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Administration Ends Haitians Protected Status; Anti-Trust Issue with AT&T and Time Warner Merger; Ryan Calls Conyers Allegations Extremely Troubling; Whitefish Energy To Halt Work. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 21, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The travel ban, sanctuary cities. And, you know, getting the Nicaraguans he tried to remove from the country, revoking their temporary protection status, and now the Haitians. Do you think the administration is trying to change the face of America?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Oh, absolutely. I think the president -- one of my major concerns about the Trump administration is that it fails to recognize the strength of America is in our values. It's in the fact that we embrace diversity. That we are a nation of immigrants. We are a nation that has been open to protecting human rights globally and being a leader on these issues. Now we see the president of the United States withdrawing from the Paris climate talks, his attitude on refugees, what he's done in regards to the dreamers and those in temporary status, a wall with Mexico, all of that, I think, really hurts the basic values of America, which is our strength.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Let's talk about sexual harassment. New allegations against John Conyers, the longest serving Democrat in the House. A second allegation against Senator Al Franken from a Minnesota woman who says that he touched her inappropriately. Should these two men continue to serve in Congress?

CARDIN: Well, I just heard about Congressman Conyers' issue (ph). These allegations are extremely serious and must be dealt with in a very serious manner. I supported the Senate Ethics Committee looking at Senator Franken. I think that's the appropriate place for the review to take place and for recommendations to the full Senate as to what actions we should take.

I would hope in the House they would use a similar process to evaluate. And it's important that there be transparency here. Clearly we've seen how positions of power have been used to control women in a way that is unacceptable in America.

BERMAN: What's too much, though? What is too much to serve in Congress?

CARDIN: Well, I think the representation of Congress is critically important. And we all have a responsibility, those that have been given public trust, to act in a way that represents that trust. And when you use that power to try to take advantage of a woman, that's unacceptable and it must be very clear that's unacceptable.

BERMAN: Clear in they should be removed from Congress?

CARDIN: Well, as you pointed out a little bit earlier, there are gradations of issues here. I think it's up to the ethics committee to try to develop the appropriate way that we can deal with these cases. Clearly there may be others and I think we need to have standards that are very clear.

BERMAN: I think -- sadly, I think you're probably right. I think there will be others in every aspect of society going forward.

Senator Ben Cardin, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

HARLOW: Thank you.

CARDIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, coming up, the legal battle over AT&T's $85 billion merger with CNN's parent company. Stay with us.


[09:37:14] BERMAN: The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit to block AT&T's attempt at an $85 billion merger with Time Warner. The question is why.

HARLOW: Of course Time Warner being the parent company of CNN.

Officials at the Justice Department say the merger violates anti-trust law, that it is intervening to protect consumers. Well, some believe it's politically motivated.

Whatever the reason, AT&T is vowing to fight back and fight back hard.

Michael Carrier is with us. He's an anti-trust expert, a distinguished professor at Rutgers Law School.

Nice to have you here.

When you look at the man that leads the Department of Justice anti- trust division, right, so who leads this effort, he was asked a year ago, last fall, about whether this seems problematic, this merger of a content company and a distribution company. Here's how he put it then.


MAKAN DELRAHIM, THEN-LAW PROFESSOR, PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY: It shouldn't be -- I -- you know, just the sheer size of it and the fact that it's media I think will get a lot of attention. However, I don't see this as a major anti-trust problem.


HARLOW: I don't see this as a major anti-trust problem. A, quote/unquote, vertical merger like this hasn't been challenged by the Department of Justice in decades. So what changed?

MICHAEL CARRIER, ANTITRUST EXPERT: So what changed is that he came into this position and he said a lot about behavioral remedies. Behavioral remedies say, hey, merging companies, you can merge, we're just going to look at what you're doing. And he has said -- and he's said even in the past, that these don't work. If it's an anti-trust violation, you need to sue in court or get a divestiture, something more serious than those behavioral remedies.

BERMAN: Well, one of the questions, and we've seen it in the paper and we also wonder it in this building is, is the decision politically motivated, because President Trump, and before that candidate Trump, he had a lot to say about CNN, which, of course, is owned by Turner, which is owned by Time Warner.

CARRIER: Right. And so Trump did say a lot about it. And, unfortunately, the politics do seem to intervene in this case when you hear about all the tweets. But if you look at the anti-trust complaint, I think it stands on its own two feet. This is a merger that could lead to competitive harm, price could go up hundreds of millions of dollars according to the Department of Justice. Innovators like Sling TV could pay too much money and be pushed out of the market for Turner content. And so I think this is a legitimate anti-trust case.

HARLOW: It's not just President Trump who criticized this proposed merger and called it too much of a concentration of power in the hands of too few. It's actually some liberals as well. I mean Bernie Sanders, around the same time last fall, wrote a letter on the Department of Justice on this one and called it a gross concentration of power. There's some on the far left, some on the -- I mean some on the left, some on the right. But the question is, is this completely, in your opinion, independent of politics here to challenge something like this for the first time in decades.

[09:40:09] CARRIER: So I think it is independent of politics. It's true that most mergers are not challenged in course. Just about all mergers are challenged by the agencies themselves who impose a behavioral remedy or require divestiture. It almost never makes it to court. And, sure, a vertical merger case was last in court decades ago, but in the meantime, just in the last decade, there was a vertical merger that the agencies brought against Comcast and NBC Universal that led to divestitures and behavioral remedies. There is Google ITA, which let to behavioral remedies as well. And so even if these cases don't make it to court, there still could be anti- competitive harm.

BERMAN: Michael Carrier, thanks so much for being with us.

CARRIER: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: All right, we do have some breaking news. House Speaker Paul Ryan reacting to reports Democratic Congressman John Conyers settled a complaint over unwanted sexual advances. We'll have a live report from Washington ahead.


[09:45:24] HARLOW: All right, welcome back.

We do have breaking news.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is responding to accusations of sexual misconduct against Democratic Congressman John Conyers.

Our Sunlen Serfaty has the details.

What is the House speaker saying in response to this?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, importantly, the speaker of the House is not mentioning John Conyers by name, but he calls the reports out there extremely troubling. In a statement just released, he said, people who work in the House deserve and are entitled to a workplace without harassment and discrimination.

And Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, he references that the House is undergoing a thorough review, he believes, of this process, the process of which sexual harassment complaints are made and filed and how settlements are paid out. That process is taking place through the Committee on House Administration, who just two weeks ago held a hearing and that hearing, Speaker Ryan notes in this statement, led to some changes so far, mandating sexual harassment training for members of Congress and their staffs up on the House side.

But, clearly, there are more changes to come. And that's something that Speaker Ryan, in this statement, alludes to. H says, additional reforms to the system are under consideration as the committee continues its review. And there is House legislation, there is Senate legislation proposing a whole series of changes to the system on Capitol Hill. How complaints are made, how settlements are made, and who knows about them, most importantly.

Clearly in this Conyers reporting done by Buzzfeed, that this opens up new questions on how the settlements are paid out once they are reached. Before we had reported that settlements come through a process, come through the Office of Compliance and is paid out by the U.S. Treasury at the end. But this -- a reporting coming from Buzzfeed opens up a new area, the fact that this $27,000 worth of settlements reached with Conyers office was paid out of his office's budget, not the U.S. Treasury, so that opens up many more questions.

We have reached out to Conyers office and, of course, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office. We have not heard back from either.

John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right, Sunlen Serfaty for us in Washington.

Sunlen, thanks so much.

Puerto Rico's power problem just went from bad to worse. The company that was supposed to help now threatening to leave. We'll tell you why. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:08] HARLOW: This morning, half of Puerto Rico is still without power. But two months after Hurricane Maria struck, the Montana company contracted to turn the lights back on, Whitefish Energy, now says it is stopping work to repair the island's power grid.

BERMAN: Yes, the company's CEO tells CNN that Whitefish is owed more than $83 million by the Puerto Rican Power Authority. This after the island canceled the $300 million contract with Whitefish back in late October after a number of concerns were raised. The Whitefish contract is up December 1st.

I want to go to CNN's Leyla Santiago in San Juan with more on this interview, Leyla, with the Whitefish CEO.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy and John, let me clarify the numbers you were just talking about. When we say half the island has power, that is based on generation, not distribution. So really the government still has no idea or claims to have no idea of how many people on this island have power.

And now the CEO of Whitefish is telling me in an interview we had with him that now those -- that progress could be delayed because he is stopping all efforts on the island because he says the government of Puerto Rico owes him $83 million.

I want you to watch my exchange with him.


ANDY TECHMANSKI, WHITEFISH CEO: We stopped because of the financial situation and lack of payment with PREPA has gotten beyond its maximum threshold of what we can sustain as a business.

SANTIAGO: How much do they owe you?

TECHMANSKI: $83 million. We came here because -- how could you not? If you come here and you have a skillset that can immediately help the people of Puerto Rico, like we do, it is more of a moral obligation from that point forward.

So, although it may not have been the best business decision coming to work for a bankrupt island, I don't regret doing what we've done and seeing people in great gratitude for the positive work that we've done. We've made a huge impact.

SANTIAGO: Would you do this again?

TECHMANSKI: Um, I would. I would do a lot of things different.


SANTIAGO: Among some of the things he says he would do differently, he would ask for more money up front. Now we reached out to PREPA, that is the power authority here on the island. They tell us that because this contract is under investigation, they really don't want to go into too much details. But they did admit that they have stopped payments to Whitefish after a complaint came in from a subcontractor for failure to get the payment that they're owed under Whitefish.

HARLOW: Leyla, thank you for that. And there's much more of that interview with the CEO online.

[09:55:02] Before you go, you're doing something incredible. You've been on the ground reporting since before Maria struck. And I don't think our viewers know your personal connection to the island and now you're doing everything you can in your power to raise money for the people who need it most. Tell us about it.

SANTIAGO: Right. Listen, people here, they still need help. I mean power is just one of the big issues.

I was born on this island. I was married on this island. I spent my summers on this island as a child, and as an adult. And so for weeks since we've been here covering Hurricane Maria, I have really -- my heart has ached as I have watched people devastated and in need of help. As people this week count their blessings and are thankful for things for the holiday this week, people on the island here, many still can't be thankful for power because they don't have that. That means they are in the dark at home. That means their businesses don't have power.

So I'm taking to GoFundMe. I've established an account there. And I'm raising $50,000 to help part of the interior of the island, the worst hit area, get what they still need today more than two months after Hurricane Maria battered the island.

HARLOW: And people can see it on the screen. But if you're just listening in your car,

Leyla, good for you. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, up next for us, at least eight women accuse veteran anchor Charlie Rose of various forms of sexual misconduct. One calls him a predator. This morning, he is suspended. His co-anchors went on television in a remarkable moment. You'll want to see it, next.