Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

U.S. Gymnasts Speak After Testifying About FBI's Nassar Investigation; Biden Speaks Out Amid Calls For Gen. Milley's Resignation; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) Discusses Gen. Mark Milley's Actions After 1/6 Riot, Preparations For Justice For J6 Rally, Poll Showing 50% Of Republicans Believe Biden Not Legitimate President; Judge Issues Decision In Defamation Lawsuit Against Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 14:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST They're also with them Senators Grassley and Blumenthal after this gut-wrenching testimony this morning about what they suffered and why the procedures that are already in place at the FBI were not followed.

Jessica Howard there said this is not as much a conversation about which new laws need to be implemented but, if they followed the policy that was already in place, up to the estimated 120 victims would not be on this list as being victimized by Larry Nassar.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: There's so many sickening elements of this story. And that is perhaps the most, that it didn't have to happen.

Had they listened to Mikayla Maroney in 2015, all of the young women who came after that didn't have to be victimized. They made that point over and over again.

You can see not only are they elite athletes. They're elite human beings.


CAMEROTA: Under this unimaginable pressure, all of these cameras, all of these questions, answering questions, reliving their trauma because they still believe and hold out hope that there may still be some justice.

BLACKWELL: Jessica Howard also said, "We're tired." We're tired of telling this story to pull at the heart strings to get something to happen.

Again, this should not have happened because the policies were already in place to protect a lot of these women.

Let's bring in CNN legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, and CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director at the FBI. Paula, you first.

As we detail just how this investigation from office to office was botched, tell us which policies weren't followed and how this unfolded over the last several years?

PAULA REID, CNN LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Victor, it's really incredible. The office of inspector general's report focuses on the FBI field office in Indianapolis.

That's a branch of the FBI that handles complaints and allegations in that area.

And they focused on two individuals in that office. The first is the special agent in charge at that time, Jay Abbott, and another special agent under him, Michael Langman.

Today, we heard Mikayla Maroney detail how she spoke with Langman back in 2015.

And the details of her interview highly unusual. This is a minor with allegations of sex abuse.

And she talks about how she was on the phone with this agent, on the phone, that's very unusual, by herself, detailing these allegations for hours. She described how there weren't many follow-up questions.

She also says and the inspector general report also reveals how this interview was not properly documented for almost another year and a half.

Now, there were also subsequent efforts to cover up mistakes that were made by the FBI.

There are also allegations that the special agent in charge, Mr. Abbott, was in talks for a lucrative job doing security for the Olympic Committee.

Now, Mr. Abbott has since retired. Michael Langman has been fired. At this point there's no expectation that either man will be criminally prosecuted.

You heard many of the sex abuse survivors say in their testimony say they are really focused on accountability. And they want to see, as one survivor just said, indictments. Others said we want criminal prosecutions.

CAMEROTA: Andy, help us understand everything that we just heard and everything that Paula just laid out.

You were obviously a top official at the FBI during this time. What do you think was going on in the Indianapolis field office?

And why is it that that supervisory special agent, Michael Langman, was just fired last week when we've known about these accusations and, you know, the dereliction of duty there for so long? ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Alisyn, I wish I

had good answers to many, many of these questions. I don't.

I have to tell you that this is, by far, the worst example of investigative failure, dereliction of duty that I have ever seen over the course of my 20-plus years with the FBI.

It's just -- and the consequences, my god. The priority of the FBI is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution and they failed in the most heinous and awful way, in a way that allowed upwards of now the numbers are somewhere in the range of 100 additional people, young women, to get victimized.

I -- it's just absolutely head spinning.

The failures by the Indianapolis field office and the two people that you -- that you mentioned, they're not explainable in any reasonable or normal way.

The details of the interview by phone of a survivor of sexual abuse, it's just not done under any normal circumstances that way.

The failure to document that interview. FBI agents are required to document interviews within five days of conducting the interview.

This thing wasn't documented for 17 months, which in and of itself shows you that there was all kinds of problems there.

I don't even know where to begin talking about just how absolutely awful this is.

But I can tell you that the men and women who do these sorts of cases -- and they get done hundreds and hundreds of times a day, in every office the FBI has, as Director Wray testified, 16,000 arrests of child predators in the last five years.


I can tell you that every one of them is absolutely sick to their stomach over this failure of their colleagues.

BLACKWELL: Andrew, you suggest that this is isolated to a specific office, to a few agents. Senator Grassley said, quote, "This is a serious problem at the heart of the FBI, not a case of a few errant agents."

So he says that this is potentially cultural, structural. What's your response to that?

MCCABE: Well, I will tell you, Victor, that anything this serious needs to be investigated fully to make sure that it is not a structural or cultural problem.

The I.G. report doesn't seem to indicate that that was their suspicions. I don't know if they're continuing to investigate in those directions. I am sure that director Chris Wray will be addressing that in his

internal efforts that he's going to make to address this.

I can tell you that that's not consistent with my experience with the crimes against children program, which is a major effort within the criminal investigative division of the FBI.

As I said, the agents who do that work are known for the exact opposite of what you saw here, which is one of the reasons why this is so incredibly hard to believe.

But I understand the concern, I share that concern, and we need to make sure that these types of abject failures are not happening in other cases. It's absolutely unacceptable on any terms.

CAMEROTA: Paula, Senator Blumenthal said the Department of Justice was a no-show. Was the Department of Justice expected to show up there? Why weren't they there?

REID: That's a great question. One of the lawmakers said the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, had been invited to come and testify before lawmakers and had declined to do so.

Ultimately, this question about whether someone should be criminally prosecuted, that fell to the Justice Department.

The internal watchdog, the inspector general, he did a report, he presented his findings, but ultimately, it's the Justice Department that makes the final decision on who is prosecuted.

That was one of the big questions here in today's hearing that has gone unanswered: Why weren't these individuals or any individual criminally prosecuted in this case?

There are allegations that they lied to federal investigators. Why are those not being pursued? That is a big outstanding question. There's not a lot of bipartisan consensus in Washington right now.

One thing we saw on both sides of the aisle there's agreement about is there are a lot more questions they are going to be demanding answers of the Justice Department.

BLACKWELL: Andy, one specific detail that Alisyn just mentioned is that this supervisory agent was just fired a few days ago. The wrongdoings happened years ago. The I.G. report was released mid-July.

But only on the relative eve of hearing these stories does some action happen. Another agent was allowed to retire.

The timing is suspicious, is it not?

MCCABE: It certainly seems that way, Victor. But we have to -- there's a couple of things that I think might be at play here.

Again, the I.G.'s report doesn't address these things but, typically, the bureau, or DOJ, doesn't take action against an employee until after the I.G.'s investigation is completed and the report is released.

In this case, the investigation took over three years. So that accounts for that time.

Once the report is delivered, the bureau has to go through its own process to terminate that employee.

You'd have to ask the director why this action took place only on the eve of this hearing. I think it's a really good question but I don't know that we heard that answer today.

CAMEROTA: Paula, we only have a few more seconds left. Is it up to the Department of Justice to prosecute or can these people be prosecuted elsewhere?

REID: It depends on what the allegations are, where this took place.

Based on what we heard from the inspector general, there are suggestions that these individuals may have lied to federal agents. And that -- that would be something that federal prosecutors would pursue.

Ultimately, that decision fell to the deputy attorney general or the attorney general who are not coming to answer any of these questions.

And that's really the big question going on in this hearing, why hasn't anyone been criminally prosecuted?

Particularly when you have this inspector general report, all of this evidence that there were not only mistakes made but deliberate actions to cover it up and subsequent false statements.

Where are the repercussions?


Paula Reid, Andrew McCabe, thank you very much for listening in with us and helping us try to understand what's going on here.


OK, meanwhile, President Biden is offering his support for General Mark Milley as some Republicans call for him to resign following those revelations about actions he took after the January 6th capitol riot to keep an unhinged President Trump in his lane. Hear what the president is saying, next.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, did General Milley do the right thing?

(CROSSTALK) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have great confidence in General Milley.


CAMEROTA: That was President Biden moments ago as calls for General Mark Milley to resign grow in some Republican circles.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in CNN's chief national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, the bombshell, and I really try not to use that cliche --


CAMEROTA: It just warrants it.

BLACKWELL: -- this really warrants it.

The call made to China, the meeting called by the chairman of Joint Chiefs, it seems the president is standing behind him and he is defending himself, too.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It was two telephone calls that General Mark Milley made to his counterpart in China during the time of the insurrection essentially saying the U.S. is not going to launch a nuclear attack against China.

He was increasingly concerned about the mental stability of then President Donald Trump around the time of the insurrection.

All of these details are coming out in the book to be released next week by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Going into detail in those harrowing hours and days. The nation's top general, concerned about the stability of the president, so had to warn China about this attack.

But President Biden is standing by General Milley. He talked about it briefly when he was asked a question on a meeting on a different topic. He's meeting now with CEOs on COVID-19.

But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki earlier said the president stands by General Milley and believes in his leadership and patriotism.

The White House is ignoring all of these calls, largely from Republicans, that General Milley should be dismissed.

And the president there as we heard in his own words has confidence and is standing by General Milley.

This is not the last word on this. General Milley is scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee later this month. You can bet all of this will be relitigated once again.

BLACKWELL: Jeff Zeleny, at the White House. Jeff, thank you.

Joining me to discuss this and more, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.

Congressman, thank you for being here.

This is in the book "Peril" by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about the time of the election.

There were two calls made to his Chinese counterpart where he said in one of those calls, "General Li, you and I have known each other for five years now. If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise."

Unilateral decision to call a general of an adversarial nation and give them a heads-up essentially if there's going to be an attack.

Are you OK with that? Did he do the right thing?

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): I'm concerned about that. Obviously, we have to hear from General Milley about the context of what was being said.

What we also know based on the published reports is he had intelligence that the Chinese military was anticipating an attack from the U.S. and was about to take a preemptive measure.

And so if that was the case, I think that given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Donald Trump and the concerns about his mental instability, I think it was probably appropriate for him to do something to avert war.

But I'm still concerned about some specific statements he made.

BLACKWELL: If not this, what? The idea that he should have done something. He said he's in the process here, he's in the chain of command. This was not his role, was it?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, as you remember, Donald Trump basically got rid of a lot of people in the chain of command and installed others who were thought to be just political hacks.

And I think that it's very puzzling to me that people would criticize General Milley without really criticizing Donald Trump's underlying behavior that precipitated General Milley's actions.

BLACKWELL: But that's not what we're hearing, Congressman. We heard from some Republicans in Congress. We heard from Senator Rubio, who says that the president should dismiss Chairman Milley.

But also, Colonel Alexander Vindman, who says that he did this for the right reason but should not have done it.

Here's what he told my colleague, Chris Cuomo.


I cannot imagine a situation in which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs offers to warn an adversary of an imminent attack. So I find that kind of casting a shadow over the rest of the reporting.

That's why I said, if the reporting is accurate, if the senior-most military officer in the United States Army or in the United States military acted without any oversight, without any accountability, I find that deeply troubling.

It's doing -- to me seems like the wrong thing for seemingly the right reason. There's not a way to get away with that. There's not a way to walk away from that unscathed.


BLACKWELL: So he says he seemingly did it for the right reason, it was just the wrong thing to do. So wrong that he believes that maybe the reporting is wrong because it's so extreme.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It's possible. We haven't heard from General Milley. All we've heard about is the published reports in the book.

That's why I think it is appropriate for him to come to Congress and explain what he said.


Quite frankly, we need to also understand you have a president who display signs of instability.

BLACKWELL: His office says the calls were part of a series of discussions with U.S. allies and adversaries in order to maintain strategic stability. As we heard, General Milley will be there in front of Senate committee pretty soon.

Let me move to what's happening Saturday. This Justice for J6 rally that's happening there. The Capitol Police erecting the fencing again. Speaker Pelosi said they're much better prepared.

Are you confident they will be able to secure the facility?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I believe so. I think there should be an overwhelming show of support. I think there should be an overwhelming show of support. There should be the Metropolitan Police present. The D.C. National Guard should be there.

Secondly, Republican leaders have to dissuade supporters from coming. Last time, they did just the opposite. This time, I hope they do the right thing.

Finally, I think DOJ has to hustle and increase tempo of the prosecutions of those who committed crimes on January 6th. Hundreds have yet to be arrested, and of those arrested, numerous prosecutions have not unfolded.

When you don't do that, you don't hold people accountable and they think they got away with it.

BLACKWELL: The insurrection was launched and led by people who believe the big lie that the election was stolen.

There's a new poll out that shows that 78 percent of Americans believe that President Biden didn't win. And 54 percent say there's solid evidence to prove it. Four out of five Republicans believe the president, this was a stolen election.

What breaks this?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: One of the things we seen is fewer people identify as Republicans. I think there's a lot more Independents and Democrats.

I think the vast majority of Democrats and Independents believe just the opposite. Eventually, we'll have to hold more Republicans accountable for their beliefs if they're in line with what you said.

BLACKWELL: What does that mean?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: It means, asking people that run for office, do you believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump? Do you believe that Donald Trump had nothing to do with January 6th?

Those are, by the way, some core chief beliefs of a lot of Republicans we're talking to.

BLACKWELL: Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you for coming in.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right. We have new developments in a defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump that do not look good for the former president. We have the details, next.



CAMEROTA: Just in, a federal judge denied Donald Trump's request to stop the defamation lawsuit filed against him by columnist, E. Jean Carroll.

This case has been on hold for almost a year while the former president and the Department of Justice pursued an appeal.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Kara Scannell joins us now.

Kara, this is a surprise. What does this mean?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: This is coming out of the blue out of left field. The judge received this request from the former president's lawyer in December of 2020 and he's not ruled on it until now.

Just to remind people, this is the defamation lawsuit against the former president. He's fought to have the Department of Justice as the defendant and this judge had denied that.

That caused the former president and the Department of Justice to appeal it. And in that process, former president lawyer asked the judge to stop all lower court proceedings.

What this means now is perhaps she could move forward with this lawsuit. She wants to get documents, records, potentially depose the former president and a copy of his DNA, a cheek swab.

CAMEROTA: She's accused Donald Trump before he was president of rape in a department store dressing room.

SCANNELL: That's right. She said he raped her in the mid-1990s in a New York department store dressing room.

She wrote about this in a book and the former president denied it. That's where she say it was defamation. That's the crux of the case.

It does involve the underlying conduct because it goes to truth of the matter. It could open up the door for her litigation to move forward.

It's also very likely that former president or the Department of Justice might go to appeals court and say can stay this lower court proceedings.

They're teed up. They've filed other briefings in this case. Set to have oral arguments in this matter the week of November 29th. This is coming to a head on its own.


It's interesting why the judge did this now. Did he run out of patience and waiting? It will be more than a year after his order that they will hear oral arguments.