Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Ties To Jeffrey Epstein Associate?; Interview With Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Trump Administration Closes China Consulate In Texas; Interview With Mayor Jenny Durkan (D), Seattle, WA. Aired 4:30- 5p ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 16:30   ET



MAYOR JENNY DURKAN (D), SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: But sending in federal agents won't change what happens on the ground, if they're not working with and there at the request of local law enforcement.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What would you say to somebody who lives in Seattle or the suburbs of Seattle who says, look, I don't know about the politics of all this, I don't know about Trump vs. Durkan or any of that, all I know is sometimes I'm afraid to go into downtown Seattle, and the president is offering troops?

Now, that might be a naive view, but there are people who feel that way. What would you say to that person?

DURKAN: So, a few things.

First is, the president has badly mischaracterized what was happening or what has happened in Seattle. There's no question that, when there is local crime, I turn to my chief of police, Carmen Best. And she is the person who I think is best prepared to give us advice on what we need to be doing in our city and also where we need to have assistance.

And we do use assistance from federal authorities on everything from human trafficking to interrupting organized crime, and those kinds of relationships are very important for every community on an ongoing basis.

The last thing you want to do is to undermine those partnerships. And if you force your agents in without any communication with local law enforcement, or over their objections, you will end up into more problems.

And we have seen that in Portland. It has proven the case that the federal agents; presence there has escalated things to the point where thousands of people turned out against that action.

I think that tells us all we need to know about whether they made it better or whether they made it worse.

TAPPER: And we should point out, you're not the only one saying that President Trump is doing this for political reasons. The president himself has publicly said he's singling out cities run by Democrats.

And Michael Chertoff, who was the head of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, told "The Washington Post" -- quote -- "Essentially, Trump is suggesting this is a political maneuver. As someone who spent four years at the department, the idea that people would be suggesting that it's going to be a tool of political activity is very unsettling."

So, if the president is doing this for political reasons, as you believe, what can you do? What do you do to try to stop violence from escalating in Seattle, if the president then turns his sights on your city?

DURKAN: I think that's one of our greatest fears. And talking to Mayor Lightfoot, it's her fear.

I mean, don't forget, the mayor of Chicago was a federal prosecutor who has excellent relationships with federal agents there. If she needs help, she knows how to ask for it. So he's not there to help.

And I think that Mr. Chertoff is exactly right. And it tells you a lot coming from him. This president has managed to politicize almost every single one of our government institutions. The Department of Justice has to stand above politics, or all the work it does is undermined and the public will lose confidence.

The last people you need to be politicized right now is the Department of Justice. And yet we're seeing that, both by the attorney general and by the president. This will take a lot to recover, so we will continue to work.

We have mutual assistance relationships between Seattle law enforcement and law enforcement throughout Washington state. I talk regularly with the governor and with other local leaders here. Every city right now is having enormous challenges.

And we need help, but the help we need is actually to support our cities, not to invade them.

TAPPER: All right, Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

The Trump administration suddenly orders China to close its consulate in Texas. The accusations and why a new video of smoke coming from that building is raising suspicion, that's next.



TAPPER: Secrets, stealing and espionage in our world lead today.

The Trump administration has abruptly ordered the shutdown of the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas, accusing the Chinese government of years of illegal spying. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the acting chair of the Senate

Intelligence Committee, tweeted -- quote -- "China's Houston consulate is a massive spy center. Forcing it to close is long do."

And something else fishy, a fire in the consulate's courtyard last night right as the eviction order came, this video obtained by CNN affiliate KPRC, appearing to show barrels and piles of paper lit on fire, even though the Chinese government called the whole thing political.

CNN senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt joins me now.

And, Alex, why close this particular consulate? Why now?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the Chinese have six different diplomatic facilities across the country. They have five consulates around the country, the embassy here in Washington, D.C.

And according to the most senior national security official at the Department of Justice, there wasn't any one particular thing that led to this. There was what he called a slow buildup of things.

The Chinese have been engaging in cyber-espionage for years. And that has ramped up over the course of the past few months. They have stolen defense secrets, trade secrets, intellectual property. And, as of late, they have also been targeting researchers looking for a vaccine for COVID-19.

Now, the State Department has not said why the Houston consulate in particular. The biggest clue perhaps is from Senator Marco Rubio, who, as you noted, is the acting chairman in Intelligence Committee, who called this Houston consulate a central node of that massive Chinese spying operation.


Listen to what he had to say earlier today.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): This consulate is basically a front for -- it's kind of the central node of a massive spy operation, commercial espionage, defense espionage, also influence agents to try to influence Congress.


MARQUARDT: So, as word came, or as the Chinese certainly got some sort of indication that this word was coming, they did take to burning those documents in the courtyard of the consulate.

This is video that has been obtained by CNN. It does show paper documents that are being burned in barrels and piles in that courtyard in Houston. Later on, in the evening, there's another piece of video that shows presumably staffers at the embassy, certainly people who are involved at the embassy, trying to extinguish those fires, those embers, as they burned.

That was shot by our affiliate KPRC.

Now, the Chinese have 72 hours to vacate that embassy before it gets shut down. Often in these situations, Jake, there is a diplomatic tit for tat. So, if the U.S. closes one embassy, one consulate, that the Chinese in this case would respond in the same way.

The Chinese have not yet said that they are going to respond in any sort of concrete way. They have put out a statement saying that this will backfire on itself. They have called in the U.S. to immediately revoke this action, so we will have to see how it plays out, the Chinese certainly warning that they could do something -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.

Coming up next, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, joins me, as the Senate negotiates for more relief for American families, families that desperately need it.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to our politics lead now.

The White House and Senate Republicans are at odds, not with Democrats, but with one another, after a full day of negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill, and with less than three weeks until their August recess.

Joining us now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.


TAPPER: So, the unemployment rate is 11 percent.

And, at the end of this month, as you know, the extra money in unemployment insurance that had been provided from previous stimulus bills, that runs out.

What is your message to Americans who don't know how they're going to be able to afford food or rent next month?

SCHUMER: Well, you're right, Jake.

We have a whole bunch of cliffs that we're up against. Unemployment insurance runs out. Tomorrow, rental assistance runs out. Millions, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands could be thrown out of their homes. State and local governments have another deadline on August 1, where they don't have enough money, and they're going to lay off tens of thousands of more people.

And why did this happen? Just what you said, because our Republican colleagues are just dithering. They're divided. They don't talk to each other. They spend more time talking about getting rid of statues or not getting rid of statues than about the greatest economic crisis we have had in 75 years, the greatest health crisis in 100 years.

They're totally, total -- it's pathetic. McConnell went to the floor today and gave a speech. He talked about "The New York Times" having an article -- a writer leaving them, about the cancel culture, not one mention of COVID, when we're in such a great crisis.

What they have to do is get their act together. The president, the Senate Republicans got to get together and present us with something. We told Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows yesterday, Nancy and I, Speaker Pelosi and I, give us a concrete plan in writing, and then we can start negotiating.

They haven't been able to do it. You can't negotiate with thin air.

TAPPER: There's a big debate right now about opening schools. And, frankly, it's a horrible Hobson's choice. Remote learning is awful. It causes problems. It forces working people to have to choose between child care and employment.

On the other hand, opening the schools poses serious health risks to students, to teachers, and to spreading throughout the community. What do you tell your constituents about this problem that, frankly, their government has not been able to solve?

SCHUMER: Well, yes, we Democrats have had a solution for weeks.

And it's very simple. Everyone wants the schools to open, but only if they open safely. And their schools can do that if they have the resources.

I spoke to a school district in Upstate New York. They have 4,000 students, 500 faculty. If they need a mask every day, that alone -- and that's what the experts say, a new mask every day -- that alone is hundreds of thousands of dollars.

They have to change their bus routes. They can't have the kids sitting right next to each other. So you have to double the bus routes. A lot of the schools want to change their gymnasiums and cafeterias into classrooms. They can do this all with money and open up safely.

But, again, we have had a plan. We have asked our Republican colleagues to give us a counterplan. They say nothing. And this is what the frustration is. We are frustrated, because there are so many people hurting in such a great crisis, and we're willing to sit down and talk with them and negotiate, and they can't come back with any answers.

The party is divided. Donald Trump, they know doesn't know what the heck he's doing. They know in their hearts he's responsible for this crisis in a lot of different ways. And yet they can't break from him.

So, he says two days ago, amazingly, no more money for testing.

Testing is a key. It's one of the reasons the European countries and the Eastern Asian countries are so far ahead of us, which we should be ashamed of, because we have the best health care system in the country. But the president wants to eliminate testing.

The Republicans are afraid to say no to him. And we can't eliminate testing money.


SCHUMER: It's a key.

It's the frustration.


SCHUMER: Forget me. How about all the people who will be thrown out of their houses, who will not be get unemployment and not be able to feed their families?


We're waiting for some concrete proposals, the sooner, the better. And we will roll up our sleeves and sit down and negotiate.

TAPPER: So, you and Speaker Pelosi met with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, as well as Chief of Staff Meadows.

Mnuchin has said he thinks that there can be a deal by the end of next week. Is that possible?

SCHUMER: Well, if they can get us a concrete plan.

We told them very explicitly, you can't just talk in generalities. You can't negotiate in thin air. And we told him, come up with a bill. We have had a bill for two months that Senate -- that the House passed, that Senate Democrats fully support, that deals with all of these things, in terms of unemployment, in terms of people being thrown out of their houses, in terms of state and local governments, in terms of opening up schools.

Come back with your alternative.

And they're so divided among each other. I have never seen a more dysfunctional party in a time of crisis than this Republican Party.

And part of the blame is Trump, but part of the blame is the Republican senators, who, when they know he's wrong, they know he's off-base, they're afraid to refute him.

And now he's coming back on the air? I worry what he's going to say. He could disrupt things once again. Any time President Trump goes before the public could be another public health crisis. Who knows what he will call for?

TAPPER: All right, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democratic minority leader of the U.S. Senate, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

SCHUMER: Jake, our frustration, because people are suffering, and we want to get something done, but we can't do it when there's a Senate Republican control and a president who's a Republican, and won't come to negotiate with us.

It's terrible.

TAPPER: All right, sir, thank you so much.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

TAPPER: President Trump sending well-wishes to a woman accused of helping Jeffrey Epstein recruit underage girls for rape and sexual abuse.

Next, we're going to look at the history between the president and this alleged predator.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead now: Even some Trump-supporting Republicans expressed outrage yesterday when President Trump extended well-wishes to Ghislaine Maxwell.

Maxwell has been charged with conspiring with the now dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse teenage girls. Trump and Maxwell have been photographed together.

But in an interview with CNN, another former Epstein business partner said that the two knew each other well, as CNN's Pamela Brown reports for us now.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's were return to the Briefing Room took an unexpected turn with his response to a question about Ghislaine Maxwell, arrested earlier this month on multiple charges related to sexual abuse of underage girls by her longtime companion convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

She has pleaded not guilty.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly.

BROWN: The warm wishes for Maxwell are bringing renewed scrutiny to Trump's relationship with her and Epstein, who government officials say died by suicide in his jail cell last year after being charged with sex trafficking.

Some Republican lawmakers reacted to Trump's comments on Twitter, saying: "This is unacceptably obtuse for a woman accused of the most morally depraved of crimes."

And: "She is despicable, and he needs to say that."

TRUMP: I have met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is.

BROWN: Trump says he's known Epstein since the late '80s. And pictures from the 90 show the president with Maxwell, who became Epstein's girlfriend, associate and allegedly his madam.

One picture shows Trump with Maxwell in 1997, then again in early 2000 at Trump's Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, with his wife, Melania, and Epstein. Another picture shows Trump with Maxwell that same year at a New York fashion show, and then again with model Naomi Campbell.

Epstein's one-time business partner Steven Hoffenberg, who spent 18 years in jail for a Ponzi scheme, told CNN today: "There's no dispute. They knew each other well," adding: "He liked her and she liked him."

In a 2002 interview with "New York" magazine, Trump showered praise on Epstein, calling him a -- quote -- "terrific guy" and saying: "He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

After Epstein was arrested last year, Trump had a different tune, claiming he kicked Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago years before.

TRUMP: He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I have spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn't a fan.

BROWN: Prosecutors say Maxwell went into hiding over the last year, as more victims came forward, alleging she learned them in and groom them to be sexually abused by Epstein.

Alleged victim Virginia Giuffre has claimed Maxwell recruited her in 1999 while she was a locker room attendant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, though she never alleged any wrongdoing by the president.


BROWN: And, Jake, the comments that the president made about Maxwell caught some White House officials off-guard.

Now, he is expected to brief again shortly, so we will see if he addresses this then.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you so much.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

Thanks for watching. We will see you tomorrow.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world.