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A Look Into Immigration Rights; Republicans Threaten Impeachment; U.N. Security Council Makes Plea for Cease-Fire in Middle East; Ukrainian Military May Have Reached MH-17 Crash Site

Aired July 28, 2014 - 09:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me.

With thousands of undocumented children flooding into the United States from Central America, the Obama administration is preparing an executive order, actually a series of executive orders, that would greatly expand immigrant rights, just days before Congress heads home for recess. Those series of executive orders could be ready by the end of the summer. Athena Jones is live at the White House with more for us.

Good morning.


That's right, the president has ordered the attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security to look at what kinds of actions he can take to tackle this immigration crisis that would pass constitutional muster. And so they'll be looking into what steps he could take and that's due by the end of the summer.

There's been a lot of discussion and speculation about what those executive actions could entail. Talk about, for instance, expanding the Deferred Action Program. That's the program that defers deportations for illegal immigrants brought here as children. So that's one of the thing people are discussing. But we won't know yet what those executive actions will entail until the end of the summer.

Before that, we have this week. This is the last week, crunch time, in Congress before Congress goes off on its more than a month long August recess. And so we have a House bill right now that is expected to be voted on this week. It's less than a billion dollars. You'll remember the president asked for $3.7 billion to help deal with this border crisis. Well, the bill being looked at by House Republicans would be less than $1 billion and it would also contain a controversial provision that would change a 2008 law.

The domestic policy -- the director of domestic policy here at the White House, Cecilia Munoz, touched on this debate going on in Congress on "New Day" just a little while ago. Let's play what she had to say there. All right, Cecilia Munoz made the point that Congress should be

debating the money that is needed to help deal with bringing more immigration judges to these border areas to decide on these cases with transporting children. And so she said that Congress, though, right now is focused on attaching any moneys that will go to the administration to a change in this 2008 law that would allow the U.S. to stop treating children and immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador differently than those that come from border state -- border countries like Mexico and Canada. That changing that law would allow the administration to more quickly deport those children. That's what House Republicans want to see as part of any money that gets approved.

But I can tell you, Carol, that with this one last week before the break, it's looking very, very unlikely that the House can pass a bill and the Senate can pass a bill that can both be reconciled, get to the president's desk and deal with this issue, which is, of course, a pressing issue.


COSTELLO: Yes, it is. Athena Jones reporting live from the White House this morning.

Well, it is the political fight that just won't let up. A Republican push to try and impeach President Obama. It is the last week before lawmakers break for summer recess. You heard what Athena said. And while you think the focus would be on, oh I don't know, passing immigration reform, House Republicans say they will not take impeachment off the table if Mr. Obama does indeed introduce a series of executive orders. Listen to the newly elected House majority whip, Congressman Steve Scalise.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: But the president took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this land, and he's not. In fact, the Supreme Court unanimously more than 12 times unanimously said the president overreached and actually did things that he doesn't have the legal authority to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": So (INAUDIBLE) again on executive action to defer more deportations, what will the House do?

SCALISE: We made it clear, we're going to put options on the table to allow the House to take legal action against the president when he overreaches his authority.


COSTELLO: CNN checked with some legal scholars about Scalise's assertion that SCOTUS ruled 12 times that the president overreached and no one seems clear about what exactly he's talking about. So let's talk about this. Let's ask -- let's talk about this with CNN political commentator and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos and Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Alex, why are the Republicans talking about impeachment?

CASTELLANOS: Oh, I don't think the Republicans are going to impeach the president. Every time we see him, he's either playing golf, drinking beer, shooting pool, maybe going to a fundraiser. So I think he's already retired. Why would we impeach him?

COSTELLO: Serious, though, Chris --

CASTELLANOS: No, they're -- they're --

COSTELLO: As you heard, some Republicans won't take the issue on. I can't even respond to that.

But, Chris, go on.

KOFINIS: Well -- well --

CASTELLANOS: No, there's going to be no impeachment. Impeachment, you know, are there grounds? Well, a lot of even left of center Democrats think there are. Jonathan Turley, law school professor at George Washington says that Obama is not -- is not a constitutional -- is not a problem for the Constitution. That he's -- he's something even more serious than that.

But that's -- impeachment is a political process. Congress can't do it alone. Congress has to have the support of the American people. And the only people who probably can't impeach the president, because they are so unpopular, are the Republicans, my party. We can't do that. It's like asking America, hey, if you want to impeach the president, please stand over here with us lepers. It's just not going to happen.

COSTELLO: Well, Chris, here's the thing. If Congress is so upset that President Obama is going to issue these series of executive orders or do something about the immigration problem, then why doesn't it pass legislation?

KOFINIS: Well, that would actually mean that it's doing its job. I mean let's not -- let's not get ridiculous now. The funny thing is, the House Republicans have decided that either lawsuits or the threat of impeachment are the way to, you know, get back into political glory. Apparently they haven't talked to many Americans who aren't fond of lawsuits. And so it is just kind of -- it is basically kind of forsaking the responsibility.

Immigration is a serious issue. The country is facing an enormous series of problems. The notion that you're going to sue the president or impeach him because you disagree with him where you don't like his policy approach, if this was the solution to how we solved our fundamental political and policy problems, well, I guess nothing would get done. So I guess that's where we are, nothing is getting done, so why not sue?

CASTELLANOS: But it is. But it -- well, the -- a suit is different than impeaching the president. This president has --

KOFINIS: Not really.

CASTELLANOS; Well, in a lot of ways it is. It's, first of all, it's a way to mobilize support and focus attention on a president who (INAUDIBLE) liberal icon, historian, journalist, jazz writer, has said that, again, this president has done things the separation of powers that no other president has done. This is not just the right questioning whether this president has overstepped (INAUDIBLE).

KOFINIS: But, Alex --

CASTELLANOS: So focusing the American people's attention on this, suing the president, Turley, who's a law school professor says, yes, Congress has not only a right but an obligation to sue the president when he oversteps. So some things actually aren't about politics.


KOFINIS: Well -- well, actually -- you know, actually, it is about politics because if you want to actually have a debate with the president, then pass policy. When you basically have a House that has accomplished next to nothing, let's take just immigration for example, the Senate has passed legislation. The House has done what? Nothing. So the notion that you're going to solve these fundamental differences by suing the president and that is the way to go, I mean it is just a forsaking of their responsibility. They cannot understand a fundamental thing. And that is the reason why they are so unpopular is they cannot do their job. There are over 300 million Americans that wake up every day and do their job. What do House Republicans do? Nothing. And then what are we going to have now? They're going to have a five-week vacation. I mean I'd love to have a five-week vacation for doing nothing. I mean that is what I think the American people look at. That's why they're so frustrated and that's why suing the president is not something that they're going to embrace, they're going to reject.

COSTELLO: Last word, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: Well, I think this president has said he's going to act alone. Our Constitution is structured so that the president doesn't act alone. So there are three co-equal branches. Yes, there are legitimate issues here and I think Congress should sue,

but there's not going to be any impeachment of this president. It's a political -- it would destroy the party that tries to impeach him, and not have any effect on the president, except help him.

KOFINIS: Then where --

CASTELLANOS: Chris would be wearing a party hat and a red dress.

KOFINIS: Then what -- then work -- you know what, then the solution to that is really simple, work together. Work together. Lawsuit and impeachment is not the answer.

CASTELLANOS: Well, this is --


CASTELLANOS: You're not speaking about the president -- you're not speaking about the president, Chris, who's called Republicans every name under the book, challenged them as unpatriotic and now you want them to work together?

KOFINIS: Oh, I think it's -- to be honest, I think it's gone both ways multiple times.

COSTELLO: See, this is the problem. You're illustrating it.

KOFINIS: I know, Carol.

CASTELLANOS: And another thing --

COSTELLO: Thanks to both of you, Alex Castellanos, Chris Kofinis.

KOFINIS: I blame -- I blame Alex. I blame Alex.

CASTELLANOS; I don't blame Chris, he's a very smart Democrat. One of the best.

COSTELLO: Thanks to -- thanks to both of you.

Sarah Palin, she is taking on the digital world with a creation of her own online news channel, complete with a debt clock and a countdown to Obama leaving office. The former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate says she will offer viewers an alternative voice to the, quote, "politically correct filter of the mainstream media."


SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Welcome to a new project. This is a news channel that really is a lot more than news. This is a community where we're going to be able to share ideas and discuss the issues of the day and we're going to find solutions. Are you tired of the media filters? Well, I am. I always have been. So we're going to do something about it.


COSTELLO: The site is subscription based. Viewers can pay $99 a year or $9.95 per month. Active duty military personnel can subscribe free of charge.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a midnight mission of diplomacy. The United Nations issues an urgent plea for peace. Are the Israelis or Hamas listening?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: All right. A bit of news just in to CNN that I'd like to pass along to you. The Ukrainian military, they've managed to reach the crash site where MH17 came down. Earlier we heard that a team of international investigators were trying to get to the scene, but the fighting between the Ukrainian military and the pro-Russian rebels kept them away. In fact, one person described it as the ground was shaking. That's how heavy the artillery fire was.

But again, the Ukrainian military has reached the crash site, which may mean that investigators can finally get in there and do their work and recover some of the bodies still lying in eastern Ukraine. We're trying to get Nick Paton Walsh up on the phone to tell us more. And when we get him, of course, I'll pass more information along to you.

In other news this morning, the United Nations Security Council held a midnight meeting on the deepening crisis in the Middle East. The plea from the emergency session, an immediate and unconditional cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Something Kerry echoed moments ago at the Young African Leader Summit in Washington.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The biggest challenge is trying to get many factions to cooperate, to reach the same aim. Let me tell you something, as somebody is in the middle of trying to get some people, just get seven days of a cease-fire in the Middle East, I know what you're talking about.


KERRY: It is never easy, but that doesn't mean you stop. That doesn't mean you turn away. You have to keep doing it. Remember what Nelson Mandela said, it always seems impossible until it is done. And that's what we have to have as our guide.


COSTELLO: All right. So has any of that happened? Of course it depends on which side you talk to. With me now, Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow with the American Task Force on Palestine. Welcome, sir.


COSTELLO: Just a few moments ago actually I talked to Michael Oren, a former ambassador to Israel. He said that Secretary Kerry should sort of stay out of things, that the United States should let this play out. Do you agree?

IBISH: No. I think that -- I disagree wholeheartedly with that. I think there is a reason why not only Secretary Kerry, but also President Obama are ramping up their rhetoric directed at both warring parties here. Saying there needs to be an immediate cease-fire. First for humanitarian reasons. Over a thousand Palestinians have died and several Israelis including soldiers and civilians. And this just can't go on. There is a humanitarian need to end this immediately, the suffering of the people of Gaza is unconscionable. In addition, I think, they have both put their finger on the political consequences for stability in the region, for American interests. And other reasons why it is important for the United States to push for this. Mr. Oren was the Israeli ambassador to the United States. And not the other way around, by the way.

COSTELLO: I'm sorry.

IBISH: So he has that point of view. That's fine. But I don't agree with it.

COSTELLO: This idea that a series of short cease-fires will lead to a longer one, do you really think that will fly?

IBISH: It might. Probably not in an immediate sense, but insofar as we might ease into this. I think both parties are looking for a way out, in a certain sense, I think they both reached the point of diminishing returns. But I think Hamas really wants to gain some kind of political or strategic benefit before they agree to stop. And I think they entered into this conflict with enormous desperation. New Egyptian policies that were really cracking down on them and isolating them, impoverishing them et cetera and they want to break out of that siege. That of course is all on top of the loss of their relationship with Iran, loss of money they used to get from Iran, et cetera. They're really rather desperate. I think the Israelis also are looking for an out, but they don't want to see Hamas rewarded in any way so this is the conundrum.

COSTELLO: Let me ask you this question, Israel says it is destroying these tunnels, right?

IBISH: Right, right.

COSTELLO: Why doesn't Hamas just say we'll show you where the tunnels are, destroy them and we'll end this thing?

IBISH: Well, because --

COSTELLO: Why do they have tunnels in the first place?

IBISH: They have tunnels for two reasons. First, to smuggle, and as an economic means to get around the blockade and also it is convenient, I think, in a way insofar as it enriches the party, in particular, or did when they could operate those kind of tunnels. The tunnels we're really talking now are not the smuggling tunnels under the border with Egypt. They're tunnels that have been discovered leading from Northern Gaza into Israel and the Israelis are convinced and they're probably right about this, that the purpose of these tunnels is to infiltrate into Southern Israel and possibly --

COSTELLO: Exactly, so again, why doesn't Hamas just say here are where these tunnels are?

IBISH: Because they're a militant organization that is not inclined to be cooperative with the Israelis. I mean, you've got two antagonists who are confronting each other and I think both behaving in a very cynical way and its the people who are paying the price. But I think its sort of, you are not going to get Hamas to cooperate on something like that unless they got an enormous benefit.

I don't think that's on the table at all. What you are looking at is ultimately some minor benefits that Hamas could try to spin as a huge victory so that they can justify to the people of Gaza, the other Palestinians and the other Arabs why they have continued to fight on and rejected cease-fires. It's probably going to have to do with the border crossing with Egypt. One of the ironies here is that although Egypt is not a party to this fighting, it's a central player because Hamas's main demands are aimed at Egypt, and particularly the crossing. What you might find is authority security forces on the Palestinian side rather than Hamas men on the Palestinian side. And that would then be an interesting political problem. Who would get more credit, President Abbas or Hamas? I think that would play itself out over months.

COSTELLO: Alright, Hussein Ibish thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

IBISH: Thanks Carol, sure thing.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: All right. I told you a couple of minutes ago that the members of the Ukrainian military have manage to reach the crash site, the site where Flight 17 came down. They have been trying to do that but pro-Russian rebels have been keeping them out. This is good news because it may mean that the crash investigators, that international team, may finally be able to get to the crash site and do some investigating. Let's bring in Nick Paton Walsh, he's in Ukraine. Nick, tell us more.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we don't know it's true that the Ukrainian military have got through . But it seems on the balance of probabilities to be likely. What we are hearing is from the vice prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic give a press conference near here saying that in his opinion the Ukrainian military have gotten through. They've got to part of the site, not all of it. It's a huge area and they have armored personnel carriers there even digging trenches.

Now, we've asked the OSCE, the monitoring group, both monitoring the conflict and trying to get access to police to that site. Dutch and Australian police. A while back they didn't want to speculate on who was moving where, but we do know that the Ukrainian military is severely on the move around that crash site. Possibly taking towns around it

They say operations are in progress. We ourselves heard a lot of heavy shelling around there, but bear in mind this is heavily politicized. So the separatists are going to want to say the reason you can't get to the crash site as national inspectors is because the Ukrainian military has moved in there. We're going to see this back and forth. But, given all the things we were seeing today and the movements military we could hear and see and other people told us about, it is likely the Ukrainians are edging closer and closer and closer and perhaps today from the separatists an admission, maybe, that parts of it are actually under the Ukrainian government's control again.

COSTELLO: Alright, we'll check back. Nick Paton Walsh reporting live for us The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.