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300+ Priests Accused Of Abusing 1,000+ Children In One State. CNN Poll: Democrats Hold 11-Points Lead Over GOP Ahead Of Midterms; 82 Percent Of GOP Consider Trump And Economy And 94 Percent Democrats Consider Health Care Top Issues. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 15, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:31:38] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Brace yourself for really one of the most alarming stories we'll do today. From men of God to monsters. A new grand jury report out of Pennsylvania says that more than 300, "Predator Priests", have been credibly accused of sexually assaulting more than 1,000 children, 1,000 children in one state.

The cases are disturbing the details just horrific. Not only that, the report revealed what was essentially a playbook of how the Catholic church in Pennsylvania protected themselves, protected those predator priests, even after they found out what they had done.

Jim VanSickle testified before the grand jury in this case. His alleged abuser is named in the report and was charged earlier this year with abusing two boys. This is between 2010 and -- 2002 and 2010. Mr. VanSickle, thanks for joining us. We appreciate you giving us the opportunity to talk to you about what a disturbing things.

JIM VANSICKLE, SAYS HE WAS SEXUALLY ABUSED BY HIS PRIEST: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: First of all, I just want to ask you how you're doing and what kind of support you're getting, if any, to handle the pain that you went through.

VANSICKLE: I can tell you that the announcement yesterday was a huge victory for all survivors in Pennsylvania, as well as the United States and across the world. I came out in February or March of this year for the first time after 36 years of silence. That event in and of itself was very healing.

Since then I've been reaching out through my Facebook page by my name Jim VanSickle and hundreds and hundreds of people have reached out and I've been able to talk to victims and survivors, and that's been healing. Yesterday's announcement and the work that the attorney general's office, Josh Shapiro, Dan Dye, the whole office, the work they put in uncovering the truth and allowing our truth to be told in this report is just breathtaking.

It's been so validating, so exciting and so healing. But I do have to mention that there's a hole in my soul that may never go away. And I realize that. And it's something I have to live with for the rest of my life. SCIUTTO: A hole in your soul. Part of this is the abuse of trust, right? You trusted this priest. You considered him a mentor and he horribly abused that trust in abusing you. What would you want to say to him?

VANSICKLE: I actually had the opportunity through a Catholic woman who contacted me who had access. And basically what I told her was that I was being led by the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ in this process and that I really just want to pray for his eternal soul.

SCIUTTO: The sad fact, I'm sure, I was amazed when I read this and I'm sure our viewers will feel the same way. These cases, for the vast majority of them, the state statute of limitation prevents any legal action, even documented legal action, credible legal action against these predators involved. But you and the people you're working with, you're trying to change that now. How can you do that?

[13:35:01] VANSICKLE: Well, our next fight, which will start here in September, we're supporting representative Mark Rozzi and his new bill that he just put forth here to change the statute of limitations and actually abolish it.

The key point to the whole piece of legislation is a look back window for those people who are outside the statute of limitations. And you're right, Jim. This report shows many, many, many abuses, but there's only been two convictions. My predator being one of those.

SCIUTTO: Two convictions, over a thousand children, so many others who aren't getting that justice. Pope Francis, of course the head of the Catholic Church, he's been more forward leaning on this issue than his predecessors in many ways, many public comments. He's met with victims. There's been no official comment from the Vatican yet on this case. Are you disappointed by that?

VANSICKLE: Yes, I am. I think Josh Shapiro laid it out pretty clearly what need to happen as far as the support from the Bishops, the Cardinals here in the U.S., as well as, obviously, Pennsylvania. We're asking for them to call off their lobbyists, the insurance lobbyists, the catholic lobbyists and let us pass this bill.

I think for these people and a look back window to be able to face their predator in court will be a huge step to healing. And it will also be an accountability that fits the crime that allows the church to have to purge itself and holds them accountable in a way that they will purge themselves of this heinous action that's going on within the Catholic Church.

SCIUTTO: And one challenge for cases like this, it is difficult. It's painful to come forward and recount these crimes because, as you said, it leaves a hole in your soul. What advice would you have for other survivors today? Would you encourage them to come forward?

VANSICKLE: I have. As a matter of fact, I spoke to a victim over the weekend in my hometown, very afraid to come forward. We met at night in a closed strip mall, and we just shared stories and he was able to share his story, and I was able to just basically listen to him. The next day he called and met with my family and a close friend of mine who's also a survivor Gene Pulusak (ph). Drove down from Buffalo to Bradford, P.A., and met with him. And today I spoke with him about his desire to speak out, and I connected him with another network and he's going to be calling them to make a statement.

And he's so excited. But he's also afraid. I mean thing about it, how many people are outside of this statute of limitations? Being outside makes you feel like, if I do come forward, nothing is going to happen. There is nothing that's going to happen, and why subject myself to openly coming forward if there is nothing that can happen.

That's why the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is ridiculous. I had two years to come forward when I was abused. I didn't even know what the statute of limitations was at the time. Didn't even know they existed. My predator spent time after trying to reach out to me to kind of get me past that period of time because he knew if you got me past that time. The laws of Pennsylvania protect the predator and not the victim.

So the anger that you may see or the emotion that you may see is a lack of healing that can't be healed. You can't even come forward and go after these predators, and it's sad, and it's frustrating. And the tears I think you saw from that stage, although they were out of extreme happiness that this report came out, there's still a little bit of a cloud there because there's nothing we can do.

SCIUTTO: Yes, you're thinking of that two-year statute of limitation depends on children coming forward because they'd still be minors, I'd imagine, in many cases.

Listen, Jim VanSickle, really do appreciate you're taking being brave to share your story and the work you're doing. I went through 12 years of Catholic school myself and watching this is particularly disturbing. So wish you the best. And we'll save some prayer for you.

VANSICKLE: Can I say one more quick thing?

SCIUTTO: Sure. Of course.

VANSICKLE: I want people to know that we're not after the religion and we're not after the faithful inside the Catholic Church. We're after the predators and the people who cover them up. And I think the Catholic voice can be strong here by turning to their pastors, turning to the hierarchy and speaking out with us to force change inside the Catholic Church.

[13:40:02] SCIUTTO: Well said, Jim. Thanks very much.

VANSICKLE: Thank you. I appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Best of luck to you.

Still ahead an American pastor now at the center of another escalating standoff that's bringing down the markets around the world right now. How Turkey is retaliating to President Trump's tariffs.

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SCIUTTO: November 6th, less than three months away, that's the day voters decide who controls the House, Senate and 38 governors seats.

[13:45:04] In turn those winners help determine the future of the Trump presidency. Just last hour, CNN released a new poll on which party leads the race and on what issues matter the most to voters. CNN National correspondent and Anchor of "Inside Politics" John King is here to break it down.

John, the so-called generic ballot numbers they've been tightening but now a big lead for which party?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: The Democrats, Jim. And you mentioned a big lead. In fact, let's look at the numbers in our brand-new poll. A double-digit lead for the Democrats, 52 percent of registered voters said they want the Democrats when asked then who you going to vote for when it comes to Congress.

Forty-one percent say the Republicans. A double digit lead, 12 weeks to election, remember Democrats need 23 seats net to pick up control of the House. If this stays in double digits by Election Day, if it's anywhere near double digits one Election Day, Democrats will get the 23 and more.

Let's take a look how this is played out. You mentioned it was tight. Democrats started the year with even a bigger double-digit lead. And then as we get into the spring, this was essentially a dead heat, 47/44 just in May. Now those get closer to the election, look, the Democrats opening this double-digit lead. Twelve weeks to go.

The Republicans have a problem, Jim. If the election were today, the numbers were like that, guess what? The Democrats would retake the House and then some.

As you noted, we also asked voters, what are you thinking about? What's the motivating your votes. Let's take a look first at the Republicans, what is extremely or very important to you as you decide how you're going to vote for Congress.

For Republicans President Trump, the economy taxes and immigration are the top issues. You see them over there. I'm not all that surprising, right? Republicans are hoped to run on taxes. It hasn't worked out that way on the campaign trail.

But this is how Republicans look at the top issues. It's a little different when you ask Democrats what's the most important. Health care and immigration, top the Democrats.

Listen, this one is interesting, Jim. Immigration, we usually identify as a Republican motivating issue, to turn out the conservative base because of the family separation policy, Democratic anger at President Trump broader immigration issues. There is some evidence in our poll that immigration normally an issue that works for Republicans might this election actually motivate the Democrats.

SCIUTTO: It's interesting to watch the ads in these races. A lot of Democrats focusing on issues over the President, a lot of Republicans focusing in on that old favorite target Nancy Pelosi. Is that a big motivating factor for the GOP base?

KING: Our poll is very interesting on this subject. Let's look at the numbers right there. You can put them up on the screen here. As a national issue, it's not working for the Republicans just yet. Only 34 percent of Republicans say Nancy Pelosi is extremely or very important to their vote when they're thinking about voting for Congress.

Sixty percent, six in 10 Republicans, this is among Republican voters to Nancy Pelosi's moderately important or not that important. So what does that tell you? There are Republicans Jim, if you go district to district you would say it's working here for us in Ohio. It's working here for us in Montana.

And so this is a national poll, we have to be careful, most of these individual house races will be decided in the state. But if Republicans think Nancy Pelosi is a great national motivator, our poll tells you right there. Number one, they're down in the generic ballot double digits and trying to make Nancy Pelosi, if she's their big motivating force as a national issue, they're not passing the test, at least not today.

SCIUTTO: John King, master of the polls, thanks very much.

KING: Thank you sir.

SCIUTTO: Just moments from -- the White House press secretary is holding her first press briefing since not being able to guarantee that the President is not on tape using a horrible racial epithet.

[13:48:20] Plus, just in the defense's closing argument is under way right now in the trial of the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Stand by for the latest.

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SCIUTTO: Tariff turmoil, Turkey hitting back at the U.S., announcing new tariffs on several American products, including cars, alcohol and tobacco. The tariffs intensifying as a Turkish court rejects a second appeal to release an American pastor, Andrew Brunson who Turkey claim was involved in planning an attempted coup in Turkey in 2016, all of this contributing to a tumbling Turkish economy that felling some danger for global financial market as well

You can see the Dow down there more than 200 points. Here with me now, CNN Political Analyst and Columnist for the "Washington Post," Josh Rogan.

So this conflict pits two very strong-willed men against each other, and Erdogan and Trump. What's going to backs them off the edge? By the way, Turkey is a NATO ally. JOSH ROGAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, it wasn't so long that Trump called Erdogan a friend. And now he's escalating not only a tariff and trade war, but a sanctions war against our NATO ally. And he's demanding the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested on October 16th under Trumped charges of espionage, of being number of terrorist organization trying to overthrow the government with little evidence that's actually true.

Now, why has the President committed to this one case, when there are other Americans in prison in Turkey and everywhere around the world? Well, it just so happens that Brunson and his family are represented by Jay Sekulow the President's personal attorney, the American Center for Law and Justice, which is the organization that he runs.

So they have a special access, and the President and the Vice President have taken this as their personal cause. There were negotiations. Now there aren't. They're not going to back down. They want Brunson released or the trade war and tariff war, and sanctions war with Turkey will continue.

SCIUTTO: And it is driving the same time Turkey closer to Russia, is it not? This, again, a NATO ally.

ROGAN: Well, sure, because wars have consequences and collateral damage. And a bad Turkish economy is bad for the region. And there's not a clear way out. It's really easy to inflict pain on Turkey's economy. It's really hard to get them to change their behavior, right?

And what will happen for sure is that they will see the United States as an unreliable ally. They're already acting like an unreliable ally and that pushes them closer not only to Russia but to Iran perhaps which is also facing U.S. sanctions and it's not clear what the off- ramp is. Right now we're just escalating, escalating, escalating, with no end in sight.

[13:55:07] SCIUTTO: And Turkey helps on Syria too. Josh Rogan, thanks very much.

Under way now, the defense begins its closing arguments in the trial of President Trump's former campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort. This after the defense declined to present a case or call any witnesses.

Plus, the White House briefing just moments away. These are live pictures from the briefing room. Stand by.

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