Return to Transcripts main page

CNN RIGHT NOW

Trump Announces U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Syria Near Turkey's Border; Lawyer: 2nd Whistleblower Has "Firsthand Knowledge"; GOP Homeland Security Chair Johnson: "I Do Not Trust the FBI or CIA"; Supreme Court to Decide If They'll Take Up Case on How Military Prosecutes Rape Cases. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired October 7, 2019 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00]

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: And Turkey has relationships, burgeoning relationships with both Iran, a problem for us, and Turkey is buying air defense weapons systems from Russia. They operate independently irrespective, necessarily, of what the United States would like to try to achieve.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: When you hear former Ambassador Nikki Haley say we're leaving the Kurds to die, these are the fighters who fought alongside U.S. forces, what message does this send to other potentially future allies?

MARKS: Yes. That's the problem. The Kurds did some tremendous fighting not only in support of our objectives but on their own to go after ISIS. We had a shared view in terms of the challenges with ISIS. And the Kurds could accomplish tactfully things we could not.

So it sends a very powerful message to those who are on the fence primarily, Brianna. We want those internationally who are on the fence trying to decide if the United States is a place they want to be, be aligned, and on our side. This sends a lot of doubt in their mind when they're making those decisions.

KEILAR: How does the U.S. treat their friends.

"Spider" Marks, thank you.

MARKS: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: A second whistleblower comes forward with what their lawyer calls firsthand knowledge of President Trump's actions on Ukraine. What that means for impeachment case against President Trump.

And the president's allies are doing all they can to defend him. One powerful GOP Senator even casting doubt on the credibility of the FBI and CIA.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:36:12] KEILAR: We are back with more on the bombshell revelation that not one, but two whistleblowers have come forward with accusations concerning the president and his interactions with Ukraine.

Joining me now to discuss is national security analyst and a specialist in whistleblowing cases for the Government Accountability Project, Irvin McCullough, with us.

We know there's one whistleblower, but one of the attorneys representing them mentions multiple whistleblowers. What do you make of that?

IRVIN MCCULLOUGH, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST & WHISTLEBLOWER SPECIALIST, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: This is an easy way for whistleblowers to show solidarity with one another. These whistleblowers are all government employees that presumably worked together inside the administration at one point.

The fact a second whistleblower is coming out in a very public way through the public media acknowledging the whistleblower's presence, that just shows solidarity that these concerns were so big that they had to be mentioned by, not just one person, but two.

This person -- it was weighing on this person's conscience so much that they had to make a formal whistleblower disclosure or at least start the process.

KEILAR: Multiple. Do you think there's more than two?

MCCULLOUGH: I think there could be. The Intelligence Community inspector general, the watchdog responsible for originally reviewing the first whistleblower's complaint, interviewed multiple officials with relevant knowledge. Each of those people could be considered a whistleblower and would probably have a lot to say in their own whistleblower disclosures.

KEILAR: What if there's not just one but two or more than two? Is there strength in numbers here?

MCCULLOUGH: There certainly is. The inspector general substantiated the first whistleblower's complaint as credible. That means that if other people are coming out and saying the same thing, that's just a green check mark of the credibility of the first whistleblower and it's more facts for the congressional committees to actually look into as part of the impeachment inquiry.

KEILAR: Did you find it interesting the attorneys stressed firsthand knowledge? One of the attack lines, although it doesn't actually legally matter, Republicans have said, oh, this is just hearsay of this first whistleblower that we've seen, he's just reporting things he's heard about the conversation. Even though what he reported, actually, he was very closely, like exactly to the transcript.

What's with this firsthand knowledge claim?

MCCULLOUGH: I think that is a response to the president's defenders here. They are all saying the first whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge, which, again, is a meaningless, nonlegal description. But the fact the attorneys are saying this whistleblower has firsthand knowledge is important. That's more evidence that the congressional investigators can then use to make their case on whether to impeach or not impeach President Trump.

KEILAR: Irvin, thank you.

MCCULLOUGH: Thank you.

KEILAR: President Trump's allies are back on the attack with new attempts to discredit the second whistleblower. Now one GOP Senator is even going so far as to question the credibility of the nation's top law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I just want the truth. The American people want the truth.

(CROSSTALK)

CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Sir, do you not trust the FBI --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: The --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: You don't trust the CIA?

JOHNSON: No. No, I don't.

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: I'm confused here. You don't trust --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNSON: -- Lisa Page?

TODD: OK.

JOHNSON: After James Comey --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: You believe the FBI and the CIA --

JOHNSON: John Brennan -- I don't trust any of these guys in the Obama administration. I don't trust any of them.

TODD: You don't trust them now? Do you trust them now?

JOHNSON: No, I didn't trust them back then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Former CIA operative and CNN intelligence and security analyst, Robert Baer, is joining me now.

Bob, how concerning is it for the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee to be talking like this?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: It's very concerning. I've talked to somebody from Homeland Security last night and they're demoralized, the federal government, especially the FBI. These hard- right conspiracy theorists are claiming there is a Deep State, that there's an active program to undermine this administration, which is just not true. I mean the FBI deals in facts, as does the CIA.

[13:40:04]

And you've got a lot of FBI agents now who are asking the question, should I risk my retirement to go after one of these subjects, whether it's Russia or Iran or anything else, because they're truly worried about ending up like the former FBI Director McCabe, under some sort of indictment or threat. Demoralizing, that's all I can tell you.

KEILAR: What do members of the Intelligence Community, when they hear things like this, do? Do they just plod along and kind of do their jobs and keep their ears closed and do the work? Or are they demoralized? Or is it both?

BAER: They're demoralized. Let's say there's a Russian case that comes up. If you're an FBI agent, should you take it on or just turn the guy away? But in a lot of cases, I can't give you specifics, but in a lot of cases, they're turning them away.

KEILAR: And you have reason to believe --

(CROSSTALK)

BAER: This is doing major damage to the U.S. intelligence.

KEILAR: -- that they are literally self-editing the cases they take up because of where the president is on these issues?

BAER: I know they are for a fact. They don't want to touch it. They're very worried.

They're saying, look, this is the commander-in-chief. We take orders from the commander-in-chief, chief law enforcement officer. And if he doesn't care about the facts involving Russia or North Korea or Iran or the rest of it, it's not our business to change this.

KEILAR: So what --

BAER: And that's the state of the government. I have never seen it so bad.

KEILAR: So what does that mean for the national security of the U.S. when that happens?

BAER: It means we're less safe. Let's take Syria, pulling out of Syria. We're less safe. This president is endangering lives by closing off the Intelligence Community, because it is fact-based, he doesn't like the facts, and it's hurting us.

KEILAR: Bob Baer, thank you so much.

BAER: Thanks.

KEILAR: We really appreciate your perspective on this.

The Supreme Court kicking off what it called a block buster term today, packed with cases on a bunch of hot-button topics. But will they take up a landmark case of how the military prosecutes rape? We have details on the legal loophole that is letting accused rapists walk free, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:47:08]

KEILAR: Our next story is a CNN special report about military sexual assault, so a warning that what you are about to hear is graphic.

As the Supreme Court begins its new term today, it will decide whether to take up a landmark case on how the military prosecutes rape. At issue are rapes and assaults that happened between 1986 and 2006. And that is significant because it often takes victims years and years to come forward, especially in the military, and some of those victims are only doing so now.

The Trump administration is siding with rape victims who have gone to trial and seen their rapists convicted, including one who raped two women, only to have those convictions thrown out because of a ruling last year by the top military appeals court.

Now it's up to the Supreme Court. Do they take up this case? Do they overrule the military justice system?

I sat down with three women whose lives have been turned inside-out by this military court decision.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER ELMORE, RAPE VICTIM: I've been asked over and over and over and over and over again, what is it that you want. My answer has been the truth to be told.

KEILAR (voice-over): Jennifer Elmore's father is retired two-star Army general, James Grazioplene. She said she was three years old when she first remembers him sexually abusing her.

ELMORE: In the summer of 1974, we came home from visiting my grandmother in upstate New York. He took my underwear down and he masturbated himself, touching me. I knew not really what was happening, but I knew I was terrified and this was very bad.

KEILAR: The abuse escalated to rapes, she says, and continued for years.

In 1986, her mother, Anne Marie, wrote to a family member that her husband was taking "perverted liberties with my child and had made an attempt at sexually molesting Jennifer. She was sleeping, thank God, and I caught him before he got started."

Anne Marie Grazioplene, who is still married, told them her words had been distorted.

The Army charged the general with six counts of rape more than two decades after the alleged abuse stopped. Grazioplene pleaded not guilty but he never saw his day in court.

That's because the top military appeals court ruled in a separate case, U.S. v. Mangahas, that rapes between 1986 and 2006 have a statute of limitations of five years. The court had reversed longstanding precedent.

ELMORE: The countless times my father harmed me, I would think, I'm going to stay silent because, if I spoke, they're not going to believe me. And worst yet, if they do believe me, they're not going to do anything.

KEILAR: In total, the military dismissed or declined to prosecute at least 10 alleged rapes from that time period. Five victims, who had already secured convictions, saw military courts vacate them.

[13:50:02]

HARMONY ALLEN, RAPE VICTIM: They get their rank back. They get their benefits back. They also don't have to register as a sex offender.

KEILAR: One Harmony Allen's instructors, Master Sergeant Richard Collins, raped and beat her in 2000. Harmony says she fought back.

ALLEN: I hit him in the face and he became enraged and he punched me in my face. He knocked me out. And when I woke up he was inside of me.

KEILAR: A military jury sentenced Collins to 16.5 years in prison in 2017. He served just two before successfully appealing.

Collins's lawyer declined to comment for this story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After it happened, I didn't think anyone would believe me.

KEILAR: D.K., whose identity CNN is not disclosing, was raped in 2005 By Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Michael Briggs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I told him no, I didn't want to. I told him to stop. Then he started raping me. The next morning, when I woke up, I was in a lot of pain. I had blood all over me. I had bruises on my thighs. I was extremely swollen. I couldn't sit down.

KEILAR: Eight years later, D.K. officially reported her rape to them military. Then she called Michael Briggs on the phone.

MICHAEL BRIGGS, ACCUSED OF RAPE: Briggs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, this is (DELETED). You probably remember me as Airman (DELETED) from when we were stations at Luke Toge together--

BRIGGS: Yes.

KEILAR: Air Force investigators were recording the call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You raped me. You destroyed me. For eight years, I have had to live with this by myself. I can't talk about it. I can't tell anybody. You took everything from me. Why?

BRIGGS: I didn't know the repercussions. And even if I did, I wasn't -- I was selfish. I was --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to hear you say you're sorry for raping me.

BRIGGS: I am sorry. I have been sorry. I will always be sorry. For what I did to you.

KEILAR: Briggs was convicted in 2014 but a court dismissed his conviction this year. An attorney for Briggs says he maintains his innocence.

Now, the Trump administration has taken the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to overrule the top military appeals court.

NOEL FRANCISCO, SOLICITOR GENERAL: The Department of Justice's goal is not just to win but to ensure that justice is served.

KEILAR: Solicitor General Noel Francisco, seen at his confirmation hearing in 2017, is arguing that Congress did not intend for there to be a statute of limitations for sexual assaults in the military, at the time that D.K. and Harmony were raped.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: What the government is saying is, first of all, the armed forces got it wrong, and the Supreme Court should correct that. But also, in a larger sense, is saying, this is very important to larger military policy.

KEILAR: The military declined to comment on ongoing legal matters. But the Pentagon is struggling to confront an epidemic. In the #metoo era, reports of sexual assaults have risen dramatically in the armed forces, up 38 percent from 2016 to 2018.

Don Christiansen was chief prosecutor until 2014 and now advocates for victims of military sexual assault. He says the military fails to hold most rapists accountable.

DON CHRISTENSEN, MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT ADVOCATE & FORMER CHIEF PROSECUTOR, U.S. AIR FORCED: If a rapist or sex offender knows that 99 percent of the time he or she will never be held accountable, they are disincentivized to ever change. It also sends a bad message to the entire force that this is something we don't care about.

KEILAR: Jennifer Elmore has sought justice elsewhere, in Virginia, where there's no statute of limitations for rape.

Retired General Grazioplene is scheduled to stand trial in January on multiple rape counts. He has yet to enter a plea.

ELMORE: I'm grateful I have a chance that others have not gotten who are struggling with essentially being told, you're not worth, which is what a victim hears and knows, you're not worth something different.

KEILAR: For D.K. and Harmony, all they can do is wait and watch the Supreme Court in the hope it will decide to hear their cases.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: If the Supreme Court chooses to take on these cases, it would be a first. The justices weighing in on sexual misconduct in the #metoo era, as well as the issue of military sexual assault, all with its newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed last fall amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman when he was in high school.

With another whistleblower coming forward now, Republicans are trying to defend the president's demands that foreign countries investigate political rivals by saying it's all a joke. We'll show you how the president's defense has evolved on this.

[13:54:50]

Plus, FOX news host, Tucker Carlson, comes out against the president's call with Ukraine. Is this the first crack on his favorite channel?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you for joining me on this Monday.

For President Trump and his allies, the push to dismiss concerns of the whistleblower about that July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky as merely hearsay just got harder. This is why. A second whistleblower has now stepped forward, someone with firsthand knowledge of the conduct described.

That is according to attorney, Mark Zaid, who confirmed the details to CNN --

[14:00:00]