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Matt Gaetz Investigation Details; Companies and Leaders Voice Opposition to Voting Restrictions; Withdrawal from Afghanistan; Clarence Castile is Interviewed about Deaths in Minnesota. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired April 14, 2021 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: There are new details this morning regarding the growing scandal surrounding Congressman Matt Gaetz. CNN has spoken to several women who attended late-night parties with Gaetz and other officials. And these women detail stories of drug use, sex and crucially payments.

CNN's Paula Reid joins us now with the latest.

Paula, tell us what you've learned.


CNN spoke directly with two of the women who attended these parties with Congressman Gaetz and other and we learned new details that may be of interest to the Justice Department in its investigation into the congressman and these allegations of possible sex trafficking and prostitution.

The women told us that these parties were held at a house in a gated community in suburban Orlando. And the women we spoke with said when some of the women arrived, there were rules and the first thing some of them were asked to do was to put away their cell phones. And why would that be? Well, one of the women told us that the attendees included a who's who of local Republican officials and often included Congressman Gaetz and they didn't want their activities at these events being documented.

Now, we're told during these events people mingled and shared drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy. But one of the women said she saw Congressman Gaetz take a pill that she believed was a recreational drug.

Also at these parties we were told that some people had sex. And that's where we get to these questions of exchanging sex for money. Now, according to receipts reviewed by CNN, Gaetz and his associate, Joel Greenberg, used digital payment apps to send hundreds of dollars to at least one woman who attended these parties. Now, these receipts that we reviewed record payments that took place between 2018 and 2019 and include at least one that said in its label that it was to compensate for travel.

Now another woman told us she received money from Greenberg after some of the parties but she said she never received any payments directly from Congressman Gaetz.

Now also important to note, both of the women we spoke with said they never saw anyone at these parties who they believed to be under age.

SCIUTTO: Important detail, Paula. Great reporting.

What did Gaetz say when asked about his attendance at these parties? How did he respond?

REID: The spokesman for Gaetz declined to comment on the substance of our report, but Gaetz has denied ever paying for sex over the past two week and he's tried to reframe this investigation, which began at the end of the Trump administration, as the result of political bias.

Now, Greenberg, he's currently facing 33 federal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor. Now, Greenberg's attorney declined to comment for this story, but last week he told a judge he expects his client to enter a plea agreement in the coming weeks.

CNN has learned that Greenberg has been providing information to investigators and, according to people familiar with the investigation, authorities have spoken with some of the women involved with the congressman and Greenberg. But neither of the women we spoke with have been contacted by federal investigators at this point.

SCIUTTO: Understood. We know you'll stay on top of it.

Paula Reid, thanks very much.

Well, Amazon, Google and General Motors are among hundreds of companies now publicly voicing opposition to new restrictive voting laws brought by Republican legislatures in a statement this morning in "The New York Times."

CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins me now.

Christine, this is a remarkable depth and breadth and number of significant companies in this country going public with their opposition.

How significant is this?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I want to just show you kind of what it looks like. This is "The Times." It's also in "The Washington Post." It's, you know, two pages, thousands and thousands of words of these names of these companies, hundreds of companies and business leaders and law firms, some of the biggest law firms in the country, non-profits.

This is -- this is what we're talking about. We're talking about FaceBook, Cisco, Target. Lots and lots of companies that are saying democracy is at risk here if we restrict voting for anyone.

The statement here, for American democracy to work for any of us, we must ensure the right to vote for all of us.

This is the new CEO of Citi also signed this personally, Jane Frasier, Warren Buffett, Kenneth Frazier of the Merck CEO, and Ken Chenault, the former Amex CEO are the ones who sort of spearheaded this and got just all of these people to sign on here.

Unclear where they go from here. It's a powerful statement, but what message do they send to some of these state legislatures?

Also, Jim, they're not singling out any specific law here or state. And we did not hear, not signing on from here, are Coke, Home Depot or Delta. They're all based, of course, in Georgia, where these voting rights concerns first surfaced.

SCIUTTO: Very quickly, Christine, have any of them committed to withholding donations to Republican candidates who support these laws?

ROMANS: They are not saying that here. But with one voice they are trying to point out that it's not good for their business to have America divided about access to the polls.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

ROMANS: And that's what they're trying to -- to -- the message they're trying to send here.


SCIUTTO: All right, Christine Romans, thanks very much.

Today, President Biden will announce his plan to withdrawal all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11th, ending America's longest war. Ahead, the impact that move will have on the safety of that country, terrorism and U.S. foreign policy.


SCIUTTO: Today, President Biden is expected to make a major foreign policy announcement bringing an end to America's longest war in Afghanistan. My son asked me yesterday if the U.S. won or lost the war there. And I realized, as I answered, it's far from clear. In a long and deadly campaign in which some 2,400 U.S. service members gave their lives, the U.S. greatly diminished al Qaeda.


A senior administration official told me yesterday that, for now, al Qaeda does not have the capability to attack the U.S. homeland. But the Taliban outlasted us, just as they said they would all along. And many among the Afghan people and in its government feel the U.S. has left them out in the cold.

So many of our country's promises of a functioning democratic government, a more varied and less impoverished economy, and peace, which I heard personally hundreds of times in dozens of trips to Afghanistan from countless U.S. officials and military commanders, sadly failed to materialize.

Now, we can leave and they, of course, cannot. At a minimum, our country is leaving after 20 years with less than we hoped for or promised and an Afghanistan with a very uncertain future.

Joining me now to discuss what that means, CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers. He's former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Mike, great to have you on, on this.

You, of course, served in Congress in key positions through some of the toughest points of this war.

Simplest question to you, my son's question, did the U.S. win or lose?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Well, and like you, I spent dozens of trips, both -- on both sides of both the Pakistani border and the Afghan border. as well as throughout Afghanistan, east, west, north and south.

I would say it this way, and this is very, very important. The U.S. military was not defeated in Afghanistan and nor should we ever even talk like that. Our adversaries will talk that way. We should not.

We are not where we want to be. I'm a little concerned at the hard deadline. I think that they're giving up a lot of ground that we have made. And I think a hard pullout is not going to cause the kind of results that we want, and they haven't really factored in the second and third order effects of just throwing up our hands and saying, boy, this is hard, we're leaving. And, by the way, NATO, you should leave, too. I'm a little bit concerned by that tactic.

We saw this, by the way, in Iraq in 2011 when we just packed up and left, you know, and I'm just a little bit concerned we're going to be right on that same treadmill again in Afghanistan. And the Taliban hasn't been very good about saying -- doing things that they say they're going to do now. Can you imagine now that we've announced we're leaving what happens across the country.

SCIUTTO: They've still been carrying out deadly, horrific terror attacks throughout these negotiations.

I asked a senior administration official in the Biden administration yesterday, and I noted that many folks in this administration are veterans of the Obama administration when that decision was made to withdraw from Iraq, after which we saw the rise of ISIS. And I asked, what lessons were learned from that withdrawal? And then subsequent, you know, blowback and this official said, listen, you know, basically, we're going to watch more closely. We're going to keep attention on it. We'll be outside the country but we can go back in if the threat arises again.

Is that a credible, sufficient answer in your view?

ROGERS: No, unfortunately not. And I lived through all of that. If you recall, Baghdadi, who was the founder of ISIS, released about 1,500 prisoners that he turned into fighters that dragged into Syria after that because there was just a massive vacuum.

And, remember, we're just talking a period of months here. The whole command structure now, all the energy and -- military energy is not going to be going after the Taliban. It's trying to figure out how you get people and equipment out safely and not allow the thing to collapse. That is a very different strategy outlook for the next few months than making sure the Taliban isn't victorious in spreading its message and its territory around Afghanistan.

So -- and what are we going to do? We're going to send in the 101st next year after the Taliban continues to march toward the capital city of Kabul? I don't think so.

And so I really don't think this was well thought through. I think they were looking at some kind of symbol on September 11th. And, by the way, I think this is a terrible message to send. Al Qaeda, even ISIS, often used that date as their own inspiration. And why we would leave on the day that they already hold in their view as a day where they really harmed America, boy, is a head-scratcher to me.


ROGERS: And, remember, our adversaries are going to take these things differently than we are across America. And, boy, we ought to -- we ought to think about that.


ROGERS: And think about what they're doing now. They're already closing girls schools. They've poisoned girls schools. They've shot up girls schools. All of the thing that we have been doing for stability is including half of the population of Afghanistan. We, the west, have said, please, come out of the back of your homes, participate, because when you participate, violence will go down.

Boy, I worry that this is a bit of a stain on our character. We're just saying, hey, this is hard. Good luck. I hope this turns out for you.


ROGERS: You know, the Taliban now is saying, well, maybe we'll let girls get an education to the sixth grade.


This is who we're dealing with.

SCIUTTO: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) -- yes, I've been to those girls' schools in Afghanistan --

ROGERS: I struggle to believe that they will allow --

SCIUTTO: I've met the students.


SCIUTTO: I've met their families who value that. Treasure that. And that's under risk.

Just very quickly, Mike, part of this decision, I'm told, was that the current U.S. intel assessment is that al Qaeda does not have the capability today to plot to attack and carry out attacks on the U.S. homeland.

How confident are you in that assessment and how quickly could that change?

ROGERS: Yes, I don't believe that they have the ability to pull the kind of operation they did on 9/11. They're still there. They're still alive. They're still functioning. And what they've been looking for and what the United States and our allies have been very successful in doing is denying safe havens where they can rest, recuperate, train, recruit and finance themselves.

What I worry about is now all of that territory in the east of Afghanistan, that the Taliban already has but we have capabilities in the country to reach out and touch them, if you will, is starting to go away. And the Taliban knows it. Al Qaeda knows it. And so how long does it take for them to rebuild their ability to strike the United States by having a place to rest, recuperate, train? I mean that worries me a lot.

And, by the way, in order to get good intelligence, you have to be there. Saying that we're going to get the same level of acuity of intelligence outside the country is candidly -- it's naive, candidly. I'm really very worried about that.

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll be watching closely.

Mike Rogers, thanks very much.

And we should note, in addition to the many more than 2,000 U.S. service members who gave their lives, many thousands more suffer -- continue to suffer debilitating injuries from their service there. We honor that service.

And we'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: Right now, two major cases are putting the Minneapolis community at the heart of the debate over police use of force. As protests unfold in the streets, sometimes violently, prosecutors are currently weighing whether to charge the former officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright just this past Sunday. That shooting, and the demonstrations that followed, are just about

ten miles from the Minneapolis courtroom where former Officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in the death of George Floyd last year.

Wright and Floyd's killings are among a string of high-profile deaths of black men during police encounters just in the Minneapolis area in the past five years.

One family that understands this pain so well, and as well as anyone, is the family of Philando Castile. He was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in Minneapolis, in a suburb, in 2016.

Philando's uncle, Clarence Castile, joins me now. He currently serves with the St. Paul Police Department as a reserve officer to help improve relations between law enforcement and the public.

Mr. Castile, thank so much for joining us this morning.


SCIUTTO: You and your family, of course, understand the pain that follows interaction like this. You lost a loved one. I wonder if you can help our viewers understand how you'd expect Floyd's family to be feeling right now, or now Daunte Wright's family, as they deal with a loss like this.

CASTILE: How I would explain it, you know, according to the way my family felt, it is one of the hugest losses that a family can ever have, to lose a member at the hands of someone else. More especially at the hands of someone that you were taught to trust and believe that they had the best interest of you at stake, and that their job was to protect you. And to find out that these horrible things can happen for the slightest reasons. I mean, the simplest task can just turn into a tremendous horror.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

You are doing your part. You're serving as a reserve officer to help improve relations between law enforcement and the public after a deadly encounter like this one. And I imagine folks at home, as they see a case of Daunte Wright or George Floyd, all following what happened to your nephew, has anything improved, right? What have you learned? What recommendation haves you made? What recommendations have been taken as -- in your experience so far?

CASTILE: Actually, I've made several recommendations along with the attorney general, the commissioner of public safety. They're -- I've worked on several working groups and commissions by the governor to make recommendations to legislators. And I have new policies and laws written. Some have taken and some haven't. As you well know, whenever there's a horrible crime like this and someone is murdered, there's always something that comes out, you know. In the wake of George Floyd's death, they came up with the police accountability bill here in Minnesota which says something to the effect that law enforcement officers have the right to intercede, which is to stop their fellow officers from using excessive force.


So that was one of the things that came up after George was killed.

But I do -- I do my best to play a part and show the community that, even though things have gone wrong, we still need to be able to have faith and have a relationship with law enforcement because they still have to be here, and we hope and pray they do a good job. That the examples have been horrible, though. We have several cases that don't look good for cops and what they do.

SCIUTTO: Are they learning?

CASTILE: I would say most cops are learning, but, in my opinion, what I've seen, they have all this training that's available. They're constantly getting train dollars. Because whenever something goes wrong, people always say cops need more training. I don't believe they need more training. I think they need more practice. And they say practice makes perfect. So they need to practice more and slow down when they react.

There was one time after Philando's death, there was a conversation I was having with the commissioner of public safety. And they were saying that they were going to work at police officers not pulling cars over for minor infractions, like broken taillights and loud mufflers and things like that. I mean if they did pull them over, it would just be to say, hey, we got a problem with this, let's get it fixed, instead of going through the car and searching it and the whole thing that turns into the horrible stuff.

SCIUTTO: Yes, turns into what looks like a police action, right.

Well, Clarence Castile, you lost your nephew --


SCIUTTO: You lost your nephew and I know that pain does not go away for you and your family.


SCIUTTO: So we do wish you the best and we thank you for joining us this morning.

CASTILE: Thank you for having me, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.