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New DHS Policies Spark Deportation Fears; Dem Grapple Over Who Will Lead the Party. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 22, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:08] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

The U.S.-Mexico border getting extra attention today. Key Trump Cabinet members on their way to Mexico to explain tough new immigration policies Democrats equate to a mass deportation roundup.


REP. ADRIANO ESPAILLAT (D), NEW YORK: Well, I was a young boy but I remember, you know, my grandparents talking to us being about being careful where we went. Not approaching any strangers. And so in a sense sort of like a chilling effect to anybody that doesn't have any documents. How do you move around? How do you go to school? How do you go to a store?


KING: Plus, members of Congress are home this week and getting an earful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These coal jobs are not coming back, and now these people don't have the insurance they need because they're poor. Now they worked those coal mines and they're sick.


KING: Senate Majority Mitch McConnell there. And the candidates to lead the Democrat National Committee stage a pre-vote debate right here on CNN tonight. You don't want to miss that.

With us to share their reporting and their insight, Abby Phillip of the "Washington Post," the "New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza, Michael Shear of the "New York Times" and Jackie Kucinich of the "Daily Beast."

President Trump this hour having lunch with his budget team and we may get a glimpse of that in the hour ahead. We'll show you that if we get it.

The White House press secretary Sean Spicer also doing the briefing room in just a little bit. We will carry that live when it happens.

Among the tough budget decisions facing the president is how to pay for the border wall he promised in the campaign. House Speaker Paul Ryan just happens to be leading a group of House Republicans visiting a key border crossing today, and the secretaries of State and Homeland Security on their way to Mexico after a meeting with the president at the White House. They are hoping to calm major tensions in what traditionally is a friendly relationship.

The wall is just one sore sport. Add in new Trump administration immigration enforcement guidelines that could result in a giant uptick in deportations. Now Democrats call those new rules draconian. Republicans call that a rush to judgment, but they are warning the administration not to go overboard.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: If this leads to, you know, trucks going down the street rounding up anybody that may look like they're here illegally, you're going to hear a loud outcry from that, but that's not what's happening.


KING: The congressman there, Republican Adam Kinzinger, says that's not what's happening now. Let me try to -- we don't know, right? Do we have the emotions of this debate. We do have the new orders. They will certainly lead to an increase in deportations from the Obama years. And remember, the Obama administration had a lot of deportations. It will certainly go up. But when you hear Democrats say mass deportation force, huge roundup, you know, busting in on grandmothers and pulling them out of their apartments, hyperbole because we just don't know yet, right?

ABBY PHILLIP, THE WASHINGTON POST: And also because these things take resources and there's no evidence yet that DHS has the ability to dramatically ratchet out deportations, in part because there's a huge backlog of people who are actually already detained who need to be deported. So there's a lot of -- there are a lot of unanswered questions here. Part of the order or the guidance yesterday explained that they want to hire a lot more people to do this. That's a process that's going to take quite many some time and it's going to require some degree of appropriations.

I think there's a lot unknown here, but I also am very skeptical that the government actually has the ability to go down this path and ratchet it up in a way that would actually prompt concerns about trucks rolling down the street or anything like that.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: And to your point, where do you -- I mean, where are they going to get the funding to open up more detention centers?


KUCINICH: Because once you round people up, which is a horrible thing to say, where do you put them? You can't have a -- it's a very slippery slope to a humanitarian crisis if you are putting people in detention facilities that are not up to code, that are not appropriate. It just -- there's a lot of details here that they've just not worked out yet.

MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I would add, I mean, I think it's probably true that given the limited resources, the numbers at the end of the day may not be all that much higher than they have traditionally been, but I do think that one of the things that's going to happen is a change in the composition of who those people are that are being deported and what has struck fear in the sort of broadly speaking the immigrant community which is both illegal immigrants but also people who they know.

Family members maybe that are citizen children or citizen husbands or wives, people that they -- you know, that community now is less sure of the -- of any protection that they might have, and so the mix of people may be fewer criminals and more sort of random people caught up in the mix because frankly what the administration has done is said anybody who is here illegally is subject to deportation.

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: And I think that's where the hyperbole is coming from if we agree it's hyperbole because you have --

KING: We just don't know yet really. Right?

LIZZA: We don't know yet. And I think -- but I think it's, you know, reasonable to be cautious, right? We do know that Donald Trump campaigned on a promise talking about a deportation force. Right? So we should take him -- you know, we should look to what he said during the campaign. We do know that he admired an Eisenhower program that was a mass deportation program, right?

[12:05:06] And so if you were going to do what he said he's going to do in the campaign, this does look like the first thing you would do, right? Issue guidance to DHS that broadens their authority and broadens the categories for deportation, so, you know, when you look at those facts, despite the fact that the funding isn't there and the infrastructure isn't necessarily there for it, I think if you earn this country an unauthorized immigrant in this country, you saw what we saw yesterday, you have a right to be very concerned.

KING: Let's go back to that because on any number of issues, we say what did candidate Trump said and what will President Trump do? What did candidate Trump say and does his new secretary of State agree with that? Does his new Homeland Security secretary say to that?

But what candidate Trump said on this issue more than any other was more specific. So let's go back in time a little bit.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Within ICE I am going to create a new special deportation task force focused on identifying and quickly removing the most dangerous criminal illegal immigrants in America who have evaded justice.

And I mean first hour of my -- the first document I will sign will say get the bad ones out of this country.

LESLIE STAHL, CBS NEWS: What about the pledge to deport millions and millions of undocumented immigrants?

TRUMP: What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal -- have criminal members, gang members, drug dealers. We've a lot of these people, probably two million, it could even be three million. We're getting them out of our country or we're going to incarcerate.


KING: Gang members, criminal drug dealers. I don't think there are many people who are going to stand up and oppose that if the administration does a better job of getting criminals and gang members. The question is, and one of the unanswered questions is, what if you have traffic violations? What if you have -- what -- for anybody at this table it would be considered a minor violation that you deal with over the course, is that going to be something where you come into custody or you show up into court somewhere you're undocumented, boom?

LIZZA: I mean, this is already -- what he just described in the "60 Minutes" interview is already the policy, right? If you are a criminal in this country and you are an unauthorized immigrant, you are getting deported, right? I mean, that's already what -- at least in terms of the federal government guidelines. So the question is what is the -- what's new here? Where is he going beyond what the Obama administration wasn't ready?

KING: So that's a great -- it's a great way to --

LIZZA: And maybe it's just resources and -- yes.

KING: Right. And so what's new here as -- there are two ways you can look at this on both sides of the border today. Some very interesting meetings today and tomorrow when it comes to the Mexico side. Today the House Speaker Paul Ryan down at the border. His first trip there with a group of Republicans who are going to have to -- to your point, if you're going to spend the money on a wall, they're going to have to come up with the billions of dollars. If you're going to hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, they're going to have to come up with the money.

There are a lot of people who say, is this necessary? So how's that one going to play out? And are the Republicans going to challenge the president here? Are they going to give him everything he wants?

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, they might give him part of what he wants and then call it everything. I mean, the tricky thing about the border wall is that some of it is actually kind of already appropriated, so I think it will be pretty easy for Republicans to say here -- you know, here's this 2006 law. Build some of the wall. But there are practical considerations. There are monetary considerations. I think both of them will actually be just as significant.

The logistics of building a physical wall are going to be difficult if not impossible across all of the border, and I don't think Republicans are going to go out of their way to scrap up , you know, $11 billion or $22 billion if some of these other estimates are correct to build a wall. This just maybe one of those things where they start the process and get a couple of good -- really good headlines out of it and quietly move on to other things.

KING: And could we get to a point -- again, these orders, these new guidelines are issued yesterday, they have to write regulations, they have to get them through the agencies, they have to have the Washington sends it out to Texas and to Arizona, to California, and they process it locally maybe a little bit differently in each place. That's the way the government works and law enforcement works.

The conversation now is Democrats warning of mass deportations kicking in grandma's door, ripping people out of their houses. Might the conversation soon be conservatives saying, wait a minute, you also promised to get the so-called Dreamers and this order does nothing for them. 750,000 or so deferred access, child entrance who came here as children who had no judgment in that, were brought across the border by family members.

A lot of conservatives saying, Mr. President, why didn't you do that? Are Democrats maybe overreacting? Is this softer than Trump in the campaign?


PHILLIP: It is a little softer. I mean, I think Trump has actually had a little bit of a change of heart, but it's also partly political. I think he realizes this idea of taking people who have done nothing wrong because you can only qualify for DACA if you don't have a criminal record, if you've been here since you were a child, is going to be a really -- a sort of negative stream of potential headlines that he doesn't want to deal with. I think a lot of other Republicans agree with him on that.

KUCINICH: And he did signal this. He said that DACA was an issue that was tough for him, and that he really -- he wanted to handle, but he was -- it required a lot more thought.

[12:10:07] So they've been -- I feel like the conservatives that are upset about this are kind of having to get used to it, frankly.

SHEAR: But it may -- it may still go away, right? I mean, there are other ways. There's court challenges that could happen.


SHEAR: There are other ways that it could go away. In the meantime, he's talking to two different audiences, right? He wants that message about the criminals is a message for the broader public, right? Because that's a message that, as you said John, the broader public is going to like.

The real crackdown message where -- which was embedded in these -- in these documents that were released yesterday which was really, like, broadening to take in everybody. That's a message aimed -- the toughening message aimed for, you know, talk radio and Rush Limbaugh and all of that, and those are different messages for different audiences.

LIZZA: I think there are Republicans who want a legislative response to DACA, right? Because they didn't like the fact that Obama did it unilaterally, and so if Trump has really had a change of heart about this, he would push for that in Congress or at the very least he would sort of -- he would sign a law that some of the more establishment Republicans want.

KING: It will be interesting to see if Congress can actually have a conversation about an immigration law. When they did comprehensive, it went off the rails. They tried several times. Be interesting if they try incremental, piece by piece.

Let's go south of the border. Secretary Kelly and Secretary Tillerson are going to sit down with the Mexican president and his counterparts on his security team, and they're going to try to patch up a relationship that is critical economically. $1.5 billion a day, I think, in trade back and forth between the two countries. Critical economically. It's off to a horrible start right now because of this dispute over the wall and who pays for it.

What do we expect there? The Mexican government has made crystal clear it has no plans to pay for the wall. Are they going to get a wink-nod from Kelly and Tillerson or are they going to tell them, no, the president is adamant about this?

LIZZA: This is a trend now, right? A senior government official is going abroad and sort of downplaying or cleaning up something the president says, right? So we saw the vice president in Munich last week talking to European leaders, expressing commitment to NATO where the president has been a little fuzzy. Now we have senior members of his Cabinet going to Mexico.

Look, the Mexican government hasn't played their card yet, right? The president came here -- was going to come here for a conversation that got canceled. They have leverage over us, too. Right? It's a bilateral relationship. They do a lot of important things in terms of drug enforcement and even, you know, counterterrorism cooperation. So I think that's the next thing to watch is to how do they respond if they don't get anything they want from the Americans.

KING: And they are alarmed here because part of this administration is if you're caught at the border, it used to be if you were from Mexico, they would deport you back to Mexico. If you're from Guatemala or somewhere else, you would go back eventually -- and held in a detention center eventually be taken back to your home country.

It appears, at least from the early reading of these documents, the plan is if you're caught at the border, you're coming across from Mexico, they're just going to dump you back in.

SHEAR: Well, and the idea -- and my colleague of mine at "The Times" who is in Mexico City talked to the Mexican City government. You know, their sort of early read on that. Their early read was, are you kidding? We're not going to take non-Mexican nationals back and sort of house them for the United States. Now having said that, the previous administration had a working relationship with the government of Mexico and they had moments where they would cooperate on immigration issues. The Mexican government, for example, tried to limit the Central American immigration at their southern border with Central America.

Whether or not this administration can form that kind of working relationship is sort of yet to be seen given everything we've seen.

KING: The word reset comes up from time to time. It's a little lesson. We'll see if we have a reset in this one.

Everybody, sit tight. Up next, the Democrats search for a comeback plan and a new leader to implement it.


[12:17:49] KING: Welcome back. Democrats begin 2017 in a deep ditch, and that may be an understatement. Republicans control the White House. Both chambers of Congress, 33 of the 50 governor's offices, and Republicans gained 1,000 state legislative seats in the Obama years. Tonight the candidates who believe they can lead bestially the Democratic revival will debate right here on CNN.

The job is chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And eight contenders will share the stage. Of them, former Obama Labor secretary Tom Perez is viewed as having a slight edge heading into this weekend's vote. But it's no done deal.

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison is in play. He has the backing of some key liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The last-minute jockeying is intense. Just today former party chairman Howard Dean backed the candidacy of the 36-year-old South Bend, Indiana, governor Pete Buttigieg.


HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Most important thing he is the outside the beltway candidate. This party is in trouble. Our strongest age group that votes for us is under 35, and they don't consider themselves Democrats. They elected Barack Obama twice. They didn't elect Hillary Clinton, but voted 58 percent for her. They don't come out during the midterms. They don't come out for down- ballot voters.

Our leadership is old and creeky including me and we've got to have this guy, 36 years old, running this party.


KING: He's the South Bend mayor. I believe I called him the governor there. I don't mean to promote you there, Pete.

Here's a question. Does this matter? I mean, people pay less attention to parties. We've had two presidents in a row who were elected largely based on the power of their personality. President Obama was not known for tending to the garden of the Democratic National Committee for his eight years in office, although he now is trying to help his friend Tom Perez in the race.

Donald Trump was not the Republican establishment's candidate of choice, and the power of his personality blew the Republican Party away. Does this matter?

KUCINICH: To the extent that the Democratic Party embraces this person and sees them as a leader, I really do think that matters and how much power they will have, right? Because as you said, the DNC is depleted. Not only because of their electoral issues, but also because of -- because of the organization Obama put together.

KING: The rival grassroots political organization.

KUCINICH: Exactly. And they sort of ran the show for all the Obama years.

[12:20:03] So there's a lot of -- there's a lot of damage done and a lot of rebuilding to do. So whoever this person ends up being they've got to -- ]

KING: Well, mass is respective, there's a debate in the party. Some people think Trump was a one-shot wonder, benefitted by the fact that Hillary Clinton was not a good candidate and just stick with our diversity, stick with the Obama coalition, and the next election we get it back. This was a one-shot aberration due to Trump's skills and his ability to tap into some things and Hillary Clinton's failures, like not going to Wisconsin.

You know, other people say no, we have to get in with the lunch bucket, union guys in Macon, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Other people say no, it's all of the above. What's --

LIZZA: You wouldn't want to bank on the Trump election just being a one-off and everything is going to be fine for Democrats and demographics, his destiny, which is what they believe, and the Obama coalition will come roaring back in 2020 or 2024.

Look, if the Midwest -- if whites in the Midwest start voting like whites in the south, that Obama coalition collapses, right? That Obama coalition is premised on still winning a certain amount of the white working class vote, and that was -- Trump ate into that this time.

KING: And --

LIZZA: Then you do have a strategic problem.

KING: And even if -- even if, let's say the Republicans don't have the candidate with the persuasion powers of a Trump next time, you could win the presidency, but look what has happened at the state level. I guess the question is, should this new chairman or chairwoman, if one of the women wins, should be focused on let's help Chuck Schumer get the majority in the Senate, let's help Nancy Pelosi or whoever succeeds her get the majority in the House, or should it be about 36 governor races next time, and the depletion of the Democratic bench in the last eight years at the state level? PHILLIP: I do think this whole focus on the DNC is a little bit

misguided for the Democratic Party. It kind of skirts the real issue, which is that they have not been able to mobilize grassroots organization, genuine grassroots organization that is not tied to a charismatic figure like Barack Obama. And resolving their DNC chairmanship election is not going to solve that problem.


PHILLIP: I don't even think rebuilding the DNC as an organization is going to solve that problem. What Democrats have to deal with right now is what is happening in these town halls across the country? Who are these people? How are they being organized? What motivates them?

Understanding that better and being able to tap into it and breathe life into it is going to be the most important task of that -- of the party, and I don't think that really has anything to do with the DNC chair. It certainly doesn't have to do with the age of the DNC chairman as Howard Dean pointed out because, you know, Bernie Sanders was 70 something years old, and he was able to really motivate young voters. So some of this attention seems to be going in the wrong places.

KING: But it is -- it's a great point about who is outside these town halls making sure they get the e-mail address, the Facebook pages of these people in the room. If they can protest Republicans now all they want if they don't shut the vote in 2018 or 2020, great, you had a great protest or you had a march here in Washington.

Does this matter? I mean, I ask this question. Keith Ellison, Republican -- I mean, Democratic congressman from Minnesota, who is a Muslim-American who thinks that that's important in the Trump years. He thinks that's part of his appeal as a candidate, there's been back and forth on Twitter with the president of the United States. I don't know if this helps or hurts his candidacy. The president tweeted, "One thing I would say about Representative Keith Ellison in his fight to lead the DNC is that he was the first one who predicted early that I would win."

Keith Ellison, of course, responding saying, "My latest call, America is coming together like never before. We'll stop your drive to divide us."

Does it help Keith Ellison in these final days that he is, you know, among the sparring partners of the president on Twitter?

LIZZA: For any Democrat fighting with -- excuse me, fighting Donald Trump is not -- there's no downside to that if you are trying to win Democratic votes.

SHEAR: But, look, I think to go back to your question about does it matter, right, there's been a trend in -- especially on the presidential level for decades now, starting with George Bush probably, in which the presidential campaigns are built around individuals and the power of the party has completely waned. Barack Obama took that to the nth degree, and I think Hillary Clinton suffered from the fact that she didn't have kind of -- an organization that was built around her. They tried to sort of, you know, kind of glom on to the Obama organization, and ultimately the Democrats -- what is interesting about this fight is that it's essentially coming down to Perez versus Ellison, which is a kind of, you know, Bernie and Elizabeth Warren on one side and the Obama coalition on the other side.

It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but ultimately the party is going to have to either build around another person or they're going to find an organization. It's not going to be the DNC.

KING: Right. And one thing that does matter is that they -- Trump is such a good communicator. Whether you like him or not, he's a good communicator. The party needs more spokes people. More people who stand up to him. And so whoever wins this job is going to be leading that -- your effort not only here in Washington, but as they travel the state trying to raise money and recruit candidates for 2018.

We will leave it there but you want to watch this debate tonight. Eight candidates are in the running to lead the Democratic National Committee. They will debate right here on CNN tonight. Chris Cuomo and Dana Bash moderating the conversation. 10:00 p.m. today, that vote later this weekend. But watch this debate tonight right here at CNN, 10:00 p.m.

Up next, members of Congress using their week at home to check in with constituents at town halls.

[12:25:03] And let's just say they're getting some interesting feedback.


KING: Welcome back. Want to show you live pictures of the White House briefing room. Sean Spicer due to brief momentarily. We'll take you there live when that happens. It's been a big event in the early days of the Trump administration. That's here in Washington. But if you are a member of Congress this week, well, there's no place like home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you agree with President Trump when he states that, quote, "Everything is running smoothly."


REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: That's a nice soft ball. Thank you for that. Now the answer to that is given the obstruction in --


BRAT: A lot of people are organizing and doing rallies and people are getting boisterous. I don't mind boisterous. I'm having fun. Right?