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Bush 41 Apologizes; Halperin Accused of Harassment; Family Impacted by Opioids; JFK Assassination Files Released. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired October 26, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:42] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back.

New this morning, an apology from former President George H.W. Bush after an actress accused him of touching her from behind inappropriately during -- from his wheelchair during a photoshoot.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Separately, veteran journalist Mark Halperin apologized after five women accused him of sexual harassment during his time at ABC News.

CNN national correspondent Athena Jones with us, along with CNN's senior media reporter Oliver Darcy.

Athena, first to you, and the subject of former President Bush.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, this is pretty remarkable. You have an actress named Heather Lind who posted on Instagram, a now-deleted post, describing an incident with the former president where she was posing for a picture with him and then said that he touched her inappropriately.

She said that she was promoting an historical television show. He didn't shake her hand. She said he touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife, Barbara Bush, by his side. But he told me a dirty joke and then all the while, while being photographed, he touched me again.

Now, in the wake of this allegation, one of the president's spokespersons spoke out last night and put out a brief statement saying that President Bush would never, under any circumstances, intentionally cause anyone distress and he most sincerely apologizes if his attempt at humor offended Miss Lind.

Now, a little later they put out a more fulsome statement and I'll read from that. He said -- this is Jim McGrath, Bush's spokesperson. At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures. To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke. And on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to a good natured manner. Some has seen it as innocent. Others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely. So that is, in effect, an admission that he was touching this actress

on the behind. Now, as of last night, a second actress has come forward and spoken to Deadspin. CNN is reaching out to both of them to get more.

HARLOW: Because that statement says multiple women.

Oliver Darcy, to you. So veteran journalist, we all know him for his journalism, for the books he's written, et cetera. Mark Halperin taking a leave of absence from his current employer, NBC, because of these allegations from five separate women over years while he was at ABC News. This is all because of your investigation. What did you find?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Right. So he's taking a step back, he said to me last night. Our investigation found that five separate women came forward and accused him of sexual harassment. The allegations range in nature from him propositioning employees for sex on the campaign trail or while he was a powerful position at ABC News, to groping and forcefully kissing.

And I should say that Mark does deny the most serious allegations of forcibly kissing and groping a woman's breasts and things that I cannot actually, frankly, say on TV. And you can read the allegations at

But he did apologize for some of his other behavior and said that he understands now that it has caused people great pain, and he's going to be taking a step back.

I should also say that MSNBC, where he serves as a contributor and he's an analyst at NBC News, said that right now he's going to be -- he's going to be leaving his roles there while his past -- until his past is fully understood.

BERMAN: One of the things these stories obviously share is this is in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.


BERMAN: That we are seeing now women being willing to speak more freely about experiences they have had in the past. And men who have taken actions, which are offensive, and they range in scale from, you know, what we've seen in many cases, they will be held into account.

JONES: Absolutely. This is part of the me too hash tag, one of the women who has come forward used that hash tag on her Instagram post, Heather Lind. And people are saying, look, maybe I wouldn't have brought it up in the past, but now I feel that because of other women's courage to talk about whether it's touching or harassment or actual sexual assault, more women are coming forward. And I don't think this is the end of it.

HARLOW: By the way, we'll just say, because of journalism, too. I mean it was "The New York Times" that broke the Harvey Weinstein story. It was you, Oliver, and this team at CNN that broke this story empowering women to share. Thank you for that.

DARCY: Thank you.

[09:35:00] BERMAN: All right, a family affected by the opioid crisis set to joint President Trump today as he declares a public health emergency. But we are learning what actions he will take. Do they go far enough? Because they're different than what he promised. We'll have much more on the breaking news, next.


BERMAN: Today at the White House, the president will make an announcement on the opioid crisis in the country, but not the announcement we all expected. Not the announcement he said he would make. He will declare a public health emergency, stopping short of calling it a national emergency, which is something that the Opioid Commission actually recommended. That would have shored up some extra federal funds to fight the epidemic.

HARLOW: Why is it so important? More than 33,000 Americans died of a drug overdose that includes an opioid in 2015. Those are the most recent numbers. One of the families affected, that family you're looking at, the Swafford family. They will be on stage with the president today. The parents, Cyndi and Jesse (ph) Swafford, have fostered 15 children over the past decade, 13 of them because their birth parents struggled with addiction, mainly opioid and heroin addiction. The Swaffords adopted 12-year-old Kalib after they fostered him for many years. We sat down with them a few months ago in Ohio. Look at this.

[09:40:36] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNDI SWAFFORD, FOSTERED 13 KIDS LEFT BY ADDICTED PARENTS: I'm confident that if we opened another bed in our home, it would be filled with another baby with an opiate issue.

HARLOW: Just a sad reality.

C. SWAFFORD: Yes. It's hard to hold a baby as they're withdrawing from heroin.

HARLOW: It's a lot to cope with, Kalib, at 12 years old.

KALIB SWAFFORD, PLACED IN FOSTER CARE DUE TO PARENTAL OPIOID ABUSE: It's just been a lot better than I would have done with my other parents.


HARLOW: Well, the White House saw that report. They've invited the whole family to join them on stage today with the president. Cyndi Swafford, her son Kalib, join us now.

Thank you for being here. And, Cyndi, let me begin with you. What does it mean to be invited to the White House on this day? C. SWAFFORD: We're honored and kind of shocked. I -- we're very

excited and excited that there's -- that there's something being done to kind of combat this issue. And really just -- it's exciting to know that someone is recognizing not just the problem and the addicts, but also the children that are often affected by the problem.

BERMAN: Kalib, this is a big deal. You're going to the White House, buddy. Are you excited?

K. SWAFFORD: Yes, I'm pretty excited.

BERMAN: What are you going to do when you're there? Don't touch the china.

K. SWAFFORD: I'm -- I'm just going to sit there and watch the speech. See how it goes.

HARLOW: Kalib, as we spoke about when we were in Ohio with you guys, you know, your parents, Jesse and Cyndi, are heroes, and they've been heroes to so many kids like you and your brother.


HARLOW: Cyndi, you talked to me a lot there about the pain of holding a baby when they're withdrawing from heroin addiction. And I think a lot of people don't know the stories of the children left behind and the foster parents that step in to save these children. What do you want America to know?

C. SWAFFORD: Well, I mean, we have the little guy that's going to be with us today, we're going to finalize his adoption soon. With him specifically, we've -- I spent several days in the NICU with him learning how to care for him before I could bring him home. He came home on medication. I would have to hold him as he was tremoring from the withdraw. And we would have to, you know, endure the screaming for him that was pain. You know, he was screaming because he was in pain or uncomfortable.

We don't know what the long-term effects are for these kidos until they get older. Some of them struggle with mental health issues. Some of them struggle with behavior and learning difficulties. And, you know, we just -- as a foster parent, we kind of sign on to work through those as best as we can.

BERMAN: You know, Cyndi, you're on the front lines of this battle right now, and the president's calling it an emergency today. Explain how dire the situation is. I mean a lot of people do having connections with this. Unfortunately, too many people have connections with it. But there are -- there are those who don't, who just read the headlines or see it on TV. Explain what it's like to be in the front lines?

C. SWAFFORD: I mean I see -- I see the broad scope of people that are affected by a single -- a single person who has an addiction problem. And, you know, from anyone that's in their family, any children that they may have, their loved ones, their -- whatever medical care they might need, it becomes a problem for them.

You know, one person that's addicted affects such a wide scope of people. And then there are so many people that are affected by it, then, you know, it's really -- especially where we're from, it's a -- it's a significant problem. And so everybody that we meet knows someone or knows of someone who's had a close encounter with the heroin epidemic.

HARLOW: You know, to both of you, Cyndi and Kalib, one silver lining out of this story, and Kalib what you had to go through as a little baby, is that you now, ten years later, as we saw and filmed when we were with you in Ohio, is reuniting with your birth father. This was the moment when you saw your birth father, James, for the first time after ten years of addiction to heroin. He is now clean. You gave him a hug. I know you guys have been in touch. What has that meant for you, Kalib, to also now have him in your life?

[09:45:16] K. SWAFFORD: It's just been -- I don't really know. It's just -- it's just been how it is.

C. SWAFFORD: He gave you some -- some pieces of information that were missing.

K. SWAFFORD: He did. He did.

C. SWAFFORD: And some -- some closure.

HARLOW: And for you, Cyndi, what has that been like? I mean the strength to allow him to spend that time with his birth father and try to bring all of you guys together?

C. SWAFFORD: It's not easy, by any means, but it's something that Jesse and I, my husband, have -- we're really passionate about. There are a lot of different opinions and ideas about heroin or opiate addiction and just drug addiction in general. But, for us, we -- we choose to see these people as just that, they're human beings. They're in rough circumstances.

Our close connections with those people have taught us that most of them don't want to be where they're at. They just don't know how to get out of the situation. And so we really want to honor our children that are with us as best as we can with giving them the connections that we can to their biological family, because we think that that's important.

And we also really want to honor the work that those people are doing in getting clean. So, for example, with Kalib's father, James, we have maintained contact with the biological family throughout the years, not specifically with him, but with other relatives. And, you know, for us to be able to be there in that moment and -- it was a celebration. I mean it was difficult, it was a hard decision to come to. There were a lot of pieces that played into it. It wasn't like we just flippantly said, hey, let's go meet this guy.

But by the time we got there, we had peace in it and we were comfortable and confident that that was the right choice for our family and for Kalib and for James. And so it was a celebration in that moment. And it's meant a lot to our family to be able to see that through and honor the commitment that we made to them when the children were first placed with us.

HARLOW: There was not a dry eye that day. I can tell you that.

Cyndi and Kalib, thank you for welcoming us into your lives. And, Cyndi, and to your husband, Jesse, you guys are what they call everyday heroes. Thank you for what you do.

BERMAN: Have a great day at the White House. It's an honor to be invited, and you guys deserve it.


C. SWAFFORD: It is. We're very excited. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, 50 years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, some answers might be coming within hours. President Trump releasing secret files. What will they say?


[09:52:29] HARLOW: Historians, conspiracy theorists, this may be your day. President Trump has called for the release of previously classified documents all about President Kennedy's assassination.

BERMAN: Now, it's not known if the president will decide to keep some files secret. Still, it's a big deal that these are coming out at all.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

Professor, thank you for being with us on this big day for you. What are you expecting from this release? Any bombshells?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think we're going to be most interested in seeing what the CIA files are, particularly as it relates to Lee Harvey Oswald. You know, Oswald was in Mexico City before coming to Dallas. He had visited a Cuban consulate. There's been a lot of the conspiracy theories are about even if you believe Oswald was the lone gunman, who was he working for? Did he -- was it just an oddball geek, a fanatic who shot the president, or was he working with Cuba or Russia or a mafia in Miami or Chicago. So I think when the first batch of these are coming out, people are going to be honing in on the Oswald files of both FBI and CIA.

HARLOW: Douglas, you know, the intelligence community as a whole has been reticent to have these released at all for a long time, mainly because they could disclose sources and methods. Also they could prove embarrassing. Is there any significance to the timing of this being released by a president who has been, to say the least, at odds with the intelligence community?

BRINKLEY: Not per say. I mean back when Oliver Stone made his JFK movie in the early '90s, Congress didn't want to grapple with this release issue so they booted it 25 years later.


BRINKLEY: And lo and behold it's today. So Trump had a decision, open or close. For him, you know, he's kind of at war with the CIA and FBI so he doesn't want to hear their internal complaints about embarrassing information. It won't bother President Trump any. So he went to the side that's going to, I think, appeal to his base, which is release.

BERMAN: Why would it be embarrassing, just hypothetically speaking, for the intelligence community?

BRINKLEY: Well, one thing, I do thing for a living, meaning, I've read a lot of CIA and FBI files. And you're amazed what Keystone Cops they often are, misspellings of names, wrong locations, bad, you know, magazine clip outs, operating as actual intelligence. You know, they're not always as dramatic as we think, you know, in -- so, you know, when you go through all these pages, we're dealing with -- you know, you go through 100,000 pages, about 80 percent of that's just going to be kind of either -- either marginally interesting stuff or things that just showed some bad reporting.

[09:55:14] HARLOW: All right. We'll be watching. We're looking at all this historical footage. It is a big day. As you said, 25 years after Congress punted this back in 1992. We'll see what is released. Thank you.

BRINKLEY: Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: All right, have a great day.

President Trump says he loves WikiLeaks, but how much? Enough that his campaign analytics team reached out to them during the campaign to try to team up? That's the question this morning. Stay with us.


[09:59:56] BERMAN: All right, the breaking news this morning, a major announcement from the White House, but not the announcement we were expecting today. The president set to declare a public health emergency to fight the opioid epidemic, but he had been promising to declare it a national emergency.

HARLOW: And the difference is significant when it comes to the funds and resources available for