Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Blurred Lines Between Clinton Foundation/State Department; Trying to Catch a 5-Star Sociopath in "The Hunt". Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired August 12, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:53] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton under new scrutiny this morning, a CNN investigation raises new questions about what some see as blurred lines between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation. Evidence that top Clinton aide, Cheryl Mills, conducted a high-level task for the foundation while she was secretary Clinton's chief of staff.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Blurred lines crossed. That is a big question.
CNN senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, he has been looking into all of this.
Where is the ethical and legal boundary here?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's a big question we don't have an answer for, Kate. When Hillary Clinton was being confirmed as secretary of state, she sent a letter to the officials at state saying she would not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that is a direct and predictable effect upon this foundation. That's what Hillary Clinton said. Fast forward to 2012, that's when our investigation finds Cheryl Mills, then the chief of staff for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, traveling to New York City to help the Clinton Foundation. She was interviewing two potential candidates to become the next director of the Clinton Foundation.
Mills' attorney said this attorney process, it was all volunteer for a charitable organization. What we do not know is whether Mills role was a violation of ethics rules, whether she had permission from the U.S. Department of State, or whether the state, Kate, even knew that this trip was taking place.
We asked the State Department all these specific questions. This is what we got, a generic statement that said, "Federal employees are permitted to engage in outside personal activities within the scope of federal ethics rules." Vague response, raising more questions that are not being answered.
And the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Republican Chuck Grassley, has been asking about this trip since January.
You know, Kate and John, it's just more bad optics coming in the same week we're seeing newly released e-mails showing lots of communication between top State Department staffers and Clinton Foundation staffers. Just showing what appears to be a very loose line that at least when she took office Hillary Clinton said would be a hard line that separates the foundation from the State Department.
BERMAN: You know, Drew, so the Clinton campaign has response to this. They say it's really all about nothing and that Cheryl Mills wasn't paid a dime for this trip and was doing this work as a volunteer.
GRIFFIN: Exactly. And formerly this is what Hillary Clinton's spokesperson told us. He said it was crystal clear to all involved this had nothing to do with her official duties. The idea that this poses a conflict of interest is absurd.
Here's the problem. Yes, Cheryl Mills wasn't paid a dime as far as we know. But we also know her State Department staff was involved in the logistics here. There were other meetings going on during this trip. The various people interviewed worked for companies that are involved in donating and working with the Clinton Foundation. By the way, also have business overseas. So it just really looks bad.
BOLDUAN: And while all of this is happening, there's news that CNN's learning that the FBI months ago had suspicions there may have been criminal activity involved with the Clinton Foundation. But it didn't open an investigation.
GRIFFIN: Yeah, this is coming from our justice reporters. The FBI and top justice officials met with -- several months ago to discuss opening up a possible corruption case into the Clinton Foundation. Now, at the time, three different Justice Department field offices were all in agreement. There should be an investigation. It involved a bank that was reporting suspicious activity from a foreigner who donated money to the Clinton Foundation. While the Department of Justice took a look at all this, and decided it seems more political, and didn't pursue the case basically because of insufficient evidence.
BERMAN: All right, Drew Griffin, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: A lot to work through. It's a lot of stuff.
BOLDUAN: A lot of stuff. Glad Drew's on it.
[11:34:49] BERMAN: He's a conservative Republican who says he's voting for Donald Trump. But he's also saying he could work with Hillary Clinton. What's the impact there? That's coming up.
BOLDUAN: We're back with new questions about Hillary Clinton's State Department and where the line was or wasn't between State and the Clinton Foundation. As Drew Griffin reported just before the break, a CNN investigation found that Clinton aide, Cheryl Mills, traveled to interview candidates for a top job at the Clinton Foundation in 2012 when Mills was Hillary Clinton's chief of staff at the State Department.
BERMAN: The Clinton campaign denies any inappropriate overlap.
Our panel, Hillary Clinton supporter, Hilary Rosen; Donald Trump supporter, Joseph Boreli. Also Mary Katharine Ham, CNN political commentator, senior writer for "The Federalist" and conservative blogger.
Hilary Rosen, when Hillary Clinton took the secretary of state job, the Obama administration and the incoming Obama administration went to great pains to prevent what they called -- they wanted to make sure that anything that happened there would not create conflicts for Secretary Clinton as secretary of state. At a minimum, doesn't Cheryl Mills traveling to New York to do interviews for the Clinton Foundation create an appearance of conflict?
[11:40:26] HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we don't actually know what she was doing. We have to use this report. But here's the -- I don't really see what's wrong with the Clinton campaign's answer, that Cheryl Mills is a thoughtful person, smart on policy, and if a charitable foundation wanted her view on potential leadership, I don't see that's a problem. There's really -- the issue with the Clinton Foundation, let's not forget what they do. They work on global poverty. They're solving the AIDS crisis. They're -- you know, we're not talking about commercial activity. We're talking about issues that the country has a stake in, that the State Department has a stake in, that many, many foundations work with the Clinton Foundation to accomplish.
BERMAN: But if the issue is concern over blurred lines, aren't these blurred lines?
ROSEN: She volunteered her time to this charitable cause, I think a perfectly legitimate thing to do.
BOLDUAN: Mary Katharine, that's what the Clinton campaign is saying, she can volunteer her time this is how she's volunteering her time.
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, and there are plenty of other NGOs and charitable organizations she can donate her time to, not the one with the name of secretary of state on it.
Here's the thing, I think for many voters, this is why she has a trust problem, this feels like sort of corruption and this sort of coziness is so routine for them that they don't even think about obscuring it. The Obama administration says we want these rules. Clintons are like, eh. That's part of what Trump voters are respond to when he says this is as usual and she's business as usual. They didn't even do the bare minimum to prevent what looks like a conflict of interest and possible corruption even if you take out the idea there might have been possible corruption which, of course, there possibly was.
ROSEN: That's not true. There was a system set up at the State Department through the general counsel's office where there were specific issues of common interests. So, you know, I don't think you can take one visit from Cheryl to talk about leadership at the foundation --
HAM: But that's not at all. It's a routine --
ROSEN: No, you know, the Justice Department looked at this and found nothing worth investigating.
HAM: But the FBI did and the DOJ did?
ROSEN: What they found is there was a lack of any real evidence that showed anything wrong and they did follow the rules that they set up, that they agreed to with the White House. And going forward, again this notion of corruption, let's remember what this organization does, it solves poverty. It assists after hurricanes. It goes, you know, and the AIDS crisis.
HAM: Hold on. Hold on.
HAM: It also takes donations from foreign countries that it doesn't disclose on tax forms and the Clintons are smart enough that they could have done that perfectly well and they don't do it --
BERMAN: Hold on, guys --
BERMAN: I want to move on to a different subject, but it's clear this discussion will go on, and it is something the Clinton campaign is going to have to deal with going forward.
The other question is, though, do voters care. And we have some new information about where voters stand right now. It's pretty eye- popping right now. NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist just came up with key polls in Colorado, Florida and North Carolina. And North Carolina has people bugging out right now, Hillary Clinton, 48 percent, Donald Trump, 39 percent.
Joseph Boreli, North Carolina, a state Obama won in 2008, lost in 2012. There's zero percent chance that Donald Trump can win the White House without North Carolina. To be trailing nine points is cause for serious concern.
JOSEPH BORELI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The polls should be concerning for the Trump campaign and they have to do a better job in North Carolina, a number of states. I want to address one point Hilary said, what is the foundation doing?
The foundation is also benefiting its donor members. That's something that I think a lot people do have a problem with. If you want to know what's going to turn this race around, at least partially, it's this unending e-mail scandal. When you talk about the FBI investigation, well, the same person who nixed the FBI investigation met secretly with Bill Clinton on a private plane. If you take Hillary Clinton out of the equation --
BERMAN: You're tying up four different --
[11:44:50]BORELI: I know I am, but taken as a whole, all these scandals surrounding Hillary Clinton, if you had to ask someone who would do this stuff, it paints a picture of a bond villain as much as it does a candidate for the president of the United States. If you need something I think what's going to turn around a lot of the poll numbers is this unending scandal after scandal after scandal that Hillary can't seem to escape.
BOLDUAN: I think -- we're going to have to wrap this up, but I think we both agree, the big question, it's unclear, this might fit into just like people say with the insults and scandals Donald Trump finds himself in, it might just be it's baked in because both of these candidates are disliked, both these candidates are not trusted. Does this move a vote? Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait and see. But we can see where some voters stand in North Carolina which I would like to talk more about but we have no time to do.
BERMAN: Guys, thanks so much. Appreciate you're being here.
BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, guys.
Coming up, police are on "The Hunt" for a man who kidnapped young women, tortured them and turned them into sex slaves. Coming up, the host of CNN's original series, "The Hunt," John Walsh, explains why police need the public's help to get this dangerous suspect off the streets.
We will be right back.
BOLDUAN: CNN's original series, "The Hunt" is back, and John Walsh is hoping the new episode will help police catch a fugitive that he calls a five-star sociopath.
[11:50:00] BERMAN: Authorities say Alfonso Dias Suarez kidnapped young women in Mexico, beat them, tortured them and turned them into sex slaves. In this episode, a victim reveals the horror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EDWIN CULPUSEAUX, FORMER HARRIS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATOR: Poncho was one of the most violent pimps I've come across in the 11 years I was working in trafficking. He did a lot of brutal things bordering into torture to make the girls do what he wanted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
RACHEL ALVAREZ, CASE MANAGER, HOUSTON YMCA HUMAN TRAFFICKING PROGRAM: One victim said that he was just beating her. She'd fall on the ground. She got hit by the butt of the gun on her head. She passed out. When she woke up he was still beating her. She said he didn't care if I was dead or not, he just kept at it.
RUBEN PEREZ, HOUSTON, TEXAS, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: These girls are terrified of what can happen, not only to them but more importantly what can happen to their family members.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: John Walsh joins us now.
John, you call this guy a five-star sociopath.
JOHN WALSH, HOST, THE HUNT: I hate the guys who exploit women and children, and this guy does both. And he is a five star sociopath. He goes into Mexico, he's a Mexican national, kidnaps young girls or talks girls into coming across the bored with him. He's a coyote, a coyote who's a professional smuggler. He convinced a girl to come with him. He raped this girl in the U.S. and forced her to work in a cantina in Houston. America is the largest offender. Houston is a big thoroughfare for sex trafficking and they have these cantinas.
So he forces this girl to work as a prostitute. She's pregnant by his rape. She has a baby, tries to give it away to somebody to make the baby safe. He kidnaps the baby to force her to come back as a prostitute. This is a 15-year-old girl he locks in a room to service 30 guys a night. He gets caught. And guess how much time he served in Texas, kidnap, rape, kidnapping of their baby? Three years.
So he gets on our radar in 2014. He's working with a woman madam in Houston kidnapping more girls. They arrest 13 of the people working at that cantina who made lion in six years. Guess who got away? This guy.
He's on the top of my list. Sunday night, I'm hoping he's toast. We have a huge following in Mexico. We have Spanish-speaking operators. You do not have to leave your name. You're never going to talk to a cop. If you're an illegal in Texas and you know where this guy is, make that call. And we'll take this creep off the streets.
BOLDUAN: Some goods, actually, One guy they actually caught, he was highlighted in your first episode this season.
WALSH: Christopher Pots, looking for him for four years. Police say when he was severely intoxicated -- here's a guy with 10 traffic violations, DUIs, reckless violation. Parents let him use a car and he kills a wonderful young man named William Angel and cripples an Afghan soldier vet and he cuts his ankle bracelet off. They don't put him in jail. They let him go home with an ankle bracelet. He cuts off the ankle bracelet and he's been at large for three years.
Because of the U.S. Marshals, their great work, this family who never gave up, the parents of a murdered son, just like I am. And Interpol who puts my cases on their red list. The Spanish police caught him in a bus stop this week. Great capture. He needs to get his butt back here.
BERMAN: Great capture.
John Walsh, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: You can catch "The Hunt" this Sunday night, 9:00 eastern, only here on CNN.
Donald Trump said it multiple times to multiple people, including one who tried to give him a lifeline out. But now Donald Trump said he was being sarcastic when he repeatedly claimed President Obama founded ISIS. Coming up, Team Trump tries to clear the air.
[11:58:55] BERMAN: Finally this hour, helping the homeless. Many organizations provide food, shelter, even medical supplies, but what about their clothes? This week's "CNN Hero" couldn't find any group helping with that so he and a friend turned a van into Australia's first mobile laundromat to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: Most people take for granted putting a fresh clean set of clothes on. For someone who is sleeping around and who really doesn't have access to washing and drying their clothes, something that's continually overlooked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Oren travels every day to nine cities in Australia. Next stop, United States. You can watch the story at CNNheroes.com. While you're there nominate someone you think should be a 2016 "CNN Hero."
Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.
Big news just in, we were just talking about. We didn't talk about much. The new Marist poll putting North Carolina leaning towards Hillary Clinton, now leading Donald Trump by nine points.
BERMAN: If you can put together a map with Donald Trump winning the presidency without North Carolina, tweet me now.
BOLDUAN: Call us.
BERMAN: Much more on that. "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.
[12:00:13] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. And welcome to "Legal View."