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Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance Talks Weinstein Scandal; Boy Scouts to Admit Girls; Rapper Eminem Unleashes Blistering Attack on Trump; Trump, Melania Welcome to Canadian Prime Minister, Wife to White House; Kirstjen Neilson Leading Contender for HHS Secretary. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired October 11, 2017 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:32:29] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Cy Vance now answering reporters' questions on the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Let's listen.
CY VANCE, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: -- into not the court of public opinion. Our sex crimes prosecutors made a determination that this was not going to be a provable case and so the decision was made not to go forward. That's the basis for it.
I understand that folks -- folks are outraged by his behavior. I understand that there are many other allegations that surfaced. But in our case, we really did what I think the law obligates us to do, focus on the evidence and the facts that we have, and then I relied on the true professionals to help guide to the decision, which is not always going to be the popular decision. That's the nature of being a prosecutor.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were you the final say? Were you the final say?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What else do you need?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you say we, do you mean you made the decision?
VANCE: We made the decision as an office. I was guided by the head of our Sex Crimes Unit. And her recommendation. And that's what and her investigation is what led me to the conclusion.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you regret taking donations from the president and do you regret taking donations from the president and from Weinstein's attorneys?
VANCE: From the who's?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Marc Kasowitz.
VANCE: Oh. No contribution ever in my seven years of district attorney has ever had any impact on my decision making in a case. Contributions are, unfortunately, a part of running for office. They're legal. And I have a very sound vetting system. So the answer is, I don't regret as a D.A. having to raise money in order to campaign for office. And nothing that Marc ever contributed or anyone else ever contributed has had the slightest impact on my decision making. I've been a lawyer now for 35 years. I understand how to focus on the law and what my obligations are as district attorney. The answer is they had no impact on my thinking.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you regret the decision?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it appropriate that district attorneys are allowed to raise so much money from --
VANCE: The answer is that it is legal.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, legal, but is it appropriate.
VANCE: It is legal and it is common practice for district attorneys to be able to raise money from lawyers, even though those lawyers may have matters before the audience.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does that make it right?
VANCE: It makes it legal. What it does do is obviously calls for an opportunity like this for me to rethink with my assistants how we wish to handle this matter going forward. It's absolutely legal. But it doesn't mean that it shouldn't be re-examined -- (INAUDIBLE).
[13:35:20] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you regret the decision?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you wish that you had in light of all the allegations nationwide, do you have any regrets about not prosecuting Harvey Weinstein at this point? Because obviously, in your statement, you said some errors remain by the NYPD. Let's do the Monday morning quarterback, it we may.
VANCE: Let's try to be fair and straight.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK.
VANCE: If we had a case that we felt we could prosecute and my experts felt we could prosecute, we would have. We take on many, many, many difficult sex crime prosecutions with individuals, irrespective of their background or their money. So that's not an issue for us. We merely are based on the facts, not what people think about it, not whether people liked Harvey or not. Obviously, he has some serious issues and the tape is terrible. I, as D.A., have to be guided by the evidence and the elements of the crime, and my experts in office, and if I stop being guided by any of those things and start being guided by outside influences, whether it's money or whether it's public opinion, then I'm not doing my job. I take -- I'll take criticism for my decisions but my decisions were based on the law and the investigation, guided by my team.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were there any disciplinary actions?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you given any of the money back?
BLITZER: Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance, answering reporters' questions, explaining why, back in 2015, they didn't press charges against Harvey Weinstein, even though the NYPD had wired a woman. We've all heard the audiotape by now. Awful audiotape. But he said there simply was not enough evidence to go forward.
Laura Coates is still with us, our CNN legal analyst, former federal prosecutor.
Laura, he made the case, it wasn't popular, certainly not now with everything we know but back then in 2015, they had no choice. They didn't have the evidence to press charges.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's what he's saying. Of course, the missing element I'm sure he is speaking of is the idea of intent and also about whether or not there was consensual agreement between the two people. Of course, the tape we heard, the audio, does describe, I can only call it creepy, disturbing, potentially criminal behavior on the part of Weinstein. But you not have a full corroboration in that audiotape alone that the actions of grabbing her breasts, as she alluded to in the audiotape, what is what she did in response to it at the time that it happened, and whether or not it was invited or disinvited conduct. That's the part they're looking at, talking about the idea of any missing elements.
But, of course, the police department has already said there was more to the story. We need to hear that before we can assess what the D.A. was talking about.
But, Wolf, his particular speech he just gave is no different than the one that Bruce Castor had to say when he was trying to defend his decision not to prosecute somebody like Bill Cosby. This is the run- of-the-mill critique that happens for every elected D.A. who is beholden by contribution dollars and that people believe it may impact their decision. This feels like that same sort of case.
BLITZER: He denied that flatly. He said he's been the D.A. for seven years. You've got to get elected and raise money. He says no matter how much money anyone provided him, they never look at that. They only look at the facts whether or not there's a case. What you're suggesting is that's not necessarily true?
COATES: I'm suggesting that that is what he is saying, that he is beholding only to the limits of the law and the crime as he is presented with the facts and makes an objective decision. However, anytime there is an elected district attorney or an elected prosecutor, there will always be the murmuring of people who decide they are in fact doing the opposite of making objective analysis and decisions.
Now, in this case, I don't have information to suggest that he has not abided by his oath of objectivity. Instead, I'm looking at the fact that looking at this case from only hearing the audio for that sting operation between Harvey Weinstein and this actress, I can only assess what he was missing in order to go forward with the case is the most important element, which is the mens rea, the criminal intent and, of course, whether or not this particular woman, when she was involved in this alleged incident, whether or not she gave consent or not. If she did not, I can see them having a different outcome of this case. But based on his statements, that's what he was guided by, the absence of a particular element.
[13:40:02] BLITZER: Very quickly, before I let you go, the D.A.'s office and Cy Vance, the district attorney in Manhattan, keep saying the NYPD placed the wire on this woman without consulting with them to begin with. That was a problem.
COATES: And here's why they're saying that. Because, of course, the prosecutor is the one who can bring the charges. Yes, the NYPD, any police officer can actually arrest and charge somebody with a crime, but the ultimate criminal charges that comes out of the prosecutor's office have to come out of a prosecutor's office. The absence of the strategic alliance between the two would have necessarily resulted in not having every single element they're looking for to be corroborated in the tape. The police department saying, we did our job, you do yours. The D.A. is probably saying, you didn't do your whole job, if you were not aware in the planning of the sting operation, what specifically we needed to prove in terms of element to prove there was a lack of consent and criminal activity afoot. That absence of the agreement of the mind will probably be the most pivotal decision that the D.A. had to make.
BLITZER: There's plenty of legal jeopardy Harvey Weinstein still faces.
BLITZER: Laura, thank you very much.
There's other breaking news we're following, including North Korea saying President Trump has, quote, "Lit the wick of war." They also called him insane after his Rocket Man speech at the United Nations.
Plus, moments away, the president getting ready to greet Canada's visiting Justin Trudeau, but they will not hold that traditional news conference at the White House. Much more on this when we come back.
[13:45:52] BLITZER: Breaking news from the Boy Scouts of America. The board of directors voting today to now start admitting girls into the Boy Scouts.
CNN's Nick Valencia is joining with us details.
Nick, walk us through the decision. What led to this important decision? NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Wolf. The Boy Scouts
of America again finding themselves in the political spotlight. Just moments ago, making this historic announcement via a press release saying girls will now be able to join their iconic Cub Scout program. Older girls will be available to advance to the highest rank of Eagle Scout. The organization saying this decision comes after years of requests from family members and girls to join the organization.
Here's what they said in part of the statement they released, saying: "Families today are busier and more diversity than ever. There are more dual earners and there are more single parent households than ever before. Making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing. Additionally, many groups currently underserved by Scouting include the Hispanic and Asian communities who prefer to participate in activities as a family."
There is a caveat, Wolf. According to the organization, this will start in 2018 with sons and daughters of the Cub Scouts joining either existing packs, establishing a new girl pack, establishing a pack that consists of boy dens or girl dens, or remaining in an all-boy pack.
We should mention, we heard a while ago from the Church of Latter-Day Saints, saying no changes will be made to their programs.
But this is another sign of progressiveness for the organization. Remember, earlier this year, the Boy Scouts of America doing an about face in a more-than-century year-old stance that paved the way for transgender boys to join the organization. Now it seems they're doing the same for girls.
There's still no word how this will impact the Girl Scouts of America. We're reaching out to them for comment -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Once you get it, let us know.
Nick Valencia, a historic decision from the Boy Scouts of America now getting ready to welcome girls.
Other news we're following, the rapper, Eminem, unleashing a blistering attack on President Trump as the culture wars in the United States intensify. Among other things, Eminem accusing the president of using his fight with the National Football League to distract from more important issues.
Here's part of his freestyle rap during the BET Hip-Hop Awards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMINEM, RAPPER: It's like we take a step forwards, then backwards, but this is his form of distraction. Plus, he gets an enormous reaction when he attacks the NFL, so we focus on that instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform from Nevada or these horrible tragedies, and he would rather cause a Twitter storm with the Packers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So far, no comment from the White House.
But let's discuss with our panel. We have Perry Bacon, senior political writer for FiveThirtyEight. CNN political analyst, Molly Ball, the political writer for "The Atlantic." And CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.
Chris, what does all this say in where this stands in this culture war?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: A few things. One is that there's no line that demarks politics from entertainment, from sports anymore. We sort of knew that but this is yet another example of that. You can't separate these things out anymore. I don't know if that's Trump, I don't know if it's modern culture but whatever it is, it's all in one big pot now.
The other thing that it says is that there's a significant divide in the way in which Donald Trump is viewed. Again, this is not new, particularly, but the way in which Donald Trump is viewed by different communities. That he is reviled by many people who view him, as Eminem lays out, in racist terms, in divisive terms. Eminem condemning him will be great for Donald Trump among that other group of people who are on the other side of that divide, who, broadly speaking, view him positively and like that the entertainment industry is attacking him.
BLITZER: As we're speaking, the president and the first lady, they're on the South Portico getting ready to welcome the visiting prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and Canada's first lady at the same time. I don't know if we're going to hear anything. When they approach, let's listen in and see what they say.
I assume some reporters, a pool of reporters might be shouting some question. Let's listen for a second.
So I guess the pool of reporters must have been rather far away. Couldn't shout out any questions. There will be an opportunity, photo opportunity in the Oval Office. Pretty soon, we'll see what they have to say.
Jeff Zeleny is joining us, our senior White House correspondent.
Jeff, new word on a cabinet appointment?
[13:50:53] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is, indeed. We're getting word the president is settling on a replacement to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Previous secretary is now chief of staff, John Kelly. We are hearing from sources at the White House that the leading contender and the person likely named the next secretary of Homeland Security is Kirstjen Neilson. She is currently the principle deputy chief of staff to John Kelly, who is the White House chief of staff. She has a long history and experience working inside that Department of Homeland Security as well as an expert in cybersecurity. She spent some time in the George W. Bush administration working on the National Security Council as well. So we are hearing from sources here at the White House as well as sources on Capitol Hill that she is likely to be named as the next secretary of Homeland Security.
Of course, this department, Wolf, as you well remember, was created in the wake of 9/11, after the 9/11 terror attack. So this department coordinates essentially the security for the homeland. A very important cabinet position here. She would the first woman, I believe, to lead this department, if my memory serves here. That could come later today.
But you did just see the president welcoming the Canadian prime minister and greeting him in the Oval Office shortly -- Wolf?
BLITZER: And we'll hear what they both have to say, the prime minister and president of the United States.
Molly Ball, what's your reaction to this likely nominee to be next secretary in Homeland Security?
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: In the constant terminology of the Trump White House, this represents a victory for the chief of staff, John Kelly, who the president tweeted in support of just this morning, despite rumors that he was making himself not so popular with the boss, with his forceful attempt to impose discipline. This is someone a close ally of John Kelly, who would continue the policies he put in place at the Department of Homeland Security, shares his perspective. Was seen as his enforcer in the White House and that didn't necessarily endear her to everybody. But to the extent that a lot of the people around Trump, including John Kelly, are trying to put their people in these positions as a way to nudge policy in whatever direction, given that the president hasn't articulated policy in a lot of these areas, this is certainly a victory for that sort of mainstream wing.
BLITZER: Yes, she worked with John Kelly at the Department of Homeland Security. Then she came with him back to the White House when he became the White House chief of staff.
The president tweeted this morning -- I'll read it -- "The fake news is at it again, this time, trying to hurt one of the finest people I know, General John Kelly, by saying he'll soon be fired. This story is totally made up by the dishonest media. The chief is doing fantastic job for me and, more importantly, the U.S."
Very strong words from him, given the reports we have seen over the past several days that there may be problems.
PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: And there is certainly tension between Kelly, Mattis and the president. I think the new pick goes to this point again we have, basically, have the president versus his own national security staff. She's another person that will be trying to rein in the president. Her resume suggests she has a lot of experience in Washington. So again, Trump facing off with this person adds to this Mattis, McMaster, Kelly-wing of people who don't agree with the president on core foreign policy. Which I assume, there may be more and more in fighting than we have seen. BALL: Think about this. Think about what the Department of Homeland
Security is involved in. These are big, contentious issues within the White House, not just also outside. The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of immigration enforcement. That's a huge deal for the White House and one where there are differing views. Also in charge of implementing the travel ban, which is still in different versions and supposedly under revision. So that's going to be a huge deal. And she's going to have to weigh in on that.
BLITZER: And she's got to be, first of all, formally nominated, then go through a confirmation process.
BLITZER: She's got to be confirmed. But it looks like that might happen. And the Homeland Security policy, as Molly points out, is critically important.
[13:54:58] CILLIZZA: Absolutely. Because it's new, obviously, created under George Bush, I think it doesn't gets much attention as the larger state defense. But, yes, in Trump's world, these are going to matter.
What's interesting is, let's say that she is formally nominated. The confirmation process in the Senate will likely be OK, given that she's the pick. But I think every nomination process you'll see will be more and more contentious. Remember, he has to pick an HHS secretary at some point, too. I think there are going to be a lot of Senators, not just Democrats, who are going to say, you want us to green light all of these people through, when he spends days at a time attacking people. I don't think Bob Corker is voting against this woman to be DHS. But I'm just saying it just the disconnect between Donald Trump thinks he can attack, attack, attack, and there will be no impact. And like maybe it's not nominees. Maybe it's not tax reform. But on something, and something big probably, his inability to get along or pretend that he likes members of his own party in the Senate, I think will be problematic for him. It's a cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite- your-face strategy that will come back to bite him.
BLITZER: And he may, may have to nominate a new secretary of state at some point as well, given the tensions between him and Rex Tillerson. We'll see what happens on all those cabinet levels.
Guys, thank you very much.
Coming up, more on North Korea. North Korea now calling President Trump insane, saying he's, quote, "Lit the wick of war." We'll have the details. Much more on the breaking news when we come back.
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