tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN July 10, 2019 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
multimillionaire jeffrey epstein, refusing to resign and blaming state prosecutors even as new victims come forward. was the news conference enough for him to keep his job? make or break moment. house democrats hunker down many intense preparation for next week's testimony by robert mueller. fearing his high profile appearance won't have the impact they've been seeking and will shift public opinion against president trump. tonight new details of the strategy to get it right. aoc. the presidential candidate kamala harris tries boost her progressive credentials by tying her name to alexandria ocasio cortez. but she is competing with bernie sanders and elizabeth warren who are also courting the star of the liberal left. which candidate will win her endorsement? and hurricane watch. alerts go up as water inundates new orleans with a storm closing in. gaining strength and expected to
slam into the louisiana coast as the first hurricane of the season. we have new forecasts just coming in from the national hurricane center. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the "the situation room." >> alex acosta refusing to answer growing calls for his resignation and defending the secret plea deal he cut with the wealthy financier jeffrey epstein who now faces new charges of search trafficking involving minors. also, new details emerging of intense democratic preparations for the highly ant participated testimony of robert mueller one week from today of they are
hoping mueller's appearance will firmly convince the public of his alleged criminal conduct. we'll talk about that and more with the number two democrat, senator dick durbin of the judiciary committee. and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by. first, the latest on the breaking news and go straight to our chief white house correspondent jim acosta. you're getting reaction about the lengthy news conference. >> that's right. so far top officials at the white house believe the labor secretary alex acosta handled himself very well this afternoon. there were no apologies no, regrets regarding his habuling of the jeffrey epstein case. he also claimed he has the support of the president even though mr. trump hasn't always stood by cabinet secretaries who have faced intense scrutiny in the past. we're hearing from officials that the president wants acosta on the job for now. >> reporter: under fire for the plea deal he once cut for jeffrey epstein.
alex acosta defended himself. >> no regrets is a very hard question. you always look back and say what if. >> reporter: with new victims coming forward questioning whether acosta was too lenient in the case, the secretary was asked whether he would reach the same agreement today. time and again he pointed the finger at state prosecutors in florida saying they were going to allow epstein to avoid jail time. >> today's world treats victims very, very differently. today's world does not allow some of the victim shame that could have taken place at trial. i don't think we can say, you know, take a case that is this old and fully know how it would play out today. we did what we did because we wanted to see epstein to go jail. there is a value to a sure guilty plea. because letting him walk, letting what the state attorney was ready to do, go forward,
would have been absolutely awful. >> the secretary made it clear he is not about to resign, talking up his relationship with president trump while working in a plug for the administration's record. >> my relationship with the president is outstanding. he has, i think, very publicly made clear that i've got his support. i serve at the pleasure of the president. i thought yesterday he was kind and he showed great support. we are here because we are part of the administration that is creating jobs. >> the senior administration official told cnn, the president's first instinct was to fight back against democrats, calling for the secretary's resignation. he said the attitude was, quote, screw him. he also blasted reports that he's on thin ice with acting white house chief of staph dick mulvany. >> in true trump fashion, the secretary took a swipe at the
media. >> i've read this. one of the things i find interesting is how facts become facts because they're in a newspaper. thank you very much. >> the question is whether the secretary's performance was enough to stay on. one of mr. trump's close friends was betting his day is numbered. >> i think the plea agreement is indefensible. i think he won't stay for long. >> but it looks like secretary acosta is staying on for now. the secretary may want to look back at how other embattled
cabinet members have fared in the past. as one senior administration official that, one day you're working for president trump and one day you're not. there was one departure in washington that was welcome by the white house today. that is the british ambassador to the u.s. he announced he is stepping down after some of his past criticisms of mr. trump surfaced in the news media. one top white house official said in the day this was the right course of action. they welcomed that news at the white house.
>> i'm sure. thank you. let's get more on the breaking news. here in the situation room, you've been going through the legal documents around this 2007, 2008 case when alex acosta was the u.s. attorney prosecuting him. what did you find out? >> we found out there were bare knuckle tactic that's were used by the high profile lawyers. including ken starr, the lawyer who had investigated bill clinton. what we found was that there were a lot of letters exchanged between two where they were trying to get acosta to knock two of his own prosecutors off the case as well as even say the case itself was overreaching. when that didn't work, they appealed to the criminal division at doj in washington. also to the child exploitation central and ultimately to the deputy attorney general's office one of their arguments was that this case was only a state case. it shouldn't happen. they suggested it was politically motivated because epstein had a close association with bill clinton. so that's one of the arguments
they made. in the end, this was a case that resulted in no prosecution. so the deal even that they were arguing about did not result in federal charges. it was a nonprosecution agreement. the representative from the jag's office did respond to the lawyers saying they felt the prosecution was, quote, appropriate. >> when acosta, alex acosta was asked to look back on the handling of the case, he deflected. he refused to. he said professionals were making decisions. he didn't accept responsibility. >> he didn't of the he put the blame on the state prosecutors. it is true that the feds stepped in to some extent because there was concern by the palm beach sheriff's office. ultimately, he has the
ultimate say in that office. he was aware of this deal. he met with one of epstein's lawyers who was a former law partner of his and his office brought other sex trafficking cases involving individuals that were accused of trafficking many
fewer victims than the dozens accused in this case. ultimately, the buck does stop with the top u.s. attorney in that office. that was acosta at the time and he signed off on the deal. >> it was in florida. he has that responsibility. thank you very much for that report. we're also following intense democratic preparations right now for next week's public testimony for the former special counsel, robert mueller. let's to go our senior correspondent. how are democrats planning to
navigate, how are they planning to prepare for mueller's appearance? >> reporter: right now behind closed doors, the democrats are meeting with next week's hearing. they're trying to lay out their strategy realizing that they're under significant time constraints over next week's hearing which will only be two hours long on the house judiciary side. with members, more than 40 members, and two hours being split roughly equally between the republicans and democrats, they won't have much time to press the special counsel.
to get questions answered. they're trying to guy topics. to figure out what they can do to further the narrative that they want robert mueller to lay out. which are alleged criminal wrongdoing by this president. the question, of course, what will mueller ultimately be able to answer. democrats today also lowering expectations of sorts and raising concerns about not having enough time to get the questions answered and offering a warning also to some of the members. take listen. >> what would you have to do? not frankly to mess it up? >> well, i think we have to resist editorializing. we want to give him the chance to speak directly to the american people. when he's been able to do that, with his very brief press conference or even in the letters he wrote protesting the attorney general's misstatement of the contents of the report. it has been very effective for the punking through the fog of
propaganda left by attorney general barr. >> do you think the expectations are too high for this hearing? >> i don't think anybody should expect much news out of this hearing. bob mueller has said that his report is his
testimony. he is one of the most disciplined men in washington, d.c. so i don't think any of us are expecting big headlines out of this testimony. >> now, karen bass on the house judiciary committee says it does concern me that she doesn't believe there will be enough time. she believes they will to have come back. ask him to come back because they'll be frustrated by not getting their answers. the house committee chairman adam schiff said that democrats will be economical in the way they pursue their ants and they'll be very strategic in the way they pursue their answers. >> let's get more on this. >> the majority whip, the number two democrat in the u.s.
let's begin with secretary acosta's news conference. >> did anything you've heard change your mind? >> of course not.
i voted when he was for second of labor. more details did come forward since he was approved by the senate with other votes. i have to tell you. when i listen to him talk about the hard time that he gave mr. epstein, it sounded more like happy time. he could have a sleepover after 12 hours in his office. that didn't seem like the hard time this kind of serious time would merit the driver would drive him back. he spent 12 hours a day in that office away from that prison. >> lindsey graham, a man you know well, he wants to see the investigation first. the investigation into secretary
acosta before deciding whether the hearing is necessary. >> it's okay that he wants to look at the background sheet
before he makes the final addition. this is what he engages in. >> many times, the senate judiciary committee has been absent without leave when it came to the trump investigation, what little was done was done in the house side. so i hope that we see new life in the committee. the constitutional role is important and i hope lindsey graham will lead us forward in that regard. >> i spoke yesterday with preet bharara, the legal analyst. he believes it is significant that the public corruption unit over in new york, the southern district of new york, is on this case. how do you interpret that? >> i don't know. i have to leave it to preet.
i have great respect for him. i remember when he was a staffer to then senator schumer. a very sharp fellow. i don't know about the corruption side of it. where it might delve. it
would be pure speculation. >> because he's suggesting that perhaps there were some public figures who may emerge. no evidence of that but a lot of experts who know something about the southern district in northern are suggesting that. do you want more details on the nature of president trump's relationship with epstein? and bill clinton's relationship with epstein, for that matter. >> well, i don't know that that has been associated with any of the charges in florida or now in new york. his association with either of those presidents. so i wouldn't necessarily say that is relevant evidence at that point. we're talking about the human
scale of this. there is plenty of evidence to lead to this indictment. >> let's turn to the upcoming testimony of robert mueller.
house democrats, they're strategizing right now how best to approach these hearings. get the most out of them. do you have any advice for them? >> you've covered a lot of these. do you know what one hour comes down to? >> that's because the lawmakers like to make speeches as opposed to asking concise important questions. >> that's true. but most good questioning requires some follow-up. if i have five minutes, i'd better be darn lucky with the follow-up to get to it. >> cannot they change the rules and decide that one or two members would have 20 or 30 minutes to do it? as opposed to five minutes for individual members? and then have some staffers who are really knowledgeable on all the specifics go in detail and ask not only the questions but
the follow-up? >> that's quite possible. i don't know what chairman nadler will do. my only point is two hours of testimony with the judiciary,
one hour of intel, one side for republicans and for democrats, is not a lot. i would not expect any blockbuster revelations in that brief period of time. >> i suspect you're probably right. does the justice department, senator, have standing to block the testimony of two of mueller's top deputies? >> i don't think so. quite honestly, we know that the position of the administration is to obstruct every chance they have. in terms of people coming forward and testifying as to what they've seen or heard and participated in. that's just the standard approach to everything. it is a bare knuckles fight to bring the administration witnesses before the congress. but i think the american people expect it. they expect that our branch of government will hold the executive branch accountable and donald trump is no exception. >> at an election security
briefing, top officials wouldn't say whether president trump had actually received a full scale briefing on 2020 election security. does that concern you? >> i can tell you the most important part of that was that the key agencies, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, are on the case. they are not taking 2020 for granted. they're moving in the right direction. they've had some success already when it comes to the 2018 election and forwarding efforts to intervene there. i think that's a good indication that they're taking 2020 seriously west ought to stay on top of it. we have to work with election authorities across the united states. my state of illinois, the state board of elections, was one of the fifrt in the 2016 election cycle. so we don't assume a thing. >> did you go to that briefing today? >> i did. >> did you learn something? >> i did. i thought there were several things brought out that were very reassuring. the top leaders of the agencies were there making the commitment that they want to move forward.
i think we ought to take election security very seriously. the integrity of our elections is critical to a democracy. when it comes to the foreign countries intervening, they know the united states won't take it sitting down. >> thank you for joining us. >> the breaking news continues next. we'll look at the justice department's investigation of the plea deal that the current labor secretary alex acosta stwruk convicted sex offender jeffrey epstein a decade ago when acosta was the u.s. attorney. plus, hurricane watches have just been posted as a storm takes aim at the louisiana coast. we have a new forecast just up. award winning interface. award winning design. award winning engine. the volvo xc90. the most awarded luxury suv of the century.
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we're following breaking news. labor secretary alex acosta standing firm in the face of growing controversy over the plea deal he reached as a prosecutor a decade ago. jeffrey epstein is now facing new charges of sex trafficking. acosta is refusing to resign and we're told he has president
trump's support. at least for now. let's dig deep we are the top fbi lawyer jim bake here spent two decades at the justice department. as he cnn legal analyst. thank you for coming in. so secretary acosta says it was valuable to get a guilty plea deal with epstein rather than roll the dice and go to trial. does that explain the unusual circumstances surrounding that plea deal?
>> not fully. at least to me. this was a significant activity that he was engaged in. he pleaded guilty to in terms of criminal activity against very young victims. prosecutors have to make hard choices. they have to deal with reality and the victims and try to figure out what is the best thing to do. if you step back for a moment, what this is really about is seeking justice. justice for the victims. most importantly. also, bringing mr. epstein, who is accused at this point in time to justice, if he in fact committed the offenses alleged in the new charges. and then also about holding the department of justice accountable for the decisions that it made. so i'm glad to hear there's some level of internal review going on at the doj but i think that needs to be, i don't think why it is being done by the office of professional responsibility as opposed to the office of inspector general but it should
be made public so the american people can have confidence in the decisions. >> you don't have confidence in the office of professional responsibility? >> they're more limited if their resources and scope of what they can do. especially when you talk about someone who is a former justice department official at this point in time. even though he works for another government agency. >> you think there should be a full-scale inspector general investigation. >> i would think so. this has enough of the
public attention and there were so many victims. slims will suffer as a result of epstein's crimes for the rest of their lives. >> and this decision not to notify victims about the plea deal that was worked out. that's pretty extraordinary. >> it seems extraordinary to me. i think it was a lapse, at a minimum. it was a lapse of the law. the one court that has looked at this seemed to be saying. that needs to be looked at. the explanation to the public needs to be made. >> and they need to explain the
breakfast meeting that alex acosta had with one of epstein's lawyers. he says it was after the plea deal. it was a restaurant at a hotel as opposed to a formal meeting. >> people have to make, i understand he was trying to say that it was a logistical problem but it seems as though a meeting of that importance on a case of that importance, that
required the personal intervention of the u.s. attorney, who does not normally get involved in cases, that seems like it should have been a full blown meeting at the u.s. attorney's office. >> let's talk about robert mueller's testimony, a week from today. what do you expect the american public will learn? will gain from this appearance? >> i hope they gain deeper insight into what special counsel mueller found. i don't think this will be any new revelations or bomb shells. i think he'll stick to the report and tell people what he
found. if the democrats are astute in how they develop their strategy for asking questions, the flakts get out through words of special counsel mueller and that will be good. that will be informative. the concern is that most americans have not read the report and there's been so much conflicting stuff in the media about what exactly he found. >> he's saying he's going to stick to what he wrote in the report. they'll have to pry it out of him. if they pry out the facts, i think the facts are quite damning. >> we'll see how they ask the questions. >> there's more breaking news. up next, a hurricane watch has been issued for part of the louisiana coast. heavy rains are already causing big problems. stand by for the latest forecast. [farmers bell]
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there's breaking news. positive reviews from the white house for the embattled labor secretary alex acosta who gave a lengthy news conference defending the plea agreement he oversaw with jeffrey epstein more than a decade ago. let's dig deeper. the president urged secretary acosta to go before the cameras, answer reporters' questions. there was a long news conference that he had. did he really truly explain why jeffrey epstein, a decade ago,
was given such a lenient sentence? >> for my point of view, did secretary acosta help himself on the pr front and with the president? i think the answer is yes. president trump likes people who go out cool as a cucumber, get everything done in the weeds and the legalise and don't address the big moral questions. if the question is, did he explain the sweetheart deal? no. he said at one point that jeffrey epstein, quote, needed to go to jail. if he needed to go to jail, why did he get such a short sentence when he had 12 hours a day of work release. when you're talking about a crime that involved sexual crimes involving children. >> you think he's safe for now? >> for now, probably, he bought himself time. it is very important to note that so far, we have not heard anything from republicans on capitol hill, even those who tend to be more conservative. small c. on these issues.
people who are very cautious, i should say, is maybe a better way to say the on issues like this are saying, let's not jump to conclusions. let's see how this plays out. that could change. if anything new comes out, any piece of information that we don't know about, that would lead to question whether or not he's actually not telling the truth now, which is entirely possible because there are a lot of documents that we still haven't seen on this issues. the audience of one, we knew he was talking to. i totally agree with you that he was talking about the facts. he didn't admit any regrets. if you are donald trump and that's your m.o., that was probably music to his ears. >> so far, the president has not tweeted, not reacted publicly. >> that's right. the other thing to keep in mind that's separate from this issue. there's reporting including ours that he was not exactly the most, in the most favored nation
status of cabinet members for president trump. so that's an important thing to keep in mind. that he was not -- >> susan, listen to one of the lawyers for epstein's accusers responding. listen to this. let me read it to you. we do not understand, more importantly our clients do not understand why secretary acosta is willing to speak to the media about these issues but not to the women epstein abused. >> one of the things about acosta's performance today is that he sort of intimated not just that this was the fault of state and career prosecutors, he sort of intimated this was the fault of the victims. that the victims weren't willing to testify. he said the message to victims is you need to come forward. that sounds a lot like shifting the blame to children who were victims of sexual assault. he sort of absurdly suggested that the legal landscape has
changed. a decade ago there was no such thing as a child prostitute. there is no such thing. children are victims of sex trafficking crimes. what epstein was permitted to plea to did not reflect the chargeable conduct that he actually, that he could have proven in court at that time. so look. it does appear acosta has double himself a favor with president trump. it's not as though his current role has nothing to do with any of it. the secretary of labor oversees u.s. labor laws including human trafficking laws. it is hard to understand how he can creditably serve in this role. >> while he is testifying, answering questions, i should say, secretary acosta, more of epste epstein's victims are coming forward and there was a very, very powerful interview on the "today" show. savannah guthrie interviewed one woman who was only 15 years old at the time. watch this. >> did jeffrey epstein rape you? >> yeah.
he raped me. forcefully raped me. he knew exactly what he was doing. and i don't think cared, what hurts even more so, if i wasn't afraid to come forward sooner, then maybe he wouldn't have done to it other girls. >> jennifer wrote, she was recruited at age 14. she was raped at age 15. this is so horrific to listen to these testimonies. >> it really is. it was gut wrenching to watchful i watched the entire interview. i think what was the hardest part to hear from jennifer was that she in some way shoulders responsibility and guilt for not coming forward sooner. we didn't see any of that from secretary acosta today. he was asked multiple times what he would have done if he could do it over. if he felt guilty. if he could have done things differently fefls sorry. this speaks to his audience of one and not wanting to admit any
responsibility or wrongdoing in front of the president. when you talk about something that involves the rape of young children, it is beyond rationalizing how he should be acting in front of the president's eyes versus how a human being should be acting. and i totally agree with susan. he kept referring to how times have changed. this was only a decade ago and maybe he was conflating the me, too move. with child rape and pedophilia. but you cannot, not to take any significance from the me too movement but we're talking about children at the age of 13, 14, 15. and jennifer, in many respects is one of the lucky victims. she's alive today. if you read the report from the miami herald, many fared far worse including death and suicide. so i do think that watching that today is something that i don't know if the secretary watched. he should go back and watch that. >> only one story out of so many. >> so many.
the amazing reporting from julie brown from the "washington post." >> from the miami herald. >> excuse me. you're with the "washington post." from the miami herald. but the other thing that struck me is that he was obviously playing a political game and not admitting any culpability. i wonder if there is also a legal reason why he didn't. >> yeah. one of the things he dodged answering questions on was this question of whether or not he had violated the crime victims notification act in failing to notify the victims. he said, look, this was doj policy at the time. to the extent judge said it was illegal, he's criticizing the department of justice and not me personally. >> everybody stand by. we're following a hurricane watch as a storm takes place off the louisiana coast. what about him? let's do it. [ sniffing ]
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she's the star of the liberal left and some of the top democrats running for the white house are hoping to tap into her progressive power by linking their names to alexandria ocasio-cortez. bernie sanders was with warren, now kamala harris. they're all hoping to burnish their progressive credentials. what's the latest? >> reporter: yeah. hitching her star to a notable democratic name. she is scheduled to arrive here
after a busy day. this is her fundraiser in brooklyn. about a thousand people will be here in support of senator harris. a very busy day in washington where she introduced legislation with that notable name. senator kamala harris teaming up with alexandria ocasio-cortez. harris and the freshman congresswoman introduced joint legislation aimed at helping people with criminal records fairly attain housing. ing a flag on the left. as harris hopes to highlight her progressi progressive creds. it is the aoc primary. they are vying to be seen as alexandria ocasio-cortez' ally. elizabeth warren has hailed her alliance with her from this video slamming treasury secretary mnuchin. to a more light-hearted important trail of women in
"game of thrones." >> i am delighted to be here with alexandria ocasio-cortez. >> reporter: but ocasio-cortez has also formed ties with bernie sanders. they teamed up on legislation and stumped together for progressive candidates in the 2018 mid-terms. >> there is no middle ground! >> reporter: as sanders rallies progressives in his bid for 2020, ocasio-cortez has echoed his very words. >> i will be damned if the same politicians who refuse to act then are going to try to come back today and say, we need a middle of the road approach to save our lives. >> reporter: that was an apparently reference to joe biden. he has questioned whether alexandria ocasio-cortez's brand has mass appeal. >> i think ocasio-cortez is a brilliant bright woman. but she hasn't won a primary. in then election fights? who won? main stream democrats who are very progressive on social
issues and very strong on education, health care. >> reporter: in the crowded 2020 field, progressive democrats believe ocasio-cortez' endorsement could help separate one hopeful from the rest. last may, ocasio-cortez signals who is grabbing her eye. >> what i would like to see in a presidential candidate is one that has a coherent world view and logic from which all these policy proposals are coming forward. i think senator sanders has that. i think senator warren has that. >> reporter: harris' campaign says this fundraise per i'm at tonight did sell out very quickly after her performance at the first democratic debate. the campaign saw a significant bump in fundraising right after the debate. she is expected to give comments. she is expected to address the crowd and she'll be introduced by spike lee's daughter. >> stand by corps. appreciate it very much.
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a new forecast out from the national hurricane center. the system is already flooding parts of new orleans and states of emergency are in effect. >> yeah, wolf, i mean hurricane season started june 1st, relatively quiet backup but we may be looking at the first lawful maybe a category 1 mushing in south central louisiana. today a precurse we are the heavy rain that moved through. an odd event here in yellow a tropical storm watch from the pearl river to the mouth of mississippi, does not include new orleans right now. from the pink in to cameron, louisiana it's a hurricane watch. most likely change to a warning backup but we've got a couple of days. this hasn't been named a depression. if it's named a tropical storm
in the next 24 hours the name is barry. the tornado warning, submerged cars, businesses, the french quarter, 250 calls for emergency help and assistance. the last thing they need is to pick up over 9 inches of rainfall when we are looking at
maybe 10, 15 or 20 in the tais ahead. the reason this is so important to watch, the mississippi river is at 16 foot at a levy in new orleans. when katerina hit it was 3. it's expected to go to the highest level in 90 years. the highest level a relevant test. >> with we have other breaking news into the situation room. new trouble if the persian gulf. apparently involving iran. let's go to barbara starr. what are you learning, barbara. >> fweeng, cnn learned in about the last seven hours iran made of an up successful attempt to seize a british oil tanker trying to move through the strait of hormuz in the persian gulf region. this is a british oil tanker that was surrounded essentially by five iranian revolutionary guard mall boats, armed iranian boats that tried to make the tanker shift course and go into iranian territorial waters. there was a british warship
nearby escorting. it moved into position. we are told that montrose trains guns on the iranian ships and gave them a verbal warning to back off. montrose especially equipped with large canons on the deck to drive off small boats. the iranians had been threatening itting to seize an oil tanker.
looks like they tried to do it today about 7 hours ago. unsuccessful according to all reports. there was a u.s. military aircraft overhead recording video of the incident we are told. >> they aren't release are elsed the video yet have they. >> they have not. the video sidekick processed tp the u.s. military trying to figure out what the video shows. they are coordinating with the uk. >> barbara starr at the pentagon. thanks very much. much more news right after this. dear lexus, it is with a very gratesful heart that i write you about your amazing employees. eric volunteered to come to my rescue that evening. ...to a mom, these things really matter. from this day forward,
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team as they rode down broadway in lower manhattan, celebrating the 2-0 victory over the netherlands in sunday's world cup final in france. carly lloyd, joined by new york mail about bill de blasio on a float with the words world
champions and rapinoe says she hopes to use the team's fame to improve the world. congratulations to the women again. thanks very much for watching. erin burnett outfront starts right now. outfront next, no apologies. embattled labor secretary alex acosta defending handling of the sex crimes case involving jeffrey epstein. was the defense enough to keep his job? did it add up? plus the fed chief pushing back against the president, vowing to stay on the job, despite the attacks of the president. peter nafr ho assist to the president outfront. please kamala harris the latest contender to embrace alexandria ocasio-cortes. is it enough to win the rising star's support and does it help or hurt kamala's efforts? let's go outfront. and good evening, i'm erin burnett, outfront tonight, itching for