, who is very famous within the horse racing world. His attorney said, quote, your article is long on sensationalism, short on facts and does a great disservice to Mr. Baffert, Justify and the entire horse industry. The attorney went on to say, of course, that he said Justify passed drug tests before the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont stakes, of course, which won him that Triple Crown there, and said that this is basically just propaganda in his mind.

The Executive Director of the California Horse Racing Board said that, we take seriously the integrity of horse racing in California and are committed to implementing the highest standards of safety and accountability for all horses, jockeys and participants.

But, again, Brooke, this "New York Times" article even if the drug came from a natural contaminate it basically says that California Horse Racing Board defied its own standards for this horse.

BALDWIN: Dianne Gallagher. Thank you very much. We'll watch the fight as it continues. Coming up next, an army first. Two sisters each earning the rank of general. My conversation with these inspiring women and their take on women in combat, next.



BALDWIN: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under fire right now amid claims that he lied to the Queen over suspending Parliament in the run up to this Brexit deadline. The Prime Minister rejects the accusations but the questions remain. CNN's Bianca Nobilo has the details.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke, it's been a tough couple of weeks for the new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Last week he lost a series of votes on Brexit in the U.K. Parliament. His own brother resigned from his government job and the Prime Minister faced widespread criticism. Including from lawmakers within his own party, mainly over his decision to shut down Parliament. Now even the Queen is being dragged into the latest political crisis.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you lie to the Queen when you advised her to prorogue to suspend Parliament?

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely not. That is indeed, as I say, the high court in England plainly agrees with us. But the Supreme Court will have to decide.


NOBILO: Technically, the Parliament was shut down by the Queen but it was on the advice of Boris Johnson. A Scottish court ruled this week that the shutdown was unlawful, because it was designed to obstruct Parliament. Now Johnson's government is appealing the decision in the U.K. Supreme Court which will hear the case next week. Either way, it's yet another distraction for the government as the clock ticks down to Brexit. Back to you -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: For the first time in history, the U.S. Army has its first pair of female generals who also happen to be sisters. Major General Maria Barrett is the Commanding General of NetCom, the Army's information networks and her sister Brigadier General Paula Lodi is Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the Army Surgeon General's office. They both served in the Gulf War. General Lodi has also deployed to Iraq. They're both joining me now from Washington, D.C. and, Generals, it is truly, truly an honor. Just looking at the two of you, how decorated you both are, this is a wow. This is a wow. Thank you.



BALDWIN: To both of you, what does it feel like to make history in this way?

BARRETT: Today, very strange.

BALDWIN: Why? Why?

[15:55:00] BARRETT: We're sitting in the CNN studio talking about, you know, something that really wasn't part of the game plan. I mean, it wasn't part of the game plan, we didn't set out to do this first, but it happened through a lot of hard work and commitment to our Army.

BALDWIN: And doing this, meaning reaching, like going as far in the military as both of you have. What were your initial plans?

BARRETT: Well, my initial plans were to, you know, pay for college and then join the state department and be a diplomat. But Paula's -- I'll let Paula answer, but this was always your plan.

LODI: Yes. So, I always envisioned a career in the military. Ever since I was a young girl, very drawn to the military and its culture. And have just been very blessed to have found a career that I just love. And had it agree with me. I will say my first interest in the military was after watching a documentary on the first women at West Point. And I mentioned wanting to join the service. And my father was very supportive. And as I say, if you're a young girl and your father favors something that you want to do with your life, you tend to --

BALDWIN: You listen.

LODI: You tend to listen. And you tend to grab ahold of that approval and that encouragement.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you, it was in the news a bit recently, General James Mattis who recently resigned as Defense Secretary. He was asked, he was sitting on a stage and he was asked about women in combat. And he raised concerns about the potential of intimate relations, right, between some men and women in the same units. So this is part of what he said.


JAMES MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm not against the issue just intrinsically. And I think we have to be darn careful going to where the veneer of civilization is peeled off of you in combat, completely. At times you're just fighting to keep from going insane or losing your ethics and your morality. And in that environment, you're going to put young men and women at the time when they grow very fond for one another. And respect for their sexuality should be part of that decision.


BALDWIN: Do you think that that is a valid concern, for women and men together?

BARRETT: I think, you know, Secretary Mattis' description of the challenges in combat are spot-on. It is a very tough experience for the soldiers who experience that kind of fight. I think what the Army recognized was that we had women in some of these positions, they were flying aviation support. They were doing logistical support. We were doing medical support. Field surgical teams like some of the ones that my sister has commanded, communication support.

And so, the lines of where, you know, you would be eliminating a good portion of our fighting force, if you were trying to restrict women from where they are on the battlefield. So, I think that there are challenges, when you put people into stressed environments, like the one Secretary Mattis was describing. But knowing that we have that challenge helps us better prepare for how to deal with what he was talking about in that clip.

BALDWIN: Sure. And let me just, I want to end with General Lodi, with you and your two daughters. Did I read you have two daughters in the Army? And what words of advice did you offer them?

LODI: So, I do. I have a daughter who is in the reserves. She's a behavioral health technician in the reserves. Just contracted with her university for ROTC, to join ROTC. And I have another daughter who just left for basic training, for Army basic training. My advice to them is go challenge yourself. Go figure out who you are. Go see what you're made of. And what things you're capable of conquering that you never thought imaginable.

And they may make a career in the army. And they may not, and that's OK. I want them to be happy. But I want them to know a little bit more about themselves than they do today. And I want them to know what it feels like to serve our country.

Yes, ma'am, that is something being of ourselves and challenging ourselves is something we all should be doing every single day. General Barrett and General Lodi, truly an honor and privilege. Thank you.

LODI: Thank you.

BARRETT: Thank you, Brooke.


BALDWIN: So, so great to talk to them after the show yesterday. Ladies thank you very much for everything you do for this country. And thank you for being with me for two hours. Let's go to Jake in Washington. "THE LEAD" starts right now.