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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Rips Immigration Laws as Migrants at Border Seek Asylum; Jill Stein's Camp Refusing to Comply with Requests for Docs Concerning Russia; Dying WWII Vet Asks to Meet Someone from Same Battlefield; McCain Criticizes Trump in New Memoir Set to be Released. Aired 3:30- 4p ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Now to the stand-off at the U.S./Mexico board, President Trump just spoke about the dozens of migrants there who are vowing to remain outside the immigration processing center until they're all admitted to get a chance at asylum. That's according to the organizer of the caravan. The group of migrants who have just spent months traveling north through Central America from places like Honduras and El Salvador. President Trump was asked about this at the White House last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are a nation of laws. We have to have borders, we don't have borders, we don't have a country. And I've been watching for weeks as the caravan came up. And you know, the Mexican laws are very tough on immigration, extremely tough. And it started out with way over 1,000 people, I guess now it's down to about 100. Going all through Mexico. People don't realize what a big country Mexico is. But it came down by a lot. And now we're working on the border with the worst laws any country, no matter where you go all over the world, they can't even believe it, and we're doing the best we can with it. But we have to have changes in Congress, and we have to have it quickly. We need a wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let me bring in John Sandweg, a former acting director of immigration and customs enforcement. He was also acting General Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security. John, welcome back, nice to see you.

JOHN SANDWEG, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: Nice to be back, thank you.

BALDWIN: So, I talked last hour to a volunteer with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, it's this group that organizes the caravan. And he was telling me like all 100, 150 of these men, women, children are at the border there in Tijuana. And he told me that now one's been processed, because they're being told the center is at capacity. You know, he contends the officials knew for months these migrants were coming. Is that the case? The capacity reasoning? SANDWEG: Well, San Ysidro is a busy port. And the facility there

itself is not designed for a large influx of individuals in detention. I think the other thing we have to remember that thousands of normal travelers are going through there. Many of whom are being screened for secondary inspection. That said, I think, you know, maybe there's a little bit of gamesmanship going on, in terms of how quickly they're going to admit these people in for processing. Although long-term I think it's going to be very difficult for the administration to avoid processing these people at all.

BALDWIN: When the President was asked what percentage, you know, these migrants he would process, he wouldn't go there on a percentage. Knowing full well, that these are people seeking asylum, John. Let's remind people, these are migrants, many of whom are fleeing home countries, violence, gangs. What is the likelihood that some, all receive that asylum?

SANDWEG: Well, the situation in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is actually very, very difficult. And that's really what it's underlying this migration. These are people facing horrific conditions, wild gang violence. They risk everything they have to come north to this country. The president was right, it's a long and difficult journey. And most of them are doing it quietly. This group is very noisy and is trying to get some political attention.

But the reality to is, when they get here, very few are likely to succeed. Roughly only about 20 percent of the people from Central America are ultimately being granted asylum. In part that's because they're facing gang violence, and it's hard for them to demonstrate that's motivated by politics, you know, religion or race. But these people are facing very difficult conditions and the overwhelming majority of them are victims of the violence and not perpetrators.

BALDWIN: You know, this has been going on, it's my understanding, this is the fifth year this migrant caravan has travelled northward. How has the previous administration handled it?

SANDWEG: Well, Brooke, this is the first caravan they got widespread attention. When I was at ICE, we dealt with some similar caravans. But I will tell you what's more important is that there's been a massive influx that is new to U.S. border policy or U.S. border situation. And that is Central Americans have been coming up in very large numbers beginning in about 2013/2014. And the problem is not our asylum laws, they're not broken. But our asylum system is overwhelmed. When you have this huge influx -- I mean, this is only about 150 now, but we had 50,000 last month. That puts a real strain on the system to process the good claims from the bad claims. I mean, I think that's what the real frustration is. Now a wall is not going to fix that, but you could easily fix it with the money for one mile of wall. Higher more immigration judges and the problem is solved.

BALDWIN: John Sandweg, thank you.

Coming up, why isn't former Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, cooperating with the Russia investigation. She is refusing to hand over certain documents to investigators. That is next. [15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: To the Russia investigation. Former Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, is pushing back against a request by the Senate Intelligence Committee to turn over information and documents related to her contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential election. This panel is looking into whether Stein's campaign was at all involved with a Russian effort to meddle in that election. Jill Stein traveled to Russia in 2015 and was seen sitting at a table with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Stein has denied any kind of wrongdoing and calls the Russian dinner a nonevent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL STEIN, FORMER GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was no translator at the table. Vladimir Putin came in very late with three people, three, four, that I thought were his bodyguards. It turns out they were corps people in his administration. But you never would have known that. There were no introductions, no conversations, Russians spoke Russian. I spoke to the only person in earshot that spoke English, who was a German diplomat that was sitting to my right.

[15:40:00] BALDWIN: With me now, Steve Hall, CNN national security analyst and retired CIA chief of Russia operations. Steve, we know that the Stein camp says the request amounts to overreach, but if you have nothing to hide, why not hand it all over.

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, you'd think, Brooke, if there was not a lot there, vis-a-vis the Russians, then why not turn it over. But frankly, Jill Stein's campaign contact with the Russians troubled me, just as Michael Flynn's contact with the Russians troubles me.

BALDWIN: Why?

HALL: Jill Stein herself has said, you know, this is overreach, there's constitutional protections. But if you look at her relationship with RT, which is basically a propaganda wing of the Kremlin, she did a lot of work with RT. she announced her campaign essentially on RT and complained that the mainstream American media did not cover her.

It's amazing ironic. This is not real press, RT is a propaganda thing. There is no real constitutional protections in Russia. Overreach happens there all the time. So, if she's really concerned about those issues, she really needs to have a much better understanding about what Russia is all about, and how they try to manipulate our political system and specifically our elections -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Sure, you would know. We know that her campaign has turned over communications with any members of the Russian government, Russian media, but hasn't released records specifically with all people of Russian dissent. This is an ask from the Senate Intel Committee. What do they want with all of that information, including people -- any Russians she was in contact with? HALL: I think what they want to see is, what -- to what extent and

how far did the Russians go in their attempts to manipulate and to attack our elections in 2016. And look, to be frank, she has to be absolutely transparent about this. Again, there ought to be nothing to hide. But the other reason that the transparency is important not only because we're a country of laws, which Russia is not. There's no rule of law really meaningfully in Russia, but you have you to obey the laws. But, you know, the other thing is that we have to remember, this is not a Republican issue, it's not a Democrat issue, it's not a Green Party issue, it's an American issue. And for that reason, her campaign needs to be entirely transparent so that the American government can understand how we were attacked and make sure it doesn't happen again. Look, we're already in the election cycle essentially for the midterms. We need to understand best we can what the Russians were trying to do

BALDWIN: And we know they're attacking us currently according to intel.

HALL: Yes, I mean, there can be little doubt and we need to understand as best as we can how they do that.

BALDWIN: All right, Steve hall, thank you so much. Good to see you.

Much has been made about the comedian at the White House correspondence dinner, about whether she went too far, whether it was too vulgar. You know, the normal divisive debates we end up having. Unfortunately, lost in all of it, is the real message that should have come out of this event. The truth is under attack in this country and in much of the world. And despite the President of the United States over the weekend telling Americans this about journalists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Is this better than that phony Washington White House correspondence dinner.

I could be up there tonight smiling like I love where they're hitting you shot after shot. These people they hate your guts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Despite that, journalists each and every day are at the front lines of finding the truth and many die telling it. In Kabul, Afghanistan today, more than 30 people killed by back to back suicide bombers. One of those bombs targeting a crowd of reporters covering that event, nine of them lost their lives. It was the deadliest attack on journalists in Afghanistan since 2001. Listen, journalism is not always perfect, but journalists sacrifice, they risk everything to uncover the truth to shine a light into some of the world's darkest places. That is my takeaway after the events this weekend. My takeaway about those who sacrifice and risk everything to report.

[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Despite the brutality and loss of World War II, one veteran finds solace in a powerful meeting of hearts of minds and the last wish of a dying Marine was to share his memories with a comrade in arms. Gary Tuchman reports on how that wish was granted through social media.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A World War II Marine veteran shot three times and bayonetted in the battle of Guadalcanal. A purple heart recipient. And this is Sergeant Bill Hession today.

How old are you?

SERGEANT BILL HESSION, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: 96.

TUCHMAN: And when do you turn 97? What's your birthday?

HESSION: May 7th.

TUCHMAN: That is coming up.

HESSION: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Sadly, the Sergeant Hession's health is failing and he's now receiving hospice care and it turns out that long-ago battle on the Solomon Islands has flooded his memory as of late. So much so his hospice care givers decided to do something about it: Do your thing, Twitter, a hospice facility in New York is seeking someone willing and able to visit with a veteran agent age of 96 who was in the battle of Guadalcanal, the patient is fixated on talking to someone who had the specific shared experience.

And Twitter did its thing.

[15:50:00] We found Harold Berg in Peoria, Illinois, also a we found a former World War II Marine sergeant and the recipient of a Purple Heart and also at the battle of the Guadalcanal. Without hesitation, Harold Berg and a family friend hopped a plane to New York City and headed to the Rockland County, New York home Bill Hession shares with his daughter and her family, to fulfill this last wish.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: Harold Berg, this is Bill Hessian, you are both Marines. Both at Guadalcanal, both American heroes.

HAROLD BERG, WORLD WAR II, MARINE SERGEANT: Dag, golly. A leatherneck. Imagine that. You were on -- what outfit were you in.

HESSION: Eighth company. Combat engineers.

BERG: Yes. Combat engineers. By golly, I'll tell you, you and I are just about the same age.

HESSION: I'm 96.

BERG: You're 96? I'm 92. I still chase girls. I lie, too. TUCHMAN: With family and friends they shared stories of the time

during the war and spoke of their physical and emotional wounds that remain all of these decades later.

BERG: Well, boy you're lucky to be here.

HESSION: Yes. You are right. Yes, it went down through me and then it went -- I don't know why I had a hole in by back like this.

BERG: Well life has been pretty good for you and I.

HESSION: Yes. Right now, it ain't so good.

BERG: But, look at it, we had a lot of good days go by.

HESSION: Oh, Yes. Yes.

BERG: I lost my wife two years ago. We were married 71 years.

HESSION: Oh.

TUCHMAN: Sergeant Hession is also a widower. He was married for 55 years.

BERG: What they got you doing now?

HESSION: I'm living here with my daughter.

BERG: You mow the grass --

That's what they got me doing now. Mowing the grass.

HESSION: I can't even do that.

BERG: That's what they got me doing now mowing the grass.

There I am right there.

TUCHMAN: It took more than 75 years after these men shared a battlefield at Guadalcanal, but Bill Hession and Harold Berg are now friends.

BERG: This is a coin I had for -- the United States Marines. That is where you and I got our education.

TUCHMAN: But when they said good-bye, they knew they would likely not see each other again.

BERG: Good to see you a fellow Marine. I tell you, I enjoyed it. Look right at -- look in the camera.

TUCHMAN: A last wish fulfilled. Gary Tuchman, CNN, New City, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: How about that. That is the best thing I've seen in quite a while. Gary, thank you for that.

And to those two men, thank you both so much.

We are now getting our first look at a new memoir from Senator John McCain who has plenty to say. Speaking of veterans here. Plenty to say about the state of American politics, his stage four brain cancer diagnosis and President Trump. And among the highlights so far that we've seen in the book, which is entitled "The Restless Wave" is this excerpt where he writes this about the current president. Quote, he has declined to distinguish the actions of our government from the crimes of despotic ones, the appearance of toughness or a reality show facsimile of toughness seems to matter more than any of our values.

So, with me now reporter Chris Cillizza. That veterans piece got me. And now just thinking of John McCain and being a prisoner of war and everything, he's seen and experienced and fought for this country and just these words for him and what will be his final memoir, final words.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Right. And I think he acknowledges that. He's been diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and the same cancer that felled Beau Biden the vice president's son, and Ted Kennedy, John McCain's one-time colleague in the senate. I think what is striking is first of all, John McCain came into public life in a lot of ways in a major way for "Faith of My Fathers." The book about the connection, the connective tissue of the military and how he learned -- this book cowritten Mark Salter and as have his other books been, his former chief of staff in the Senate.

And a reflection on no matter what you think of John McCain's politics, left or right or center, an amazing life. A tremendously eventful and tremendously meaningful life and his criticism of Donald Trump will draw the headlines. But I do think if you look at the sweep of John McCain's life from the Naval Academy to being a prisoner of war, to the House, to the Senate, to running for president, to being the nominee, now to this, it is a remarkable journey.

[15:55:00] BALDWIN: Let me read another excerpt where he talks about his cancer diagnosis and how he views his obligation to voters. So, this is what he writes. This is my last term. If I hadn't admitted that to myself before the summer, a stage four cancer diagnosis acts as ungentle persuasion. I've freeing than colleagues who will face voters again. I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much and I can vote my conscious without worry.

I Don't think I'm free to disregard my constituent's wishes and I don't feel confused from keeping pledges nor do I wish to harm my party's prospects, but I do feel a pressing responsibility to give Americans my best judgment. Before I leave, I would like to see our politics return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations.

CILLIZZA: And let me add, on a not encouraging note, 48 hours ago Donald Trump was in Michigan, made reference -- not by name to John McCain as he often does in his speech -- his campaign speech, talking about how one senator went -- voted down on health care and how disappointing that was. Trump in a lot of ways is the antithesis of what McCain ran as and constructed his political life around, that compromise is a necessity. It is the only way that government works.

Donald Trump ran on and has governed on the idea that you -- that this way is the right way. What about me-ism. How do -- what does it mean for me and my constituents. It's a very interesting book end in the last 48 hours but the rise of Donald Trump and John McCain saying good-bye on a public stage, that dove tailing -- they represent such radically different visions of what American government can and should be.

BALDWIN: It also struck me -- yes, but it also struck me on President Trump, what Trump said in that news -- or that -- early today at the White House where he talked about immigration and called it pathetic and the world is laughing at us, he will not apologize for his rhetoric and while it is maybe not surprising, I thought it was noteworthy.

CILLIZZA: Yes, I mean, look, I stopped a long time ago waiting for a Donald Trump 2.0. I think the Donald Trump we have is the Donald Trump he's been for 71 years of his life and it is a Donald Trump he will continue to be. He will not change. He believes this in his heart of hearts that he needs to say and do things that are politically incorrect that break the status quo because that is what he thinks has won him this office. He's not going to stop.

We should stop being surprised but we shouldn't stop covering it because as you read in that first excerpt about Donald Trump from John McCain, this is not normal presidential behavior, it is not even close to normal presidential behavior. We have to cover it and say, past presidents have not said and acted in these ways. And you could judge that as a good, bad or indifferent thing, but it is without question a fact.

BALDWIN: Chris Cillizza. And good to see you. And the John McCain memoir comes out the end of the May. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. To Washington, and "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper.