Return to Transcripts main page


Did Trump Propose Invading Venezuela?; Did Republican Congressman Jim Jordan Turn Blind Eye to Sexual Abuse?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 4, 2018 - 15:00   ET




REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: But nothing they -- I mean, things they said about me just were flat-out not true, not even...


QUESTION: ... comment to us yesterday speaking about the conditions in the training facility, open showers, things of that nature. Can you comment on any of that?

JORDAN: Which is a fact, yes. It was a fact.

QUESTION: Did you remember Dr. Strauss? Does any of this -- threat accusations being made against him, not just by DiSabato, but by anybody, make any -- have any credence at all?

JORDAN: I -- I -- I did know Dr. Strauss.

He was -- you know, he was there when we got to Ohio State and was continuing to work at Ohio State once I left. So, yes, knew the doctor.

But there's no truth to the fact that I knew of any abuse or -- I have talked to other coaches. They didn't know of any abuse. They just -- that's just not accurate to say those things, that we knew, but didn't report it. It's just not true.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I have with me now Mike DiSabato, a former Ohio State wrestler who says he was abused by that team doctor, and that then-assistant coach Jim Jordan knew all about it.

So, Mike, thank you very much for joining me.


BALDWIN: I want to get you to respond to the congressman here in just a second, but first I just want to focus on you, Mike.

So take me back. You were -- it was first when you were 14. You were in high school when you first met Dr. Strauss. And it's my understanding he told you needed to undergo some sort of body fat evaluation. Can you tell me what happened?

DISABATO: Actually, Doc was conducting a research study in conjunction with the university, the Ohio High School Athletic Association, and the Catholic Diocese.

And he had access to our very high-profile high school wrestling team based here in Columbus. We had been state champions in 1982 and 1983, when I was a freshman. We were told that we were going to have the Ohio State University doc come to our school.

And we got to participate in a study that was going to be conducted by the university that would conduct a body fat test in the beginning of the season and then the middle of the season, which is not atypical. And that type of research was going on at the time, wrestlers losing weight, making sure they're making weight effectively.

But during those -- during that examination, he gave a thorough examination of my groin area and my testicles and penis.

This is not something I wanted to come on CNN and talk about necessarily, but it is what it is.

We have conversations with the university. I have actually been working with them for over three years to address issues related to the health and safety of student athletes.

Jim Jordan knows this. I have been a friend to Jim Jordan and his family for over 40 years. I have spoken to Jim on a monthly basis over the last 20 years. And my -- my issues with Jim Jordan are not his behavior at the time at Ohio State.

He was a 23-year-old coach who was somewhat of a big brother, not necessarily the head coach, which was a father figure. Jim was kind of the guy that we could banter with, liked to hear stories about what was happening on campus. See, that's the role of an assistant coach.


BALDWIN: I was a student athlete. I understand, in the sense that, right, so he was like a big brother. The coach is like your father.

This inappropriate behavior, you allege, was going on not just when you were getting this big, important Ohio State doc to come in when you're in high school, but then obviously into your college years.

And so you mentioned Jim Jordan. Did you go to him, Mike? This is the key question. Did you go to him back then and report this inappropriate behavior from Dr. Strauss?

DISABATO: First of all, I would say that it -- I didn't file an...

BALDWIN: Just yes or no?

DISABATO: ... official report. BALDWIN: Can I get a yes or no first?


DISABATO: Yes, I talked to Jim Jordan.



BALDWIN: OK. So, you talked to Jim Jordan.

And can you tell me a little bit more just about the substance of the conversations? And Jim Jordan then as this assistant coach and this big brother figure, did -- what did Jim Jordan say back to you as far as proper steps to stop it?


DISABATO: Yes, these conversations were not individual conversations. They were conversations with a group of athletes who were complaining on a regular basis, not only about Dr. Strauss, but the conditions within Larkins Hall which forced us to take showers with not only Dr. Strauss, but other university faculty members and professors who had access to our shower facility, and, on a daily basis, were involved in lewd acts that public masturbation, excessive soaping of their groin area.


And Dr. Strauss was one of those that took a lot of showers and soaped himself a lot. So, when you look at the definition of sexual abuse and sexual assault -- and Jim Jordan just went on record saying he knew about the facilities. He took showers with us. He saw Dr. Strauss and others perform these kinds of acts in front of us.

It was a huge issue within the team.

BALDWIN: But, Mike...

DISABATO: It was a huge -- yes?

BALDWIN: I can't even begin to appreciate or understand how uncomfortable and how inappropriate that was for you and your fellow wrestlers.

But, again, to hear the now-Congressman Jim Jordan flat-out saying he knows -- he was never aware of what happened with Dr. Strauss, flat- out denies it, your reaction to that?

DISABATO: In April of 2000 -- or April of this year, I sent Jim an e- mail correspondence to follow up on a conversation we had in march.

And in that e-mail, I urged and begged him to get involved as a former coach, as a person in a political position that could help cut through the red tape, the double-talk and the nonsense that we had been dealing with from the university.

The university has threatened, harassed, intimidated, not only me, but other victims. And, again, it was our hope that Jim would obviously acknowledge what happened, because it was so...

BALDWIN: Has he? Did he to you?


DISABATO: He did -- what he did say on our March conversation was, he didn't deny what was happening, and he did say, I just want to be held -- I just want to be left out of it, which I didn't -- I didn't argue with at the time.

A lot of the times, when you speak to a victim and/or someone that has knowledge of a victim, it takes some time to process those types of conversations. It took me some time to really look at the -- first of all, the testimony of the young women at Michigan State.

And when you look at the testimony and you hear the details of what Larry Nassar did to these young ladies, it was like looking in the mirror.


DISABATO: And for Jim Jordan to not support us, not just me, but to not support the group of athletes that trained for him, with him, and competed alongside him for eight years is baffling, not just to me, but our entire team.

And I have spoken to over 15 athletes today, who we cannot figure why he would create a narrative that would -- it's just not true and it's not necessary. We're not blaming him...

BALDWIN: So, Mike, Mike...


DISABATO: ... for his actions then

BALDWIN: No, no, listen, I hear your frustration. I hear that you have talked to these 15 athletes.

And you're baffled, right? But on the -- just to be fair to the other side of the story, again, when -- it's his office, Jim Jordan's office, you know, they acknowledge -- you brought up the e-mails back and forth between the congressman and you.

But they have actually said that the reason the congressman didn't always responds to you is because he felt -- and I'm using their word -- that you were bullying him. Were you bullying him?

DISABATO: First of all, Jim Jordan is a world-caliber athlete who is very aggressive in his actions on -- he's a bulldog. Let's be honest.

I think we saw a lot of that last week with the with Mr. Rosenstein. So, for him to say he was being bullied by Mike DiSabato's somewhat laughable. I will take it, because I have never bullied Jim Jordan on the mat. He was a heck a lot of better than me at the time.

And yet, again, I think Jim is in a position where he doesn't know what to say now, because he -- I think he received absolutely terrible advice from whomever was advising him, because, again, all you have to do is research the word abuse and read the definition and then think back to your time at Ohio State.

And it's easy to put the two together. And maybe we didn't use the word abuse at the time, the word assault, sexual assault, but there was -- it was common within the athletics department. We're talking about 15 sports, over 1,000 athletes.

And I'm hearing a good friend of mine who I have talked to on a regular basis who I consider a friend now backpedaling, not because we told him what to say -- I didn't -- no one told him you need to -- we had hoped that he would stay in front of this.


BALDWIN: Let me jump in. He's saying -- let me just stop you, because he's saying...


BALDWIN: On this whole e-mail exchange, he's saying that he got an e- mail from you as recent as 4:30 this morning.

Did you e-mail him early this morning?

DISABATO: Actually, I got a -- actually, I think I sent a text message. I haven't reviewed -- I have been on -- obviously, over the last 24 hours, inundate with media requests.

BALDWIN: Sure. Of course.

DISABATO: And, quite frankly, I haven't slept. So whether I sent an e-mail or a text message at 4:30...

BALDWIN: E-mail, text, either way, can you tell me what the...

DISABATO: Yes. Here's the -- the content was, I had taken a screen- shot from Jim Jordan's cousin, who is also a former Ohio State football player and an employee of the Ohio State University, who posted a mug shot of me on the Internet and suggested that a local news station look into the -- quote, unquote -- "victim" in an attempt to intimidate and retaliate, which is, by the way, against the official sexual abuse policy that is -- that was drafted by the university in 1980 and is published.

And Matt Finkes, this employee, former football legend...

BALDWIN: Got it.

DISABATO: ... I don't know why he's taking shots at me, other than the fact that his cousin Jim and his cousin Jeff are in the middle of a firestorm that we did not create.

BALDWIN: Here, I'm -- I'm just listening to all of this, Mike.

And here's really my last question. Right? So, these allegations, everything you're detailing -- and, by the way, I'm sure this is just a piece of what you're saying happened to you at the time -- the doctor at the center of this, he is, you know, no longer with us. He passed away 13 years ago. So what does justice look like for you?

DISABATO: Well, what justice looks like is transparency, accountability, and justice.

We have several former athletic -- two athletic directors at the Ohio State University are accepting pensions from the taxpayers of the state of Ohio, despite the fact that they were well aware of the allegations -- they're not allegations -- the facts associated with Strauss and the locker room.

I had two athletes in the mid-'90s that met with Andy Geiger who told the dispatch a couple weeks that he -- it didn't ring a bell, Doc Strauss didn't ring a bell. Well, in the 1993-'94 season, we had one captain and another athlete sit with Andy Geiger and discuss Dr. Strauss, his access to our locker room -- he had a locker in our room -- and the fact he would take four, five, six showers with athletes of different sports in different venues in one day, all on the dime of the taxpayers of the state of Ohio.

And this was well known by Jim Jordan. I recall, one day, Jim Jordan, his locker was right next to Doc Strauss. Doc Strauss had just taken a shower, was -- was dressing for his -- to exit the building or go wherever he was going. He saw another male athlete come into the locker room with his shirt off.

It was one of his -- what I call his favorites. He had his favorites. And, as doc was walking out, he saw the guy coming in. He actually stopped in his tracks. He turned around, and went back to the locker, undressed, and went back into the shower.

And I recall vividly Jim Jordan looking at me and us going, wow.

BALDWIN: Mike DiSabato, thank you very much.

DISABATO: Brooke, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.

Coming up next: new details emerging about a White House meeting where President Trump raises the possibility of a U.S. invasion of Venezuela. Hear how his top foreign policy advisers responded.

Also ahead, we are learning that EPA Chief Scott Pruitt apparently pitched an idea to have the president fire Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, and hire Pruitt instead, this as Pruitt is facing more than a dozen ethics investigations.

You're watching CNN on this Fourth of July. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BALDWIN: We're back on this Fourth of July. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.

Mr. President, fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and hire me, new reporting that EPA Chief Scott Pruitt pitched that very idea to President Trump this past spring. But now that Pruitt is facing even more alleged ethics violations, a senior administration official says Pruitt is -- quote, unquote -- "inching forward to the tipping point."

Pruitt is already the subject of at least 14 different probes. And this list lays out some of the things he's actually accused of doing. I just will read a few.

Asking his aides to get his wife a job twice. Renting a room near Capitol Hill from a lobbyist for $50 a night. Having an aide inquire about getting a used Trump Hotel mattress for him. Wanting to use police sirens to blow through D.C. traffic. Flying first-class every single time. Giving big raises to his favorite staff. Installing a $43,000 privacy phone in his office.

Using 24/7 security detail to go to brunch. To pick up lotion and dry cleaning. And spending taxpayer money on trips to go to Morocco, Italy, Australia, Disneyland, the Rose Bowl, and multiple trips to his home in Oklahoma.

So let's start there with two CNN political commentators.

Paris Dennard is a member of the Trump Advisory Board, and Peter Beinart is a contributing editor for "The Atlantic."

Gentlemen, happy Independence Day.

And, Paris, with your red, white, and blue, let's begin with you.

On Scott Pruitt, the fact that, according to these reports, that he felt confident enough to go to the president and say, fire Sessions and hire me, then I'm going to go back to Oklahoma and run for office, even though he has all of these investigations, you know, against him, can you defend that? Is that hubris?


I think that Pruitt is confident in the work that he's doing as the EPA administrator. And I think, by all measures, the president is happy with the work he's been doing in his role regarding the regulations and the things that he's carrying out, which is what the president wants him to do.


So, I think he's confident that he's doing a good job. And I guess he feels confident that so confident that he could do someone else's job. I think, as a team player in the Cabinet, you would hope that that wouldn't be the case, that you would actively try to have someone fired. It happens a lot of time. But he's also denied it.


BALDWIN: I ran through, though, a bunch of sort of the highlights of what these probes he's facing, the things he's alleged to have done. Do you think he should have been fired by now?

DENNARD: Well, what I will tell you, Brooke, no, because he has not lost favor with the president.

And the president is in an interesting situation because on face value Pruitt is actually doing a good job when it comes to carrying out the agenda that the president wants him to do when it comes to his role. But the other things are becoming a distraction.



BALDWIN: But the fact that he is still in good graces with the president is good news for Pruitt. But what about ethics violations, is that just flying out the window, doesn't matter?

DENNARD: No. I think that at a certain degree, if the ethics violations are shown to be actually true and they can corroborate them and there's proper channels that happen to punish him or take care of those issues, if it becomes a big enough distraction from him doing the job that he's doing a good job at, then the president will act and say either you have to go or keep doing those things and stop the things that are problematic or are unethical.

BALDWIN: All right, Peter, how do you see it?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Donald Trump is happy with Scott Pruitt, because what Scott Pruitt has done is hand over the Environmental Protection Agency to the industries that the Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to regulate.

Among the -- in some ways, I'm less concerned about him getting the Secret Service to go get his laundry, as ridiculous and pathetic as that is, as the fact that we now know that he was having secret meetings with industry representatives, because this is a man who is not interested in regulating industries that pollute the environment.

He's interested in handing over the government to industries that pollute the environment. That's why Donald Trump is so happy with him. I suspect what will happen is that Donald Trump eventually will decide that he's become a political liability, and he will look for someone else who does exactly the same thing as Scott Pruitt in terms of not protecting our environment, but is a little more discreet in terms of his personal corruption.

BALDWIN: But if according to this official in the White House they're inching toward this tipping point, what does the tipping point for Scott Pruitt, Peter, look like?

BEINART: Well, one of the difficult things is, it's hard to know in Donald Trump's mind what would be considered an ethics violation. Right?

This is after all a man who hasn't released his tax returns, who has intermingled in absolutely unprecedented ways the affairs of state and his private business affairs, bringing up his own business into meetings and his hotel and meetings with heads of state, bringing in his daughter, et cetera.

So, it's not that hard to imagine that, for Donald Trump, these things don't seem so terrible, but what I imagine they're seeing is this is bad publicity. And they can probably find someone who has Scott Pruitt's ideological agenda who's a little more discreet.

BALDWIN: All right, let me move, Paris, back to you on Michael Cohen.

So, Michael Cohen, we know he has a big day tomorrow. He's back in court. And what was noteworthy today, we put up his Twitter page. You have your profile under Twitter. Originally he had referred to himself as Trump's personal attorney. That is now scrubbed. He's changed his cover photo.

This is a couple of days after what he said to George Stephanopoulos over at ABC. Should the White House be worried?

DENNARD: Well, the White House should not be worried about Michael Cohen. They should be focused on what they need to be focused on, which is running the country and letting the courts decide all these other things that are happening.

Michael Cohen is I think listening to the advise of his counsel, and he may not be the attorney for the president longer. It might be wholly appropriate for him to do that. If there's a pending investigation or case against him that may involve his past roles, it might be smart to separate himself completely so there's no issues of impropriety there.

I think we don't want to read into it, but I think that the White House needs to focus on that and let the president's personal attorneys deal with all the things that are seemingly distractions from the work that the president and his team at White House, which have nothing to do with Michael Cohen, are doing.

BALDWIN: Peter, do you agree? Nothing to see here, Twitter changes, much ado about nothing?

BEINART: Look, it stands to reason that if Michael Cohen is facing a choice between flipping on Donald Trump and saying things that Donald Trump wouldn't want him to say and looking at a long prison term, or even terrible ramifications for his family, the vast majority of people are going to put their family and themselves in front of Donald Trump.

[15:25:08] So, in that sense, yes, the Trump administration has something to worry about. But the political reality is that, given the kind of hear no evil, see no evil perspective towards Donald Trump that is reflected by my fellow panelist here and FOX News and most of the Republican Party, it really won't matter what the media uncovers about what Donald Trump was doing, what Michael Cohen says, because literally no matter what comes out, people like Paris will defend Donald Trump.

DENNARD: Well, actually, you don't know me to say that.


BEINART: But I have heard you so many times, and I have never heard you criticize Donald Trump on anything.

DENNARD: Well, actually, that's not true, because I have, so you should do better on your homework.


BEINART: I have listened a lot.

DENNARD: Well, I think you need to get a life if you have been watching me all the time.

But I think at the end of the day, what we have is a lot of personal vendettas, it seems, and a lot of people going after the president's staff and the president's associates.

And so the original scope of this should have been about Russia and Russian collusion with the election. And now we're going on to Michael Cohen's finances and deals and money and things of that nature. And that is what I see as problematic for people that are associated with this president.


BALDWIN: But Trump won't even acknowledge Russia meddling, Paris.

DENNARD: The president -- I don't see what that has to do -- well, Russia meddling or Russia collusion with the Trump campaign to win the election.

Now, we do know that Russia did do what they said they wanted to do in terms of having chaos and doing that and sowing seeds of discord in the political system. They did that. But is there any evidence thus far that shows that there was specific collusion between the Trump campaign or the president?

BALDWIN: You saw the Senate Intel Committee finding yesterday. And so the president -- it's like the president, Vladimir Putin, and a couple of House Republicans are the only ones who won't acknowledge that Russia meddled.

DENNARD: Well, I think the president and the administration understand that Russia has played a role in sowing seeds of chaos, especially in social media and in the media, to disrupt the political system, like they have been doing for many years. They did this for a very long time. But that...


BALDWIN: And did so to help Trump win.

DENNARD: No, that is not to say that there was any...


BALDWIN: But it's the intent. It's the intent of having him win and having Hillary Clinton lose.

DENNARD: The intent, I believe, Brooke, was to sow seeds of discord to just totally disrupt the political system in Washington, D.C., like they have done for many years and many presidential cycles for many candidates and many campaigns.

But what we have yet to see is any specific collusion, meaning Donald Trump or his campaign work working with Russia to do effectively things to make sure that they won the election. That's so far been unproven. And that's why the president says emphatically that there was no collusion.

BALDWIN: Peter, you get the last word.

BEINART: The Mueller investigation is not over. So we don't know all the things he's found.

We do know that there were meetings with people with close ties to the Trump -- to the Russian government and Trump's closest advisers, where they welcomed information from the Russian government that would undermine Hillary Clinton.

I don't know what Mueller is going to find ultimately. And I think ultimately, politically, it's not going to make that much difference at this point. But the fact that Donald Trump does not seem to have done anything to try to get the U.S. government to protect the United States from future interventions by Russia or, for that matter, any other country in our elections, given that Paris and I would agree that, regardless of what Russia's motive were, it was dangerous to our electoral integrity, that bothers me.

BALDWIN: Peter and Paris, thank you, gentlemen, very much.

DENNARD: Happy Fourth.

BALDWIN: Happy Fourth.

Just in to CNN, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer has been admitted to George Washington University Hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. We're told he's resting and plans to get back to work soon. We wish him well. We are also hearing for the first time about an unusual meeting at

White House. It happened last year, where President Trump asked his foreign policy team about the possibility of the U.S. invading Venezuela.

Retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling joins me live to respond to that idea.