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Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) On Recent Poll Showing 58 Percent Of Americans Support Impeachment Inquiry; FBI Says Samuel Little Is America's Most Prolific Serial Killer; Legal Loophole Setting Accused Military Rapists Free. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired October 8, 2019 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, breaking news. This new poll that shows 58 percent of Americans now support the impeachment inquiry. That is way up since July when the "The Washington Post" first tested that question. And there are big jumps among Independents and Republicans as well.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill. She is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman, thank you very much for being with us.

And you're in a purple district in New Jersey, to say the least -- a very competitive district. You see these poll numbers where you see people leaning toward the impeachment inquiry. But you've also been out in the district in some red areas. What are you hearing?

REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-NJ): So, it's a mixed bag. I have not received as much pushback on this as I thought I would -- given, I think, where the district and really, where I was several months ago.

BERMAN: So people not yelling and screaming at your town halls like we've seen pictures of from other parts of the country?

SHERRILL: We haven't seen that. I've been going around and I'll have people coming up to me that seem aligned with my position, and then I've had a couple of people come up that aren't.

But, you know, I know nobody not from New Jersey is going to believe this but in our district, actually, we've had some great conversations about it. People really are willing to sit down and talk about their opinions and their feelings in a thoughtful way, which I appreciate.

BERMAN: As time goes on, does it seem like it was an easy -- is it an easier decision now for you than it was 2 1/2 weeks ago?

SHERRILL: You know, I don't want to say it was an easy decision because it certainly was a grave decision and one I put a lot of thought into, but a bright-line had been crossed for many of us. So when I came together with other military veterans and CIA officers in my class, for us, it felt like the right decision, even at the time and certainly since then.


BERMAN: One of the defenses we are now starting to hear from supporters of the president and also Republicans in Congress is his behavior, particularly on the phone call with the Ukrainian leader or maybe in public to China, bad but not impeachable.

Now, you're a prosecutor -- a former prosecutor, so in your mind, what constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor?

SHERRILL: You know, it breaks my heart a little bit to hear some of the -- some of the rationalizations that are going on because I think it speaks to a deep cynicism in our population right now and a lack of faith in our government.

I served. I was in uniform for almost 10 years serving around the world and I know what our American reputation meant around the world. I know how we relied on our allies across the world to help us to fight ISIS, like the Kurds. I know what that means very deeply in a very deep level.

And to see the president withholding arms to Ukraine, to see the president -- to see the president using that to try to have somebody undermine our 2020 elections, and then to have the American population -- some portions of it, at least -- think well, everybody does that, everybody does not do that.

This is not normal and it is not something that just politicians engage in. We don't do that.

BERMAN: So where's that line, though? Where's the line?

You talked about a bright-line being crossed. Is that a bright-line to where these actions constitute a high crime and misdemeanor?

SHERRILL: Certainly, if all these actions are proven, as we -- I think the president, himself, has admitted to several of them -- yes, I think it's a high crime to undermine your democratic elections by using a foreign power to investigate your opponent. Yes, I think that's an impeachable offense.

BERMAN: OK. What else then do you need to hear? What evidence have you seen in these weeks? And it really is only two weeks. It's astoundingly fast since you made your decision to support the inquiry.

What evidence have you seen that supports your decision and what more do you need to see?

SHERRILL: So, I think the evidence of the whistleblower report which, as you know, the Intelligence Community inspector general found compelling and that was his job to see if it was credible -- he found it credible. The director of National Intelligence supported that decision by the I.C. I.G.

So we've seen the whistleblower complaint. We have seen the report of the conversation that the president had with the -- had with the leader of Ukraine. And we know that the president withheld support for Ukraine -- military support for Ukraine that Congress had appropriated.

So I want to see -- I want to see -- I want to hear from the other whistleblower that is now out that actually has more direct information -- who was in the room, evidently.

I want to hear from some of the people that were surrounding the president. I want Pompeo, I want Giuliani. I want them to come in and report what they know and what they understand.

BERMAN: Because it bolsters the case or because it would be necessary for you to support removal?

SHERRILL: Because it bolsters the case. Because I'm a former federal prosecutor and I want to hear -- I want to hear as much evidence as I can to determine how we best move forward.

BERMAN: As we said, you're a prosecutor and also a Navy pilot. You flew missions in the Arabian Sea in the Middle East.

What do you make of the president's decision to pull troops back from the border with Turkey?

SHERRILL: So, you know, one of the first things my friend Jason Crow, who is a former Army Ranger who has fought with the Kurd side-by-side said when we both entered the House Armed Services Committee together was how are we going to ensure that we support the Kurds? Because he knew and I know from all of my friends that have fought alongside them what critical allies they've been.

They've all but rooted out ISIS in Syria right now. They have stood side-by-side American troops fighting very hard to end terrorism in the Middle East.

And to now think that the president thinks that they've just -- you know, they're paid mercenaries. No, they've lost over 11,000 people in this fight, including women and children. This is -- this is something that they have stood side-by-side with American shoulders and leaving them to die, I don't think is an option.

BERMAN: A lot of Democrats, including Democrats running for president, do support the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Is that something you support?

SHERRILL: Certainly. I think we need to determine how we best leave Syria as a stable country without the terror -- you know, without ISIS -- a resurgence of ISIS.

We don't want to see Russian incursions. We don't want to see a growing Iranian threat. We don't want to see Bashar al-Assad be able to even have more authority in the region. So I think our support of the Kurds is essential.

BERMAN: So, support of the Kurds is essential but still, ultimately, you support withdrawal.

SHERRILL: Ultimately, I support withdrawal. But again, in a thoughtful, measured way. We now have a military in chaos. They were informed like the rest of the American public.

BERMAN: If you're a U.S. ally around the world and you see this action yesterday, what do you take away from it?

SHERRILL: Well, I think I take away what our allies across the world have been taking away from this administration for many, many months now -- that the United States is not the valuable partner that it traditionally has been.


Now, I think we can get back into that role. I think we must get back into that role because I don't think the American people -- because sometimes it's a little bit attenuated having allies across the world when you're worried about taxes, and health care, and infrastructure here at home.

But having allies across the world is the way we promote not just our power, but we promote our economic success. We promote our democratic ideals. We grow our values across the world in -- you know, with our allies across the world.

And so, to continue to leave those alliances, to continue to try to go it alone or to do everything by ourselves really decrease American power at a time when we see increasing Chinese power, at a time when we see increasing Iranian power, at a time when we see increasing Russian power.

We should be promoting our alliances, not withdrawing from them.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, thanks for coming in. Really appreciate it.

SHERRILL: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Alisyn.


An important story ahead about sexual assault in the military. The legal loophole allowing alleged rapists to go free and the women fighting for justice.



BERMAN: This morning, the FBI is asking for your help in identifying more victims of the man they're now calling America's most prolific serial killer. Samuel Little has confessed to 93 murders dating back to 1970. That number is triple the number of Ted Bundy's victims.

CNN's Dan Simon is live in San Francisco. This is staggering, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And John, when you watch these videotaped confessions, they are so chilling to watch. At various points, he seems gleeful as he's recounting these murders. Authorities believe all of these confessions are credible.


SIMON (voice-over): The most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, according to the FBI. Seventy-nine-year-old Samuel Little confessing to 93 murders -- strangulations that took place between 1970 and 2005. The victims hand-drawn by little from memory.

Law enforcement, so far, has verified 50 of the confessions but want the public's help in dozens of other cases.

Little gave interviews describing each scene and victim.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me about Mary Ann.

SAMUEL LITTLE, SERIAL KILLER: She was what nowadays you'd call a transgender.

SIMON (voice-over): Miami, 1971 or '72.

LITTLE: She weighed about 135 --


LITTLE: -- maybe 140.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And how old do you think she was?

LITTLE: About -- she was 19.

SIMON (voice-over): He says this is Ruth from North Little Rock, Arkansas. The time line, 1992 to 1994.

LITTLE: Oh man, I loved her. And she -- she was light-skinned -- honey-colored skin. Her and about six other girls were sitting on a porch doing some crack in there.

SIMON (voice-over): Authorities say Little targeted women, often a marginalized or vulnerable group such as prostitutes or drug addicts.

This unnamed woman he met in Columbus, Ohio, drove with her to Kentucky, then killed her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you meet this girl -- I guess you're at a strip bar in downtown Columbus.

LITTLE: I went over to the car and this white girl come out behind the building. You know, I mean, my trunk open. She walked over to me and say, come on, y'all, can you take me to Miami?

SIMON (voice-over): Las Vegas, 1993. LITTLE: She was kind of thin, dark-skinned, about 40 years old. She was out there hustling.

SIMON (voice-over): New Orleans, a decade earlier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And tell me where you met her?

LITTLE: I met her in a night club in New Orleans. And while we were dancing she says, you want to -- you want to go riding after this -- you know, after this party's over?

SIMON (voice-over): The FBI says the bodies sometimes went unidentified and their deaths never investigated.

Convicted in 2014 and now serving three life sentences in California for multiple killings, authorities hope someone may remember a detail that could further the investigations.


SIMON: And not once did we see Little ever express any kind of remorse. And even though he is behind bars, the FBI says it's important to get justice for every single victim and try to close out these cases -- John.

CAMEROTA: It's remarkable, Dan.

I mean, it's remarkable that they -- and again, fantastic police work -- that they've gone back because so many of these families thought that their loved one just went missing. And now, they have -- because this guy, who is such a psychopath, has this like photographic memory, they are able to retrace his steps because -- with his help now -- and go back and find the families of these 93 women.

BERMAN: Fifty years in the making here.

CAMEROTA: It is just remarkable to hear him recount all of this with no remorse. I mean, you know, I have a slightly macabre fascination with the criminal mind and to hear the zeal that he recounts all of this with, it is just jaw-dropping.

OK, survivors of sexual assault in the military fighting for justice against the men they say ruined their lives. A legal loophole has allowed accused military rapists and convicted rapists to go free. And now, the Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to step in.

CNN's Brianna Keilar is live in Washington with the story of three rape survivors. So tell us about this loophole, Brianna.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR, "RIGHT NOW": Well, Alisyn, in some cases, these women saw their rapists' convictions thrown out after this military court decision retroactively put in place a five-year deadline for reporting rapes that happened from 1986 to 2006. And now, it's up to the Supreme Court. Do they take up this case? Do they overrule the military justice system?


JENNIFER ELMORE, SURVIVOR: 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 Gen. James Grazioplene. She says she was three years old when she first remembers him sexually abusing her.

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

KEILAR (voice-over): The abuse escalated to rapes, she says, and continued for years. In 1986, her mother, Ann 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."

Ann Marie Grazioplene, who was still married to her husband, told CNN 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 worse yet, if they do believe me, they're not going to do anything.

KEILAR (voice-over): 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.

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

KEILAR (voice-over): One of Harmony Allen's instructors, Master Sgt. Richard Collins, raped and beat her in 2000. Harmony says she fought back.

ALLEN: I hit him in the face. 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 (voice-over): A military jury sentenced Collins to 16 1/2 years in prison in 2017, but he served just two before successfully appealing. Collins' lawyer declined to comment for this story.

D.K.: Well, after it happened, I didn't think anybody would believe me.

KEILAR (voice-over): D.K., whose identity CNN is not disclosing, was raped in 2005 by Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Briggs.

D.K. I told him no, I didn't want to. I told him to stop. And 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 (voice-over): Eight years later, D.K. officially reported her rape to the military. Then she called Michael Briggs on the phone.

LT. COL. MICHAEL BRIGGS, U.S. AIR FORCE: Lieutenant Colonel Briggs.

D.K.: Hi, this is Sergeant (bleep). Actually, you probably remember me as Airman (bleep) from when we were stationed at Luke together.


KEILAR (voice-over): Air Force investigators were recording the call.

D.K. 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 --

D.K. 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 raping you.

KEILAR (voice-over): Briggs was convicted in 2014, but a court dismissed his conviction this year and 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, 48TH SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: The Department of Justice's goal is not just to win but to ensure that justice is served.

KEILAR (voice-over): Solicitor General Noel Francisco, seen here at this 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 here is that first of all, the appeals court for the armed forces got it wrong, and that the Supreme Court should correct that. But also, in a larger sense, is saying this is very important to larger military policy.


KEILAR (voice-over): 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 Christensen was chief prosecutor for the Air Force 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 FORCE: You have a rapist or a sex offender who knows that 99 percent of the time he or she will never be held accountable. They're disincentivized to ever change. It also sends a bad message to the entire force that this is something we don't care about.

KEILAR (voice-over): Jennifer Elmore has sought justice elsewhere, in Virginia, where there is no statute of limitations for rape. Retired Gen. Grazioplene is scheduled to stand trial there in January on multiple rape counts. He has yet to enter a plea.

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

KEILAR (voice-over): 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.


KEILAR: Now, 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 on the bench, Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed last fall amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman when he was in high school -- Alisyn and John.

BERMAN: Wow. Brianna, first of all, this report is amazing -- just amazing work. To see all the on-the-record accounts and the courage of these women --

CAMEROTA: Naming names.

BERMAN: -- to come forward, naming names. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this. What's the argument against changing this at this point?

KEILAR: The argument obviously comes from the attorney of Briggs, right? One of the main cases here is this U.S. v. Briggs.

And the argument is largely that the Supreme Court shouldn't get involved because it only affects not too many people, right? That's one of the arguments. And also, they're arguing that the military appeals court got it right. Of course, the government is arguing that the military appeals court got it wrong.

And everyone that I've spoken to, from Republican members of Congress, like Brian Mast of Florida, who is spearheading a law that would also deal with this issue -- they all say this is terrible for the armed forces.

Yes, it affects these women who have either seen their rapists be convicted or have accused rapists and started to go through the court process. But this also is a larger issue about the message that this sends to women who are in the military or might be considering joining the military.

CAMEROTA: Well, definitely. If they want to clean up the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, they need to have some sort of accountability and justice, obviously.

Brianna, thank you very much for bringing this -- that really horrifying story to us.

BERMAN: What a story.

KEILAR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: It's incredible.

BERMAN: All right.

And thank you to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN NEWSROOM WITH MAX FOSTER" is next.

For our U.S. viewers, new poll numbers that should have the Trump administration worried about impeachment. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, is testifying to Congress.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He was heavily involved in the run-up of this call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he's doing here is he's carrying the president's brief here.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): There is no quid pro quo here.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we've been in Syria for a long time. We have to bring our people back home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now to say this is an endless war, I just have to vehemently disagree.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's fair to say troops on the ground not happy about having to pack and go.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, October eighth, 8:00 now in the East.

And about 90 minutes from now, three House committees will hear testimony from another key player in the impeachment inquiry. Gordon Sondland is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and he was a huge donor to Donald Trump's inaugural committee. He is now squarely in the middle of the impeachment inquiry.

So you'll remember that text message released by House Democrats last week that shows Sondland working with another envoy to get Ukraine to agree to investigate Joe Biden and his son in exchange for a meeting between President Trump and Ukraine's new president.

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine texted, "Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?" To which Gordon Sondland replied -