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Latest Iowa Polling Shows Tight Race Among Top Democrats; Beto O'Rourke Ends 2020 Presidential Bid; Elizabeth Warren Touts Ambitious New Health Care Plan; Kamala Harris Cutting 2020 Staff And Spending In Realignment; Trump White House Resists Forming Impeachment War Room; Katie Hill: I'm Leaving Congress "Because Of Double Standards"; Washington Nationals Pitcher Declines Invitation To White House; Grandfather Charged After Toddler Fell To Death On Cruise Ship. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired November 2, 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: OK, so now we've got volume. The speaking is over, now people are conversing.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, we do.

WHITFIELD: OK. We don't have to respond. All right. What's happening?

SAENZ: So, Joe Biden is here at an office opening in Des Moines. He's talking to supporters after he gave a speech here, but this is really a pretty high stakes weekend for the Democratic contest. Last night, you had 13 of the Democratic contenders making their case to thousands of Iowa voters as we are now 93 days out from the caucuses. Take a listen to a little bit of that message from a few of those candidates last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tonight, all of us, no matter what candidate we are supporting, are in agreement that we must defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The first thing we have to do is get rid of Donald Trump, get him out of office. And once that happens, the road is clear for segment change.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not running some consultant-driven campaign with some vague ideas that are designed not to offend anyone. I'm running a campaign based on a lifetime of fighting for working families.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And if talking about hope, and belonging sounds optimistic to you for a time like this, fine. Call it optimistic, but do not call it naive because I believe these things not based on my age, but based on my experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: Now, attendees at that Democratic Party dinner also got a bit of a surprise just a few hours before the event took place. When Beto O'Rourke announced that he was dropping his presidential bid. He actually had supporters who were here in Des Moines getting ready for that dinner last night, but the better O'Rourke has dropped out, the campaign continues on for all those other Democratic contenders.

And later this afternoon in just a few hours. Several of the 2020 candidates Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders among them will be attending a fish fry over in Cedar Rapids hosted by Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer. It's an event that's going to be focusing on jobs as these candidates are all trying to get their shot at being the Democratic nominee in 2020. Fred?

WHITFIELD: And Arlette, at that fish fry, is this a moment for the candidates to interact with, you know, people just ordinary, you know, voters who have come out? I mean, is it going to be set up like, you know, many stages as if they were like, you know, very many, you know, town halls kind of sprinkled about?

SAENZ: Well, my understanding is that they're going to be getting some questions at this event, but they'll certainly have some time to interact with voters. Abby Finkenauer is a very interesting congresswoman. She's actually one of the youngest Democrats currently serving in Congress. And she was actually an organizer for Joe Biden in his past campaign. It's unclear if Abby Finkenauer , Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer will be endorsing anyone this time around.

But certainly these candidates not only want to make their pitch to voters there, but also probably to her. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Interesting. All right. Arlette Saenz. Thank you so much. Let's talk more about all this. Let me bring in Alexandra Rojas. She's the executive director of Justice Democrats and Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist. Good to see both of you. All right.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Maria, you first. You know, will this be kind of a make or break weekend for these candidates? I mean, already Beto O'Rourke ahead of the weekend said I'm out. You know, how much pressure is there on these candidates to really send a strong message. They're either in it for the long run, or, you know, they may be out too.

CARONA: Yes. I think we're getting to the point, Fred, where there is a lot of pressure on all of these candidates, especially the ones who have been, you know, let's call it second tier, who are not seen as the top three or four frontrunners to really make a splash and to say, as you just said, to convince voters, especially in Iowa, that they are the ones that voters can trust with their vote so that they can go on and win the Democratic primary.

And more importantly, be the ones to go on to beat Donald Trump. Let's remember that that is the true north for all Democrats and all progressives in this fight. And it is getting to the point where you either have to look at what you have, your resources, what you've done your support among voters, and make some hard choices.

We saw Beto O'Rourke do it just now, we're seeing Kamala Harris make some tough choices as well, where she's shuttering a lot of her offices in New Hampshire and specifically focusing on Iowa, but that shows just how important Iowa is.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So Alexandra on, you know, Senator Kamala Harris, you know, closing, you know, four offices, but then, you know, reconstituting kind of the resources there in Iowa. Is that a testament to her team as well? Does it say something about, you know, how big her team may continue to remain?

[13:05:00]

Is it just refocusing, pushing resources elsewhere? Or is it letting people go? What is this saying about her finances?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JUSTICE DEMOCRATS: I mean, I think it's pretty clear that Iowa is an incredibly important state of -- state right now, especially for contenders that are not the national ones like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden. And so I think that this speaks to that. It's a question of whether or not that's going to be enough.

But I think that it's really clear that there are at least two candidates in the race like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who have genuine enthusiasm and momentum that is translating into small dollar grassroots donations and thousands of volunteers. And those are clearly showing I think, up and are going to be critical in a caucus state like Iowa.

WHITFIELD: And speaking of Senator Elizabeth Warren, she continues to make strides yesterday, she unveiled her plan to pay for a Medicare for All proposal without raising taxes on the middle class. She's making that case that Democrats need big ideas in 2020? Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We are pulling resources, wherever we need to pull them from, to put the resources into Iowa that we need. Yes, we are still committed to New Hampshire, I am still committed to Nevada. I am still committed to South Carolina. But we needed to make difficult decisions. That's what campaigns require at this stage of the game. And so we have made those difficult decisions based on what we see to be our path toward victory.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. So obviously, that's Kamala Harris. It's really kind of underscoring the message that you had, you know, Alexandra, about knowing you know, where your strengths are, how do you, you know, redirect your resources, but perhaps we now have that Elizabeth Warren soundbite where she is talking about the importance of the field of Democrats having big ideas, thinking big.

ROJAS: Yes, no. I think that's right. I think that, you know, what, this primary it -- right has been about, right? Is capturing the soul of America and not only defeating Donald Trump, but last the groundwork to govern the next generation of leadership. And that is going to require us to do things differently to not succumb to the status quo. And corporations that quite frankly, have purchased our democracy.

And so it's not only good politics, it's good policy and it's what's necessary in this moment. If we want to defeat one of the most corrupt presidents of our time, we're going to need big solutions that match the scale scope and urgency of the problems that we're facing and the polls are showing that's what the American people want to.

WHITFIELD: So Maria, you know, Beto O'Rourke, I mean, he resonated with a lot of people, he got people's, you know, attention. If people were able to see, you know, how really compassionate he was as well. But he looked at the landscape, he looked at the finances, surprised a lot of supporters, even went all the way to Iowa in order to make that announcement.

So now, where do those who identified with him? Who do they attach themselves to now that he is out?

CARDONA: That's a great question, Fredricka. And I think that's what we're going to see in the coming weeks. Clearly, I think that they're going to need a little bit of time to mourn as someone who has worked on several presidential candidates. You can't just switch from one candidate to another overnight because you have put your literally blood sweat and tears and heart and soul into this one candidate who you truly believed was the one to go all the way.

WHITFIELD: I mean, there was reporting that people will cry.

CARDONA: Yes. Exactly.

WHITFIELD: You know, staffers, supporters there in Iowa who --

CARONA: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: -- were very tearful about his announcement. Go ahead.

CARDONA: That -- yes. That's exactly right. So I think they're going to need a little bit of time. But then I think that they're going to look around and figure out first of all, I think that they will see what in their minds drew them to Beto O'Rourke. What were the values, what were the principles, what was his mission that they liked so much, and they're going to choose the candidate whom they believe can really carry forward the same kind or at least a similar kind of mission and passion and compassion and they're going have to figure out who that candidate is.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ladies, stick around. I have something else I want to talk to you about. We're going to take a short break and also let people know that coming up. As the impeachment inquiry does heat up, the Trump team is grappling with how to craft a cohesive strategy on that. Why the White House Press Secretary is dismissing the need for a war World War? We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:12:56]

WHITFIELD: All right. New today. U.S. border agents are sounding the alarm on breaches made along part of the southeastern U.S. border wall. According to The Washington Post, agents say that smugglers from Mexico had been seen repeatedly sawing through new sections of the wall. Officials say gang smugglers are cutting large holes through the wall with a common power tool, which can be found at most hardware stores for as little as 100 bucks.

Joining me now with more on this reporting. Maria, good to see you. So, Trump is often boasted that, you know, this border wall is virtually impenetrable. What are you learning? And are we talking about portions that have been added, repaired under the -- under this administration, the Trump administration that he is embracing as his border wall?

MARIA SACCHETTI, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, President Trump has said in the stories about my colleague Nick Miroff but President Trump has said that he would like a virtually impenetrable wall. Something that would deter people from climbing yet going under it, and certainly going through it. But that is not what we're seeing. We're seeing that power tools, purchase for as little as $11.00 at Home Depot are able to cut through the bollards and the bollards are so tall.

These large, tall, thin, steel fed parts of the fencing that you can push them aside and adults and drugs can get through.

WHITFIELD: So we're showing the graphic that you have of what, you know, the wall looks like with these -- I guess steel -- you're saying those are steel posts and they're actually being cut. And then they can be pushed aside or at least entered that way?

SACCHETTI: Right. I mean, this is -- this is not impenetrable. And we recently reported as well, that the people involved in the smuggling, the people picking them up on this side of the border are increasingly American citizens. So that's, you know, these things taken together are reasons that this is so hard to stop.

[13:15:03]

SACCHETTI: You're having, you know, people cutting through what is supposed to be the strongest part of the barrier and you're also having a lot of American citizens, you know, single moms, recently high school football players were arrested. And young people, other young people are picking them up and driving them deeper into the United States. WHITFIELD: Wow. So it's fascinating because the border wall, you know, has been a central theme in Trump's 2016 campaign. You know, he talked about how it would be impenetrable, how strong it would be, how effective, just take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a wall and it's a strong wall. It's a powerful wall. We're building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works that you can't get over. You can't get under. It's a combination of steel concrete. And as one of the folks you said, it really is virtually impenetrable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So what is the White House saying to your reporting?

SACCHETTI: So, I have not seen the White House's response, but I'm sure we're very interested to hear from them about it. It's something that a lot of people who watch the border very closely expected. I mean, a lot of people have been saying, if you build a wall, someone else will build a larger ladder. And you are also seeing that, that people are using rope ladders and other materials to get over the wall.

And there are people here on this side of the border who are willing to pick them up. Often the smuggling industry is characterized as something that is only in another country, only in Mexico, only in Central America, but it's also very much part of the American side which is one reason it's so hard to stop. And we're seeing increasingly people are picking up people on the side of the border or driving them across the border. So that's something that, you know, that is has deep roots on the American side as well.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm. All right, Maria Sacchetti. It's a fascinating read, Washington Post. Thank you so much.

SACCHETTI: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:20:55]

WHITFIELD: All right. Now with the House has formalized the impeachment inquiry with a vote, Democrats have several more people they would like to talk to behind closed doors before opening up the inquiry to public hearings. The list includes Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has met with Ukraine President Zelensky at least three times while in office, but Perry says he won't testify and private.

There's also former National Security Adviser John Bolton who says he won't show up without a subpoena. It's all coming as the White House struggles to craft a clear strategy to fight impeachment. With me now to discuss, Michael Zeldin. He is a former federal prosecutor and a CNN Legal Analyst. Michael, good to see you.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. So let's begin with the President's strategy to fight this impeachment. Does, you know, the White House need a so- called war room to fight this inquiry?

ZELDIN: I think they would be well-advised to have a coherent strategy and a team of specialists legal and communications to address what is going to be a very public display of alleged wrongdoing in these upcoming hearings. So for the President to simply defend himself on Twitter is not sensible in my estimation.

WHITFIELD: Hmm. So the Democrats did take a big step, right? By voting to formalize the impeachment inquiry. So what does this vote process change? Besides those depositions or private testimonies soon to be made public or happen to in the public's view?

ZELDIN: Right. So principally, what has -- what is going on is that the House committees are conducting a private investigation of the allegations of wrongdoing, much in the same way that Mueller and Ken Starr and Archibald Cox did in previous impeachment proceedings. Once that evidence is gathered, as it has been principally it goes to the public proceedings stage. We remember the Watergate hearings and Sam Ervin and Peter Rodino.

And then if at the end of those public hearings, the consensus is that the conduct alleged to have been committed by the President is worthy of an article of impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee will recommend that and the full House will then vote it. And if they approve, it will go to the Senate for a trial.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm. So the Democrats also want to talk to some high- profile people, high-ranking former White House officials, as well. You know, John Bolton is saying, you know, first a subpoena, you know, Perry is saying not privately, but in public view, can they set the conditions like that? And if so, what difference will it make?

ZELDIN: So, each of these prospective witnesses is claiming in some respect, I am immune from House authority to take my testimony. I think that's a failed -- at position will fail in court. It was in court just Thursday this week.

WHITFIELD: So, it's not necessarily executive privilege.

ZELDIN: Correct.

WHITFIELD: OK. It's two -- it's two steps. First is they're saying, I have as a presidential adviser, absolute immunity, I don't even have to show up at all. That's being litigated in the courts and will have decisions imminently on that. If the court rules as I expect, they would that there isn't absolute immunity, then these witnesses have to show up before Congress and answer questions.

If the questions put to them will require the possibility of a executive privilege assertion. Then on a question by question basis, these witnesses will be allowed to assert, executive pros will be told to exert executive privilege, and then that'll be litigated again. So it's not a simple process. But the first thing is the courts have to rule that these witnesses must appear and then we'll get the second phase of, do they have any executive privilege and if they do as to what questions?

WHITFIELD: Hmm. It potentially elongates the process for those individuals too, right?

ZELDIN: Yes. And I think there are a lot of people who suggest that the strategy that's being undertaken by Kupperman and Bolton is simply to delay the inevitable of their testimony, and that the longer that stretches out, the more it advantages the President's strategic goals.

[13:25:11]

WHITFIELD: Michael Zeldin, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

ZELDIN: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you.

ZELDIN: Good to see you.

WHITFIELD: All right. During her final speech on the House floor, Congresswoman Katie Hill apologized for mistakes that forced her from Congress, but she also made a powerful statement about the culture that she says led to her downfall. Is there a double standard? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. When a record number of women were elected to the House during the 2018 midterms, Katie Hill was one of them. Bursting onto the Washington scene after flipping her California district from red to blue. But today, her title Congresswoman is a thing of the past. He'll step down from her post following her admission of an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer before coming to office. As well as allegations that she engaged in an improper relationship with a Congressional staffer.

[13:30:03]

WHITFIELD: Hill has denied the claims, which launched a House ethics investigation. The House probe was announced after conservative publications released unauthorized nude photos of Hill.

She accuses her estranged husband of orchestrating the smear campaign against her. Her husband has not responded to CNN's repeated requests for comment.

Earlier this week, Hill gave her final speech on the House floor, blasting the environment that she says forced her out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATIE HILL, (D), FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN: I am leaving because of a double standard. I'm leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I'm leaving because I didn't want to be peddled by papers and blogs and Web sites used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I have ever seen.

I'm leaving. But we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence, and remain in board rooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and worst of all, in the Oval Office.

So the fight goes on to create the change that every woman and girl in this country deserves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So in a tweet containing clips from her tweet, Hill said, quote, "I yield the balance of my time for now, but not forever."

Alexandra Rojas and Maria Cardona back with me now.

Maria, should she have stepped down or would she have been more effective in her pledge against this double standard she's talking about by staying in office?

CARDONA: You know, this is such a difficult question that I have grappled with ever since it happened because part of me feels she should not have stepped down. There's certainly a double standard out there.

But, at the same time, she may have been more hurt by her staying there. I agree with what she said in her speech that the right-wing media, conservatives, and the operatives that worked for the guy that she took out of office, were the ones hellbent on destroying her. That wouldn't have shutdown if she didn't step down. It is a very difficult place to be.

But I think the difficulty for all of us is we have confounded two things. What is perhaps her inappropriate behavior, which is something she acknowledged, with a campaign aide, versus revenge porn, which is illegal in 40 states, including California. That is a crime. It is not just inappropriate behavior.

So I think those two things have confounded to create a situation that was perhaps untenable for her.

If pictures did not exist, Fredricka, we would be having a completely different conversation. And I don't think she would have had to have resigned. She would not be getting the death threats, not getting the abuse online that she's been getting, which is one reason she said she's resigning.

So I hope that she does continue to fight this revenge porn issue. I think it is a serious one. Especially as Millennials are now coming up to be elected leaders. This is not the last time we're going to see this situation. WHITFIELD: Even she, Hill, is making the comparisons of, you know, the revenge porn, of harassment, to other cases and instances, and people in power, where there are allegations of sexual misconduct and assault.

So, Alexandra, when she says there's a double standard, and she exemplifies it that way, is she correct?

ROJAS: I think we need to be careful and considerate in how we talk about this. I completely agree with my colleague that there's one conversation about power dynamics and the relationship between an employee and a boss that is certainly up for questioning for anyone in a position of power.

But that is not the conversation that has been dominating. It has been shaming, revenge porn, and scandalizing a Millennial congresswoman that worked really hard to get to the seat where she is now.

When you have the president of the United States that's literally been accused by over 13 women for sexual violence, we have men in the Supreme Court, like she mentioned, and within the House of Representatives themselves, Republican lawmakers, like Duncan Hunter Jr, who are going through investigations right now, it is an absolute double standard.

And I think it is really commendable of her to step down but also dedicate and try to root out and call out that double standard.

WHITFIELD: So, Alexandra, even though your organization did back one of her primary opponents, you know, and even though you say, how she handled this is commendable, how do you hope that she will use her power, with her name, with this experience that she has had? What do you hope she is able to do with this going forward?

[13:35:19]

ROJAS: The disagreements we had in the primary election were based on policy, right? And at the end of the day, primaries are about working as hard as you can do draw out her supporters. And she got the support of many of the voters in her district.

So I hope she uses the volunteers and grassroots momentum that she's built and those networks to fight for more women and more girls that are going through similar circumstances from high school level all of the way up clearly to Congress. This is not an isolated circumstance. And I hope she continues to speak out on it.

WHITFIELD: And, Maria, what is your view on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that people have to be careful telling their children and grandchildren that social media can come back to haunt you if it is taken out of context. She said a number of things. What is your view?

CARDONA: I think what Nancy Pelosi said is true. I agree with her. As the mother of a 12-year-old girl, I'm constantly in fear and telling her that she needs to start understanding the seriousness of what is posted online. She's not online, she has no social media issue. Her friends do. This is clearly an issue we have to talk to, especially our daughters and our sons, too.

But at the same time, Alexandra said that this was -- this Katie Hill issue was about shaming her and that is outrageous and out of line.

Millennials, as she is one of, were raised in a completely different atmosphere than Nancy Pelosi was. That's what we're seeing here is the generational differences of what the reality is of the Internet age, social media, electronics, all of it, where everything is shared online, including nude photos.

But when you're doing it with someone that you believe is your intimate partner, your husband, someone you can trust, and that trust is violated, that is akin to me to domestic violence. This, I think, is the conversation we need to start having.

I think that Speaker Pelosi was correct in accepting her resignation. And she spoke so highly of Katie Hill and she clearly believes she has incredible leadership skills because she put her in one when she came into Congress.

So I hope this is not the last that we hear from Katie Hill. I hope that she runs again in the near future to show this is not something that should stop Millennials from putting their hats into the race.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: Public service is so rare, especially these days. So more power to her.

WHITFIELD: It will be fascinating to see if this is a springboard to something else.

Maria Cardona, Alexandra Rojas, thank you so much, ladies.

CARDONA: Thanks, Fred.

ROJAS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, some live pictures right now of the festivities, the excitement. People are out in full force in Washington, D.C., for the Washington Nationals, the first time for them to win the World Series championship. And folks are about to roll down Constitution Avenue at any moment. We'll take you there live, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:42:41]

WHITFIELD: Pretty hard to believe, but after 95 years, the World Series trophy is back in the nation's capital. Baseball fans are lining the streets to celebrate the World Series champion Washington Nationals. It marked the franchise's first championship and the city's first title since 1924.

The team heads to the White House to meet President Trump on Monday, but according to the "Washington Post," there will be one glaring absence. Pitcher Sean Doolittle will not be there. The "Post" says Doolittle citing the president's rhetoric for the reason for skipping the visit, saying, quote, "I just can't do it."

CNN National Correspondent, Natasha Chen, is at the championship celebration.

Folks have lined Constitution Avenue. They're there in full force. I was there earlier in the week and everybody was wearing their Washington Nationals baseball caps and T-shirts. So tell me about the crowd size out there.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, this is a very energetic crowd. And some of them said they came here at 2:00 a.m. I don't know how they are still aware or gone to the bathroom. But they choose a prime spot close to the stage here, which is the final point of the parade. But they also have a way of seeing the floats go by.

This starts in just about 20 minutes over by the White House and the floats will move east toward us right here.

You were talking about Sean Doolittle not going to the White House. I want to share a quote he gave to the "Washington Post," explaining more about his decision.

He said , "I have a brother-in-law who has autism, and Trump is someone that mocked a disabled reporter. How would I explain to him that I hung out with someone that mocked the way he talks or moves his hands? I can't get past that stuff."

The "Washington Post" also reported that some of the other players are wrestling with the decision of whether or not they would go to the White House or not.

In talking to some people in the crowd, who are so excited to celebrate today, I asked if they heard about that and what they think. They said, you know what, that is Doolittle's decision, they respect that.

And one woman said this is liberal D.C. She said she would support none of the players going to the White House. But one other person in the crowd said that D.C. is very used to politics reigning over everything and, at this point, they've learned to tune it out and today they're here to just celebrate.

[13:45:17]

So you can imagine, just in our line of sight rear here, is Capitol Hill where a lot of fighting is going on, on a daily basis about impeachment, but today, just for a few hours, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, they're all in the crowd out here huddled in the colder weather waiting for their team to walk down Constitution Avenue -- Fred? WHITFIELD: Overall, a very exciting time for the Washington Nationals

and their fans.

Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

A grandfather charged with negligent homicide after his granddaughter fell to her death from a cruise ship window. What the family is saying about the case and why they say the cruise line is to blame.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: An Indiana grandfather grieving over the loss of his 18- month-old grandchild and now facing charges in her death and potentially years behind bars. Prosecutors in Puerto Rico accuse Salvatore Anello of negligent homicide after his granddaughter, Chloe, fell to her death from a cruise ship window.

[13:50:04]

Anello had been playing with the girl near the 11th-floor window of the World Caribbean cruise ship when it was docked in Puerto Rico in July. Puerto Rican officials say that he sat the girl in the window and then lost his balance causing the girl to fall.

But a family attorney describes a different scenario, insisting Anello sat the girl on a ledge by a glass wall having no idea that one window within that wall was actually open.

The family is now suing the cruise line company arguing the window should not have been open.

Here with me now, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor, and criminal defense attorney and law professor, Richard Herman.

This is such a sad story.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Your heart goes out to everybody involved here.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

WHITFIELD: Anello is back with his family in Indiana now after being arraigned in a San Juan court and posting an $80,000 bail.

Avery, no one disputes this was tragic.

FRIEDMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: But the grandfather's actions, does it rise to the level of negligent homicide?

FRIEDMAN: There you go. Is it a question of negligence or negligent homicide as the Puerto Rican law reads? What's important to understand is that, a number of years ago, Puerto

Rico changed the homicide law. And it dealt with essentially the high crime rates in San Juan and around the island because of drug dealings. Negligent homicide deals essentially with drug-related or often alcohol-related behavior.

This is appalling. The fact that Grandpa Sal is now charged with a crime to me sounds outrageous. The prosecutors arguing, well, someone is dead and someone committed an act. That's good enough.

The fact it, it isn't. It requires cross negligence of the kind of behavior that this law intended to deal with. That is with drug dealers. I think it needs to be thrown out or, if the case goes to trial, you'll see an acquittal.

WHITFIELD: Richard, how do you see it? Because Chloe's parents are behind the grandfather. And they say the little girl - he did this because the little girl has a fascination with glass and windows. And he often lifted her up to the glass while at her older brother's hockey game and, I guess, felt like he wanted to mimic that experience.

Prosecutors are arguing that that act was negligent. How do you see it?

RICHARD HERMAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This was not a hockey game, Fred. This was a cruise ship and they're 11 stories up.

Wasn't this little child worth 10 seconds of due diligence? Because that's all it would have taken for this grandfather to inspect the windows, make sure they were all closed, before he decided to put his child, who he was entrusted for the care for, up on that window ledge. Ten seconds would have saved her life.

He didn't do that, Fred. He had control over this child that was helpless. He had a higher degree of duty to protect her and make and keep her safe. By putting her in this position, he created this event.

Now it's tragic. He's never going to recover from it. The family will never recover from it.

But does the law just ignore the fact that he was entrusted with the care of this little child, put her in a very dangerous situation. Just because he thought the window was closed, was that reasonable for him to think that? Or was it more reasonable for him to take 10 seconds to check before he put his granddaughter up on that window ledge?

I think he's going to be prosecuted. I think there will be some sort of plea deal. And I think that's how it's going to end. I don't think he's going to go to prison.

WHITFIELD: A family attorney says the charges filed against the grandfather are like pouring salt in the wound.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, yes.

WHITFIELD: He feels terrible, the family feels terrible.

Back in July, the little girl's parents gave an interview to NBC defending the grandfather who they call Sam. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FAMILY MEMBER: He was extremely historical. He has repeatedly told us, I believed there was glass. He will cry over and over. At no point ever, ever has Sam ever put our kids in danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So, Avery, how helpful might that be in his defense?

FRIEDMAN: I think that that's a wonderful argument. And the fact is that most of the windows on this ship, Fredricka, are stationary. They don't open. The idea of using a law that was amended in Puerto Rico to go after drug dealers when there are accidental homicides, murders, being used by prosecutors there strikes me as not only heartless but really appalling.

[13:55:10]

And whether or not there's a plea deal or not, if this case does go to trial, if it does, all it takes is one parent or one grandparent, and I'm telling you, Fredricka, Grandpa Sam is going to walk from this.

WHITFIELD: Richard, last word?

HERMAN: The family was quick to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Royal Caribbean. They want to try to get money out of this case.

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: I think it's premature. I think it's very premature.

There are criminal charges pending against the grandfather. He has a Fifth Amendment right. He will not testify in any civil proceeding right now. Without his testimony. the plaintiffs can't prove the wrongful death case. That's kind of ridiculous. And in addition --

FRIEDMAN: We'll see.

HERMAN: -- in any kind of civil litigation, Puerto Rico is a pure comparative negligence state.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: When the jury decides who's responsible for this and in what proportion, if they attribute 51 percent of the wrong here to the grandfather, they're precluded from any recovery.

So, again --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: -- tragic case, Fred.

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: We'll see.

HERMAN: He's going to be prosecuted. He should be prosecuted.

WHITFIELD: Wow. OK.

FRIEDMAN: And he's going to win.

HERMAN: Ten seconds, Fred. All it would have taken was 10 seconds --

(CROSSTALK)

HERMAN: -- to check the windows.

WHITFIELD: That's terrible.

HERMAN: That's it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Avery ---

FRIEDMAN: He didn't even know about the window.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

Richard Herman --

HERMAN: He should have.

WHITFIELD: -- thank you so much.

HERMAN: OK, Fred..

FREIDMAN: OK.

WHITFIELD: I know you're going to say more. I'll just --

FRIEDMAN: Right.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you guys. Take care.

HERMAN: Thanks, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: Good to see you. Take care.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)