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Ghislaine Maxwell Guilty on Four Sex Trafficking Charges; Jobless Claims Near Historic Low; Melania Trump Selling NFT; A Royal Recap of 2021. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 30, 2021 - 08:30   ET




ANNIE FARMER, EPSTEIN-MAXWELL ACCUSER: This is one important step toward justice. I wasn't sure that this day would ever come. And I just feel so grateful that the jury believed us and sent a strong message, that perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation will be held accountable, no matter how much power and privilege that they have.


COLLINS: After the verdict, Maxwell's legal team said they are working on an appeal.

Joining us now to talk about this is an attorney for 20 of Epstein's accusers, Gloria Allred.

Gloria, thank you so much for joining us this morning on this very important verdict that came down yesterday. And I just want to know, we heard from -- heard there, I want to know what the general reaction has been from the women that you represent.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Yes, I represent 20 accusers of Jeffrey Epstein and some also had allegations against Ms. Maxwell, which they shared with law enforcement in the Southern District of New York, the prosecutors, although they did not testify.

I can tell you that they're very happy that justice has been done, that it has been a long time coming. Of course, they were denied the opportunity to confront Jeffrey Epstein in the court of law because he died while he was in federal custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

And he, there, was the victim of a homicide or he committed suicide, not 100 percent clear yet. But in any event, there is some justice because Ms. Maxwell was convicted of very serious felonies.

Conspiracy to sex traffic underage girls is an extremely serious charge. And so, in other words, she assisted him, she knew what she was doing. And the jury was very careful and deliberated and asked for the transcripts of all four accusers' testimonies, also reviewed the defense transcript of some of their witnesses.

And ultimately they reached the decision that Ms. Maxwell should be convicted. And I do think, Kaitlan, that it sends a very serious message to others, who may be involved in or deciding whether they will get involved in conspiracy to sex traffic other young girls to other sexual predators.

And they need to understand from this conviction, actually a number of convictions against Ms. Maxwell, that they could possibly end up being prosecuted, convicted and facing a prison sentence, which could keep them in prison for the rest of their lives.

COLLINS: And I should note that authorities do say they believe Epstein did kill himself.

I do want to talk about the arguments we heard in court, as this trial was playing out, about Ghislaine Maxwell, talking about her, essentially her defense saying, she is being a scapegoat for Epstein, she is facing the reckoning that he never will, given his death.

But you heard from the victims and from the survivors here, saying really this kind of sinister ploy on her part, taking them shopping, taking them to the movies, building this sense of trust and normalizing sexual abuse, that ended up, for some of them, going on for decades.

And so what do you make of how the defense tried to frame this over the last several weeks and days?

ALLRED: Right, and that's called the empty chair defense or "some other dude did it and he went thataway," the other dude being Jeffrey Epstein. And she's being scapegoated for what he did, which even the defense admits was absolutely wrong and criminal.

So the jury didn't buy it. It is as simple as that. She was involved and, as you say, she normalized the behavior that some of the victims testified, that she, you know, because there was another woman there, who appeared to be in a relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, namely Ms. Maxwell.

And because she helped to arrange some of their travel or recruited some of the girls or assisted in it, that, you know, she made it seem as though it was OK to travel, to be with Mr. Epstein and they could engage in the fantasy that he just wanted to help them with their education.

They were just going in to give him a massage and get $200, which was a lot of money to an underage girl, especially some of these girls, who are very vulnerable, from poorer homes, single parent homes. And they seem to think it was OK because she was there. So none of those defenses worked. They attempted to discredit some of the victims because they were compensated by the Epstein victims' compensation fund.

There is nothing wrong with that. They have a right to be compensated. They can prove they were the victim of a wrong and that they suffered. And many of these victims were traumatized.


ALLRED: Some will have life-long emotional injuries for the rest of their lives and physical injuries as well. So now it is time to make the predators accountable and those who assisted this predator accountable. That was done in the criminal case. And now it has been done in the Epstein compensation fund as well.

COLLINS: Yes, this is something that permanently altered their lives and now, hopefully, with this verdict, they have at least some sense of justice. Gloria Allred, thank you for joining us this morning.

ALLRED: Thank you. Bye-bye.

COLLINS: Up next, new jobless claims numbers are just in. We're going to break them down for you.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: And Melania Trump going where no former first lady has gone before.





COLLINS: Just in to CNN moments ago, new unemployment numbers. CNN's Matt Egan joins us now.

Matt, what do the numbers show?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Well, Kaitlan, these numbers show that this jobs market is on fire. Just 198,000 first-time jobless claims in the latest week; that is down from the prior week. And it is not far from the 52-year low that was set earlier this month.

Basically it is saying that demand for workers is very high. And firing is historically low. Now economists say that some of the recent drops could have been driven by seasonal effects; numbers get a little noisy this time of the year. That's why they like to look at the four- week average.

But even by that measure, this is the lowest level of claims since 1969. We really can't lose sight of how far the jobs market has come. But at this point, earlier this year, early January of this year, jobless claims were at nearly 900,000.

Today's number is down by roughly three-quarters. And that makes sense, because businesses right now have a near record number of job openings. They are desperate to hire. Many of them can't afford to let go of the workers they do have.

Big picture, Kaitlan, I think all of this shows that the jobs market is ending 2021 in a really strong place.

COLLINS: Yes. Everywhere you go, you see the "help wanted" signs and it is certainly some welcome news for the Biden White House to close out 2021 with. Matt Egan, thank you so much.

EGAN: Thanks.

AVLON: That is extraordinary, a 75 percent decline in one year, 52- year low.

All right, on another note, after months of relative public silence, former first lady Melania Trump stepping back into the public eye with a new project. It is a watercolor close-up of her eyes in the form of an NFT, entitled "Melania's Vision." CNN's White House correspondent Kate Bennett has more.

Kate, what do you make of all this?

Some former first ladies write books, devote themselves to charity. Now, instead, we have an NFT of Melania Trump's eyes.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You said it, John. That is classic Melania Trump. She zigs when you think she's going to zag. The NFT thing sort of came out of nowhere; no one really saw it coming.

But it is certainly not traditional. But nothing Melania Trump really did as first lady was quote-unquote "traditional." Certainly this new endeavor, which could be lucrative, is something we're paying attention to.

COLLINS: We know, Kate, it goes on sale tomorrow. She is donating part of the proceeds to charity.

Is that right?

BENNETT: Right. So it ends the sale tomorrow. So it has been on sale. And she is donating part of the proceeds. She says -- but we don't know, really what that portion is. Her office has not responded to our request for comment. But there are a lot of questions about this NFT.


BENNETT (voice-over): Since leaving the White House, almost one year ago ...

MELANIA TRUMP, FORMER FIRST LADY: Being your first lady was my greatest honor. Thank you for your love and your support. BENNETT (voice-over): -- Melania Trump retreated into her standard

comfort zone, privacy, only recently emerging, promoting her new NFT business on an almost daily basis since its announcement and tweeting with slightly more frequency than her normal silence about national anniversaries, tragedies and a holiday visit with the Florida Coast Guard.

But it is the release of her non-fungible token or NFT that has been unexpected. NFTs are blockchain-encrypted digital art works or other collectibles, purchased through cryptocurrency.

Trump's features a close-up of her eyes, drawn by a French artist. Purchasing "Melania's Vision," the title of her NFT, includes the drawing as well as a brief audio clip.


M. TRUMP (voice-over): My vision is look forward with inspiration, strength and courage.


BENNETT (voice-over): Plenty of celebrities have embraced the NFT craze, mostly because they can be super lucrative. And to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in profit, via the world of cryptocurrency.

Releasing limited edition pieces that fans can buy has already lured not only Melania Trump; Tom Brady has one, so does Snoop Dogg. The singer Grimes is a fan as are Lindsey Lohan and Mark Cuban.

And what is a pop culture trend if it doesn't include Paris Hilton?


BENNETT (voice-over): Who has released several NFTs and also counts herself as a collector. But a former first lady, not exactly what most do after leaving the White House.

Laura Bush has dedicated her work to helping others on a global scale.

LAURA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Free people around the world must stand with Afghan women.

BENNETT (voice-over): Michelle Obama used her platform and popularity to push various projects including voting rights.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: The truth is that registering to vote just isn't hard. It doesn't take long.

BENNETT (voice-over): Melania Trump has yet to establish a post-White House foundation or outline an agenda of work. She did say in her NFT announcement that a portion of the proceeds would go to help foster children. But questions from CNN as to how much and which programs have gone


One person in her corner on the venture, her husband and crypto critic, Donald Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I never loved it because I like to have the dollar. I think the currency should be the dollar. So I was never a big fan.


BENNETT (voice-over): Now embracing his wife's latest and somewhat unusual project.


D. TRUMP: She's going to do great. She does really -- she's got a great imagination.



BENNETT: So Melania Trump is also teasing another NFT that she could release in January. This could be a regular thing for her. Again, this could be a moneymaker. But there are a lot of questions and it's certainly unusual for a first lady.

AVLON: Be best.

COLLINS: All right, John, you got 48 hours left to get on this.


BENNETT: -- "Melania's Vision."


AVLON: That's the first thing I'm going to do after the show.


COLLINS: We'll be watching at 9:01.

Kate Bennett, thank you so much.

AVLON: All right.

Up next, a royal year in review, filled with highs, lows and moments in between.




COLLINS: For the royal family, 2021 was one of the most dramatic years in recent history -- and that's saying a lot.


COLLINS: There was scandal, loss and a bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview. Family troubles kept on coming, changing the lives of the Windsors forever. Max Foster has more.


MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the royal family, 2021 was punctuated by loss.

ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF ENGLAND: In the months since the death of my beloved Philip, I have drawn great comfort from the warmth and affection of the many tributes to his life and work.

FOSTER (voice-over): Husband, father, grandfather and great- grandfather, the man she described as her strength and stay no longer by her side, after 73 years of personal and professional partnership.

One image lingers from his funeral that spoke not just to her loss but to that of so many others, who were left on their own because of COVID.

But it didn't slow her down. The queen, back at her desk, while she was still officially in mourning until doctors advised her to rest in October following a hospital stay and preliminary investigations into an undisclosed condition; later, compounded by a back sprain.

KATE WILLIAMS, AUTHOR AND ROYAL EXPERT: It is an extremely punishing schedule for someone who is 95. And I think no one would criticize her at all and everyone would support her in stepping back and doing a bit less.

FOSTER (voice-over): She gave up international travels some years ago. So Prince Charles represented her in Barbados in November for a ceremony to replace her as head of state by a locally appointed president. It marked the end of 396 years of British rule and a long- awaited reconciliation with the island's colonial past.

CHARLES, PRINCE OF WALES: The appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.

FOSTER (voice-over): It wasn't first time that race came up as an issue for the family in 2021.

MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: Concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born.

FOSTER (voice-over): Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, went rogue, not just leaving their royal roles but telling all to Oprah Winfrey on why they felt the need to get out.

EMILY NASH, ROYAL EDITOR, "HELLO! MAGAZINE": It raised very serious allegations of racism but also of rifts within the family, difficulties between Prince Harry and his father, the differences between him and his brother. It really was a very warts-and-all opening-up of things that have traditionally been kept very private by the royal family.

FOSTER (voice-over): The queen issued a statement, acknowledging the allegations and committing to address them whilst also pointedly noting that recollections may vary.

The rest of the family, characteristically, kept calm and carried on, until William was fired an unsolicited question.


QUESTION: Are you a racist family, sir?

PRINCE WILLIAM, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE (from captions): No, we're very much not a racist family.


FOSTER (voice-over): And the queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, spoke to CNN but wouldn't be drawn on the Sussex saga.


PRINCE EDWARD, EARL OF WESSEX: And listen, we have all been there before. We have all had an excessive intrusion and attention in our lives. And we've all dealt with it in slightly different ways. And, listen, we wish them the very best.


FOSTER (voice-over): The palace has continued to distance itself from Prince Andrew publicly, pursued by the FBI in recent years for sexual abuse allegations. Accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre filed a civil suit this year, claiming the royal assaulted her when she was 17.

Prince Andrew has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing. Regardless of how the impending trial unfolds, royal commentators expect the institution to survive intact.


NASH: I think the royal brand has taken quite a battering in 2021, from all sides, you know. We've had the fallout from the Oprah interview, we've had Prince Andrew's ongoing legal issues.

These are all things that, you know, really should have dented the monarchy. But I think that the key players have just quite simply kept calm and carried on and done some really good things.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOSTER (voice-over): In February 2022, the queen will celebrate her platinum jubilee, the only British monarch to do so, having first ascended to the throne 70 years ago in 1952. The Firm is keen to focus attention on that and the success of the queen's entire reign rather than a tumultuous 12 months -- Max Foster, CNN, London.


COLLINS: John, I'm not sure anyone is doing much more of keeping calm and carrying on anymore.


AVLON: But that is still good advice. Keep calm and carry on, even as the royal soap opera continues to fascinate some folks on this side of the Atlantic.

COLLINS: Certainly a lot of us.

Just ahead on CNN, jobless claims are back near a historic low. We'll break the new numbers down for you.


AVLON: And this Sunday on CNN, American music royalty, Carole King, and Sweet Baby James Taylor in an unforgettable concert film. Here is a preview of "Just Call Out My Name."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Friends, collaborators, legends, their music shaped a generation. They came together for the tour of a lifetime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): James Taylor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His songs were amazing. His voice is amazing and his demeanor.




TAYLOR: Carole King, one of the greatest songwriters of all time, I asked her to be a part of my band.


TAYLOR: Forty years have passed since the first time we played.

CAROLE KING, SINGER-SONGWRITER: I have loved every experience we have had together.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Just call out my name, Sunday at 9:00 on CNN.