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U.S. Officials: U.S.-Brokered Cease-Fire Is Not Holding; State Department Finds No "Deliberate Mishandling" of Classified Information Related to Clinton E-mail Server; 3 Parents in College Admissions Scam Change Pleas to Guilty. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired October 19, 2019 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: He's expected to receive a major endorsement from New York Congresswoman and progressive superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And we should note that Sanders is holding that rally in AOC's hometown there in Queens. CNN Correspondent Ryan Nobles is at the rally and he's joining me live. He said it's a very sizable crowd. What do we understand will happen when Sanders takes to the stage?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You're right about that, Fred. And I think as I told you before, this crowd, the side of it, the energy behind it, it reminds me a lot of the Sanders kick off rally in Brooklyn back in the winter. And that makes a lot of sense because this is in many ways the second stage of the Sanders campaign. He is re-launching his effort so to speak after suffering that heart attack a little more than two weeks ago.

And what the Sanders campaign hopes to demonstrate here in this big rally is that Sanders is back, that he is feeling better and that he is up for the rigors and the challenges of a campaign for president and they're going to do that by injecting a new level of enthusiasm to this campaign in the form of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As you mentioned this is her hometown, she's very popular here in Queens but she's also very popular across the country particularly with young progressive voters.

And that's an area where Bernie Sanders has traditionally done well and it's an area of enthusiasm within the Democratic Party. Sanders hoping that with this endorsement and he's also picking up the endorsement of Ilhan Omar and also we're expecting the endorsement of Rashida Tlaib, all members of the so-called squad. Sanders is hoping that he can locked in that group of voters with that energy and enthusiasm and that can propel him up the polls. Now right now, Sanders pretty much stuck in third place at this point.

And we're now just a little more than 100 days away from the Iowa caucus. So that's expected to be the message here today. Sanders, going to really make the case and if you -- if you're concerned are these big bread and butter, progressive issues, if you care about Medicare for All, if you care about free college tuition, if you care about reducing the debt load that's been incurred from going to college. Sanders is your candidate. And this is a crowd that we expect will receive that message very well. Should also point out too, Fred. I went into the crowd talk to some of the voters here to see what kind of voter was showing up to an event like this. I talked to four different people. Two of them were undecided voters which is pretty astounding, you know, usually, if you show up to a rally like this, you're already solidly behind a candidate.

This shows perhaps a new level of interest in the Bernie Sanders campaign that wasn't necessarily there before. And it shows, Fred, that he has the opportunity to change some minds here today, as he looks forward to this Democratic contest going forward, Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. I just minutes away from things getting kick started. Ryan Nobles, we'll check back with you. Thank you. All right, so we continue to follow new developments in the impeachment inquiry as new cracks are emerging in President Trump's wall of support. Former Republican governor and CNN political commentator, John Kasich of Ohio now says the president should be impeached.

And this comes as GOP Congressman Francis Rooney tell CNN that he would not rule out voting to impeach the president. The fallout coming after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted to a quid pro quo in the quickly expanding crane scandal, then he tried to walk it back. The New York Times reports that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now believes an impeachment trial is "inevitable."

All of this as sources tell CNN that the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, as the U.S. State Department and the White House to grant a visa to a former Ukrainian official who promised to dig up dirt on Democrats. The new developments are setting the stage for another week of major testimony and the impeachment inquiry. As several diplomats and Trump administration officials are expected to testify with a storm swirling around Mick Mulvaney stunning quid pro quo admission, the President's acting chief staff is now planning to meet today with a group of Republicans at Camp David, for damage control and strategy.

Christian Homes is at the White House for us. So Christian, what are you learning about this meeting and that the President himself will not be in attendance?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, that's right. I -- this meeting is coming right after these remarks. So you can bet it will be top of mind. And I kind of want to just go through again, exactly what happened with the acting White House Chief of Staff, essentially, he got out there during a press briefing and double down on the fact that there was a quid pro quo. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That he also mentioned to me in past that the corruption related to the DNC server, absolutely no question about that. But that's it. And that's why we held up the money. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the -- into the Democratic server happened as well.

MULVANEY: We do -- we do that all the time with foreign policy. I have news for everybody.

[13:05:00]

MULVANEY: Get over it. There's going to be political influence and foreign policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Get over it. So that was his foreign policy announcement that he made in that briefing, and we have learned that President Trump was not thrilled with that performance. And he wasn't thrilled with the reports that followed that performance. Now, Mick Mulvaney did issue as you said, a statement kind of walking it back saying there was absolutely no quid pro quo. But again, we have the tape there.

So it's hard to say there was no quid pro quo when he said, get over it when that was mentioned. And this is just one of the things that happened this week that was really giving lawmakers something to push back on those Republican lawmakers. We saw Senator Lindsey Graham, we saw Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing back on this strategy to remove U.S. troops from Syria.

McConnell writing a scathing op ed in The Washington Post. So these are just a few of the things that are happening now, as this entire Impeachment Inquiry continues.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kristen Holmes at the White House. Thanks so much. All right. Let's discuss all of this now. These -- within this impeachment inquiry and the developments, with me now is Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina and a CNN legal analyst. Also joining me is Andrew Desiderio, a congressional reporter for Politico. Good to see you both.

All right. So Michael, let me begin with you, Mick Mulvaney, trying to walk back this stunning quid pro quo admission from that press conference, how damaging is that statement of even the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was an admission.

ANDREW DESIDERIO, POLITICO CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It wasn't admission, it's quite damaging, because he's speaking off the cuff. And generally speaking, when people speak off the cuff, they're probably being a little more honest than they might be later, when they have had a chance to realize they've just made an admission. So speaking off the cuff he admitted that the President is -- was pressuring people in order to arrange for a quid pro quo to get foreign assistance and intervention on his behalf in the next election.

That's -- as we said before, that alone is an impeachable offense but the admission along with all the testimonies that came this week, reinforces the white -- the whistleblower report.

WHITFIELD: Without the whistleblower actually testifying thus far. So, Andrew, you know, we started to also see a few cracks, you know, this week and the President's wall of GOP support. Here's Republican Congressman Francis Rooney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CNN HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Saying at this point, you are not ruling out the possibility that this is an impeachable offense for the President.

REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL): I don't think you can rule anything out until you know, all the facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So Andrew, is Rooney an outlier or in the GOP or, you know, or could he signal the beginning of a kind of resistance to impeachment?

DESIDERIO: Well, Francis Rooney is very often an outlier among Republicans on a number of different issues. So it wasn't necessarily surprising to those of U.S. who cover Capitol Hill that Francis Rooney had said this but I think what it reflects is the growing angst among Republicans, particularly the President's allies on Capitol Hill that there is no really coordinated strategy, particularly with regard to the messaging.

Of course, impeachment is one of the most serious. legal and political challenges any president could face during their term, during their presidency. And they just -- they really up their anger in both publicly and in private with regard to this because they feel like there is no real coordinated strategy and that the White House needs to get more serious about it. And that was, I think, reflected in what you saw in the aftermath from Mulvaney's comments on Thursday.

WHITFIELD: And then Andrew, you know, I'm just hearing that Francis Rooney just told Fox News that he is not running again. Women, do we have that? Do we want to run? OK. Let's listen to what Francis Rooney apparently just told Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LELAND VITTERT, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: You've been here since 2017. You came in as a freshman in January. Do you need a third term? You want one?

ROONEY: I don't really think I do and I don't really think I want one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So then Andrew, how do we fold that into the calculus of him now saying he's not ruling out the idea of, you know, proceeding toward impeachment of this president? DESIDERIO: Right. Certainly, if you're not running for reelection as a Republican, it makes it easier to be out in front on impeachment and just in general criticize the president without facing potential political blowback. So I guess it wouldn't be surprising that that would be his position here. But of course, Rooney is a former ambassador, he served on the under the Bush administration.

And, you know, it's not surprising that he would view this particular situation, especially with what he called the amateur diplomacy of Rudy Giuliani, really blowing up and getting attention behind closed doors here with this witness testimony that we've seen.

WHITFIELD: Hmm. OK. So Michael, now let's talk about the G7 Summit and the White House and Mulvaney, you know, saying that at the Trump Doral Golf Resort in Florida, it would be hosting the G7.

[13:10:00]

WHITFIELD: The White House, you know, opening up the president, you know, two more hearings potential legal problems, you know, raising questions, the emoluments violations but then the White House also saying there's nothing wrong with this because it's the most appropriate of properties after surveilling so many across the country. How problematic is this for this White House to host a G7 at a Trump property?

MICHAEL GERHARDT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it's quite problematic. In fact, everything about it is wrong. The problem here is that this is another example of self-dealing by the president using his governmental position to put money in his own pocket. And so there's a lot of concern about his doing this. And I think what the President's trying to do is to normalize the self-deal and make it seem just a natural thing to be doing, but it violates the constitution.

It's not the kind of thing we want to see a president do. President is crossing a line here when he's putting money in his own pocket. And not actually promoting any other businesses better zone.

WHITFIELD: So do you see? Because it doesn't look like anything but that what you just laid out, so then, who or what body can dispute this from happening or keep it from actually happening so that the President, his family, his business does not profit not just from the United States on hosting this event but profiting from other countries who are going to be paying money to send their leaders to a G7 meeting.

GERHARDT: Well, the constitution is very clear about this. It says the House has the sole power to impeach. So the House of Representatives is the principal body to look into this self-dealing was one of the print framers concerns. They didn't want presidents to be self-dealing to essentially use their power to put money on their own pockets. They call that an impeachable offense.

WHITFIELD: Michael Gerhardt, Andrew Desiderio, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much, gentlemen. DESIDERIO: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Appreciate it. All right. Still to come. A story you'll see first on CNN. Rudy Giuliani apparently trying to use his cloud with the White House to get a former Ukrainian official a visa to enter the U.S. in exchange for dirt on Joe Biden. And a blistering op ed from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and why he thinks it's -- I am quoting now, "Grave mistake," for the U.S. to pull out of Northern Syria. I'll talk to a member of the key House Foreign Affairs Committee next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:16:08]

WHITFIELD: New reporting on President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. CNN is now learning that Giuliani tried to use his cloud with the White House to get a visa for a former Ukrainian official named Viktor Shokin who was promising to deliver dirt on Democrats. The visa was never granted but sources tell CN and the Giuliani eventually spoke with Shokin personally over Skype.

CNN's Marshall Cohen joining me right now from Washington. So Marshall, why it -- is this so important, particularly in this Ukraine scandal?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER AND PRODUCER: Good afternoon, Fred. This is another critical piece of evidence that the Democrats have unearthed as part of their impeachment inquiry showing that Rudy Giuliani has been trying to push and pull the levers of government for the political advantage of the President. So this is one more example of how he's using his influence. Obviously, he's always in the President's ear.

And he was pushing these allegations with the state department trying to get a visa. It wasn't granted. So he went back to the White House to appeal to the White House. Although those efforts did not work. This man Viktor Shokin, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, never made it into the United States.

WHITFIELD: Hmm. And do we know what Giuliani and Shokin may have discussed on that Skype call?

COHEN: We do because Rudy has been very forthcoming about that. Rudy Giuliani has been telling pretty much anybody who will listen in his tweets, in op-eds and T.V. interviews what Shokin said, and it sounds something like this, Shokin claims that it was Joe Biden that pressured his resignation because he would not drop the investigation into a Ukrainian energy company that had Joe Biden's son on the board.

Those allegations are not very widely held. They're very discredited. But that's what Giuliani got from this man.

WHITFIELD: So what's Giuliani saying right now?

COHEN: Well, he said all along, look, I've done nothing wrong. I haven't broken any laws. All I'm trying to do is get attention to a very important scandal. But that hasn't stopped Republicans on Capitol Hill from raising some concerns. We're starting to see some cracks, as you mentioned earlier, they are worried about this outsized influence that Rudy Giuliani, not a government official is having on the United States' policy towards Ukraine.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Marshall Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Next, as multiple former state department employees testify on Capitol Hill, we're getting a new look at how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo feels about all of this amid the Democratic impeachment inquiry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:23:00]

WHITFIELD: Welcome back. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks by the departure of top state department officials. That's according to three sources familiar with the situation. Pompeo also faced criticism that he failed to defend the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from a smear campaign against her.

In the spring, a handful of former U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine sends a letter to senior state department officials demanding they defend Yovanovitch from attempts to push her out of her job by the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

She was removed from her post in May. I want to bring in Ambassador Lori Fulton. She was U.S. ambassador to Denmark in the Obama administration. Ambassador Fulton, Good to see you.

LAURIE FULTON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO DENMARK: Thank you, Fred. Great to be here.

WHITFIELD: So what are all these testimonies revealing to you about the worries within the state department and the trust or perhaps lack thereof in the leadership or support in the secretary of state?

FULTON: Well, I know Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, while I was ambassador to Denmark, she served at least during the last part of my tenure as the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for European Affairs. And so she was one of the primary people in the State Department that I work with. And I always found her to be intelligent, diligent, responsive, straightforward, and absolutely dedicated diplomat.

Also, I was in Ukraine doing election monitoring on the 21st of April, when Zielinski was elected president. And she was still our ambassador at the time. We met with her prior to the voting, and she was just as good an ambassador as I had known her to be. And then I come back and few weeks later, I find out she has been yanked from her post and I don't know any way to say that other than yanked, told to get on the next plane. That's pretty much yanked. I was astounded. So now I see --

[13:25:03]

WHITFIELD: An how potentially dangerous is that particularly during the, you know, the shift of power, the change of power, knowing that the U.S. and other western countries were concerned about, you know, what was going on with a previous administration, that you would have a removal of a U.S. Ambassador at that critical juncture?

FULTON: That was particularly what dismayed me. Not only that she was such a well-respected 30-plus year diplomat who had served, you know, under two other presidents and three other posts, but that she was pulled at a time when Ukraine had just elected a brand new president with no political experience with Russia breathing down his neck already. It's like, this is not good for the United States.

Why would we pull our ambassador? Well, we've learned a lot about that lately, and I think her testimony about that scenario was just amazing. But what's been even more amazing is now that we've seen other people from formerly with the Department of State or with diplomatic positions, including Ambassador Volker, including McKinley including, you know, even Sonland, who now all talk about what a great Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch was.

So it's nice to have them come forward and say she was a current diplomat, and she was a very good one. And they regret that she's --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: It didn't allow her to keep her job.

FULTON: It did not allow her to keep her job. She was still pulled at a time that was extremely important to us. And by whom --

WHITFIELD: Yes.

FULTON: By whom?

WHITFIELD: So that's in my next question. I mean, what -- in diplomatic circles, I know, you know, you're still, you know, talking to people. What is the concern or thought about the influence whether it was the influence wielded by the personal attorney of the president, Rudy Giuliani, you know, making things happen or not happen at the state department, or whether it's the reflection of the leadership of the state department's, you know, the secretary of state and his leadership of the state department.

What are -- what are people saying and thinking and feeling about, you know, from where is the directive coming that influence the state?

FULTON: Recent week show us that the directive for what's happened in Ukraine has come from the president but who has had the President's ear. And I've never seen anything like this where diplomacy or foreign affairs with regard to at least one more state and who knows how many others was sort of outsourced to a private citizen, who had motives that were perhaps different from the national interests of the United States.

Now, how does that happen? That happens both by Presidential directive but where is the Secretary of State? Did we see Secretary Pompeo to stand up against that? Now we've now learned he was part of the phone call. We -- did we see him stand up for Maria Yovanovitch? No, we now heard from a number of people there.

WHITFIELD: Do you want him to testify?

FULTON: He did not -- yes. I would love for him to testify.

WHITFIELD: What do you want to hear from him? What would you ask? If you are in the position of asking? What do you want asked?

FULTON: I would -- I would start with some of these very basic questions, which are, how did you work with Rudy Giuliani when he was calling the shots with Ukraine? How did you work with the three amigos who went over there? Did you direct them? Are you in charge of the foreign policy of the United States? Or are you just sort of hanging back? And I would also ask him, you know, do you represent the career foreign servants of the Department of State?

Because he put a plaque on the wall, a while ago that said he did, but we've heard from so many recent state department employees that he is not. So I think those are important things to be asked, but the most important is, is he in charge or taking direction from the president and working with the president with U.S. foreign policy or has that been outsourced?

WHITFIELD: All important questions. Ambassador Laurie Fulton --

FULTON: Yes.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much for your input.

FULTON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: I really appreciate your expertise and your service.

FULTON: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: -- as a foreign service officer and ambassador. Thank you. All right. Still ahead. Crisis in Syria. Top U.S. official say the ceasefire between Turkey and Syria is not holding. Dozens of people injured in Turkey's onslaught have been evacuated. A live report from the region, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:33:57]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: We are following breaking news out of Syria. Two U.S. officials are telling CNN that the cease-fire is not holding. Turkish-backed forces broke the agreement Friday morning, just one day after the cease-fire was worked, according to the U.S. official. The Kurds have been -- are being asked to leave the settlements in a buffer zone along Turkey's border.

Earlier this month, President Trump announced U.S. troops were pulling out of northern Syria. And just days later, Turkey began its military offensive to force Kurds from the area.

Nick Paton Walsh is in the Kurdish territory of nearly Irbil, Iraq.

Nick, what are officials telling you about what's happening?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two officials I've spoken to say the cease-fire is not holding. One goes on to say that these seem to be Turkish-backed forces.

Remember, Turkish military are along the border, but they're not that many in number, as far as we know, inside Syria. They're using Syrian rebels with Turkish backing to do a lot of their dirty work on the ground for them as you would have critics of the Turkish campaign say.

[13:35:01]

Now apparently, in the last days or so, we have seen the Syrian rebels moving toward Raisalan (ph), according to this U.S. official. Who are trying to improve their positions around it, which has led this U.S. official to say it was, in fact, those Turkish-backed forces that violated the cease-fire.

Now this official says the Syrian Kurds, in fact, stopped their operations but were under attack. The officials say they're not aware of their airstrikes, which is what the Syrian Kurds said initially hit them at one point.

But in terms of whether or not this is something that Ankara is aware of, the U.S. officials says that they're not clear if these forces are acting under Turkish control or simply Turkey isn't that fast about what they do.

I should say, a senior Turkish official has subsequently said they're doing what they can and they're entirely in cohesion with the cease- fire, saying, look, why on earth would we violate the cease-fire that we're so happy with.

Remember, the Turkish interpretation of the cease-fire deal essentially means the Americans will get the Syrian Kurds to pull out of the entire border zone, which Turkey wants to take control of, a mammoth ask, certainly.

But the U.S. version, as far as we can tell from listening to a senior U.S. official, James Jeffrey, who is a Syria envoy, in fact, involves a smaller era, which is under the control of the Turkish-backed forces.

So the great confusion about how the cease-fire was supposed to work is perhaps the reason why we're seeing it, it seems, not holding at all, according to these U.S. officials.

Raisalan (ph) has been the center of much of the fighting fought back by Syrian Kurds. We're hearing them today, at some point, a humanitarian corridor was able to get in and wounded were evacuated from the Syrian Kurdish side. That will potentially certainly assist in dealing with Syrian Kurdish impact of being pushed out of that town.

But really the complication here involved the Turkish believe that the Syrian Kurds are supposed to be withdrawing constantly over this five- day cease-fire period while, at the same time, the Syrian Kurds believe the smaller area is affected and they're simply supposed to stop fighting in it.

Both sides are allowed to act in self-defense. Turkey has said that it has been harassed 14 times in the last 36 hours since the cease- fire began. The Syrian Kurds have made similar allegations about being attacked.

But really, the assessment is this simply is not holding.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much, in Irbil.

Next, new developments around Hillary Clinton's e-mails. A State Department investigation again finds no deliberate mishandling of classified information. What the report did find, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:41:36]

WHITFIELD: All right, the U.S. State Department completed its investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. According to an unclassified report, investigators say they have found no persuasive evidence of widespread deliberate mishandling of classified information relating to Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while she was U.S. secretary of state.

Joining me now to discuss, Nathan Gonzalez, editor and publisher at "Inside Elections," and CNN political analyst.

Good to see you, Nathan.

Clinton's e-mails have been the focal point for Trump throughout the 2016 election and right up until about two days ago. So does this investigation, do these findings, vindicate Clinton?

NATHAN GONZALEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, as with most issues in our country today, it depends on who you ask. If you talk to Democrats, they will say, look, what was the big deal, this was a much ado about nothing. This was a bigger deal in the media than it should have been. It influenced the 2016 election. So they're going to say, of course, it's a vindication.

On the Republican side, this is -- I don't think this will move the needle at all. They believe that Hillary Clinton is wrong about nearly everything, including how she handled her e-mails. And I don't think they trust something comes out of the State Department or a government entity. There's a group of people who don't believe things that come out of those institutions.

WHITFIELD: So former FBI Director James Comey, back in the day, he was heavily criticized when he came out and spoke about Clinton's use of the private server just days before the election. So this new report saying, quote, "There was no persuasive evidence of systemic deliberate mishandling of classified information."

Does it put that portion of suspicion to rest?

GONZALEZ: Well, I think it is -- some of what we were just talking about that I'm not sure that the people who believe that she wrongdoing that this will be vindication. But the timing, especially with Comey, it was about the timing, close to the election, some of the adjectives he used.

I belief the State Department report showed there was some mishandling, but the deliberate mishandling, or the scope and the size of the mishandling, was not up to what people may have thought or suspected from the beginning.

WHITFIELD: What is next? If the investigation is over and there will still be parties on many sides that will either celebrate it or dispute it, what is next?

GONZALEZ: I don't think the president or Republicans will give it up. This is one of the president's greatest hits. This is one of his go- to lines on the campaign trail because he knows the base eats it up. I don't think this will stop anything.

And I think Democrats have tried to move on past this. They have been trying to for the last three years. I think maybe they are happy it came out, to have that vindication. But all the Democrats are anxious to talk about this anymore. They want to move on and look at the other candidates running for president this time rather than the one who ran last time.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nathan Gonzalez, thank you so much. Good to see you.

GONZALEZ: Thank you, Fred.

[13:44:51]

WHITFIELD: Still ahead, a change in legal strategy in the college admission scandal. Some of the parents implicated suddenly pleading guilty. We'll talk about the cases coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Another parent caught up in a massive college admission scandal is going to jail. On Friday, Robert Flaxman, a father that paid $75,000 to inflate his daughter's ACT and SAT scores, was sentenced to one month in jail. He is the tenth parent to be sentenced as part of this scandal that spans from coast to coast. The latest sentencing comes as three parents, who initially pleaded

not guilty, agreed to change their pleases to guilty. Among them, Michelle Janavs, who has a plea hearing slated for Monday. Prosecutors say she agreed to pay college scam mastermind, William Rick Singer, over a half million dollars on behalf of her three children.

I'm joined now by Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, and Richard Herman, a criminal defense attorney and law professor.

Good to see you both.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you, Fredricka.

RICHARD HERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Richard, you first.

Three parents agree to change their pleas this week to guilty. Why now? And why did they found that is the more favorable route to take?

HERMAN: Fred, these are federal prosecutions against these people. And the sentencing on federal prosecutions is governed by the federal sentencing guidelines, which are insane. They're insane, Fred.

[13:50:06]

I mean, look at what happened. Amber Guyger broke into a guy's apartment, shot him, blew his head off, two shots, killed him, 10 years in prison and she's ready for parole in five years.

In these cases, these college scam cases, Fred, when you're looking at money -- wire fraud and mail fraud and money laundering, you could be looking at 40 years in prison.

And the judge in Boston made a statement. He said, listen, the ranges now, so far for the 10 that have been sentenced, has been probation to five months.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: But, the judge made a statement, if you get convicted on cheating for test scores and utilizing the sports departments in these universities, you're going to be looking at substantial time. That's years.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: These people have no choice, Fred. They have to plead.

WHITFIELD: Versus if you go ahead and plead guilty.

HERMAN: They have to plead.

WHITFIELD: You're more likely to get a lenient sentence. Felicity Huffman, 14 days, two weeks.

FRIEDMAN: Fourteen days. That's right.

WHITFIELD: A gentleman, a dad yesterday, one month.

FRIEDMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: I mean, that beats 40 years, as you put it, Richard.

But then, Avery, you know, Robert Flaxman becoming that tenth parent to be sentenced, looking at a month in jail.

I mean, what is the message that is being sent, ultimately, not just by the plea, a guilty plea, but then the types of sentencing that these parents are getting?

FRIEDMAN: Well, it shows the federal guidelines are not insane. It talks about zero to six months.

HERMAN: Oh, they're completely insane.

FRIEDMAN: Which are actually appropriate in a case like this. If you find yourself in the country club of privilege, which all these people are in, the last thing you want to do is gloat about cheating and getting your kid into school.

And at 2:00 p.m. east coast time in a federal courtroom on Monday, one of the defendants, a mom and dad, will be having to deal with that issue. Now, they deny that they gloated about it, but when you're deal with money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud, that's where the serious issues are.

There has been a superseding indictment in some of these cases. So, the easier cases -- you had mentioned Felicity Huffman. That's 14 days. She started her term this week and she'll be out in 14 days. But the serious ones are now coming up.

To answer your question, we're going to see what the federal court does this week to give us a pretty good idea of what's coming up. Total number of people, 52, and 35 are parents. This will tell you -- give you a pretty good idea of what is coming up and what we're going to see.

WHITFIELD: So, Richard, if you're one of those, you know, 50 parents, what do you need to be -- how are you taking your cue from what potentially happens this week?

HERMAN: Good, good. You're running to your lawyer and saying, cut me the best deal you can. I can't win this case.

And even when you cut the deal, Fred, next week, they're only going to enter pleas. They're not going to be sentenced next week. It's a plea arrangement. They're going to enter into that and be sentenced down the road a little bit.

Here's the way to stop this, Fred. You have to make a deal here. No defense, no sympathy.

Even when you make a deal and you go before the judge, no sympathy --

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: -- because of all the kids that work so hard and took those SAT tests and prepared and missed out on playtime and everything else. They get rejected in these schools and these spoiled brats get in because their parents pay a tennis coach a million dollars to put the kid --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: -- into some sort of athletic scholarship.

But the feds are saying most of the time the kids didn't know and I'm going to call B.S. on that. The kids know what their parents are doing. The kids have to suffer for this, too. Some sort of deferred prosecution. Some sort of deal so the parents know, if they do this, not only are they putting themselves at risk, but they're putting their child at risk.

Because these kids, the two at Georgetown --

FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right.

HERMAN: -- the one got expelled from Georgetown, Fred. It's an epidemic in this country and it's not fair. And there's no sympathy by these sentencing judges. None.

WHITFIELD: Avery?

HERMAN: And shouldn't be.

FRIEDMAN: At the end of the day --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: -- not just the parent?

FRIEDMAN: I think the children should be responsible. Again, we had an expulsion of one.

But the question is, what did the children, what did these students know? Most of the action is by, frankly, arrogant parents who think they can get away with it.

That chapter in American college admissions is about to end because checks and balances are being put into major schools like Stanford, Georgetown, Yale and others. So these things are minimized. So, this represents the end of an era, thank goodness.

WHITFIELD: And not to single out, you know, the other name, who is well known, the Lori Loughlin case, where apparently she and her husband have said not guilty and then watching others plead.

FRIEDMAN: Good luck.

[13:55:05]

WHITFIELD: Do you believe it is too late perhaps because of their demeanor to even reconsider or think about a guilty plea? I mean, there were doctored photographs in addition to big money involved in the application --

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

WHITFIELD: -- of at least one of their kids, Richard.

HERMAN: In these federal cases, Fred, the earlier you go in, the better deal you get.

WHITFIELD: That's right. There it is.

HERMAN: The longer you wait, the more you make the prosecution work, you don't get the same deal.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: So, is it too late? It's too late to get the initial deal she could have gotten, Lori Loughlin. But right now, she's insane. So she's going to sentenced to probably a year-plus.

And don't say those kids didn't know. Those kids in Lori Loughlin's case --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: -- pictures on the crew team.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: -- don't know everything.

HERMAN: They've never been on a boat in their life.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: They knew, they knew they were going to get a scholarship through the crew. And tennis players that never played ping-pong --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: -- believe that a --

HERMAN: -- are getting tennis scholarships.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Come on, it's ridiculous. They know.

WHITFIELD: They kind of know about the application process. It is their name, their identity -- FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right.

WHITFIELD: -- and everything about whether to be involved.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Avery Friedman, Richard Herman -

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Oh, and then there's that, too.

FRIEDMAN: Take care.

WHITFIELD: All right. Good to see you guys.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: Go, Yankees. Yankees, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. Good to see you guys.

And don't forget that CNN has a special report on college admissions scandal. That is with the CNN's Fareed Zakaria. He investigates big money, college admissions, all of that. CNN's special report, "SCHEME AND SCANDAL INSIDE THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS CRISIS." That's tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern and Pacific, right here on CNN.

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