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White House Defends Separations With Contradictory Messages; HHS Unsure How Many Kids Reunited: Policy "Relatively New"; Fox News Host: Detention Centers "Essentially" Summer Camp; HHS Unsure How Many Kids Reunited Policy "Relatively New"; Stock Market Plunges On Trump's New Tariff Threat; Kim Jong-un Meets With Chinese President Xi. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 19, 2018 - 11:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: There you go. Good to have you here. All right. Thanks, Lindsay. Thank you all for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan begins right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. When you see the images of crying confused little children, the policy and politics at the border don't really matter. They do because that's what got us here. Getting a straight answer on why children are being separated from their families at the border is about as elusive as finding a way to comfort a child who was just taken from their mother.

But let's give it a go anyway. The president's main message on this it's not his policy, it's the law. It's the Democrats fault.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change the law. It's their law. That's the Democrats law.


BOLDUAN: So, it's not a White House policy. Then what is this?


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have put in place a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry on our southwest border. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you. That child may be separated from you as required by law.


BOLDUAN: That sure sounds like a policy announcement. OK. Then what is this?


JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I am considering an order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. I'm considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.


BOLDUAN: That sure sounds like talk of a policy announcement too. That was March of 2017 when the White House was considering a new policy and one that was intended to be a deterrent.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out? Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I find that offensive. No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps it's a deterrent.



BOLDUAN: So, it's not a deterrent, but then what was this just hours later?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you considering it as a deterrent?

SESSIONS: I see that the fact that no one was being prosecuted for this as a factor in a five-fold increase in four years, this kind of illegal immigration. So, yes, hopefully people will get the message.


BOLDUAN: If it's really not a deterrent then they are really misusing the term at this point. So, let's try another approach. Is it child abuse what's happening at the border? The American Academy of Pediatrics sure thinks so.


DR. COLLEEN KRAFT, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: It is child abuse. These children have been traumatized in their trip up the border, and then the first thing that happens is we take away the one constant in their life.


BOLDUAN: But then there was this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is this not child abuse?

NIELSEN: Be more specific please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The images that Cecilia was talking about and the sounds that we've seen from these big box stores, the Walmart is the other store. When you see this, how is this not specifically child abuse for these innocent children who are indeed being separated from their parents?

NIELSEN: Ten thousand of those currently in custody were sent by their parents with strangers to undertake a completely dangerous and deadly travel alone. We now care for them. We have high standards. We give them meals, education, medical care. There's videos. There's TVs.


BOLDUAN: So, it's policy, but it's not policy. It's a deterrent but do not call it that. It's child abuse, but it's not because they have televisions. So, if it's none of this, then it's nothing? Well, it is something. It's a colossal problem, a crisis.

The president is the man in charge of it whether he wants to acknowledge the sky is blue or not. Let's get the latest on it. CNN's Abby Phillip is at the White House. Abby, what are they telling you?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. The contradictions continue to pile up. Officials on this call seemed to say exactly the opposite of all those things you just showed. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen saying yesterday during a briefing, one official, HHS official described this as a new policy.

And said that they're working out some kinks in the process of reuniting parents and children who have been separated at the border. That's a complete contradiction from the line of some administration officials who insisted it's not a policy at all and the White House is only enforcing the laws as they currently exist.

Now the newest numbers we have right now are over 2,200 children separated from family members in a period of just six weeks.

[11:05:01] And in that time, these children are being housed in facilities that are being managed by HHS officials. They're saying that they're trying to reunite parents and children throughout this journey.

But at the same time an official also added they believe this process of separating them should act as a deterrent. That's a direct contradiction to what some other White House officials are saying that they're not using this as a tool in their tool box to deter migrants from coming up from Mexico to the United States.

Now the president meanwhile has been tweeting this morning a little about this. He's been using really strong language once again insisting that Democrats are responsible for the problems at the border and describing the influx of immigrants into the United States as an infestation of immigrants using language to describe them as if it were a pest problem in someone's home.

All of this seems to imply that the White House is not really backing down from this issue. At the same time Republicans on the Hill are trying to find a way out. They're looking at bills that would potentially rectify situation.

President Trump is going to meet with House Republicans later today. We'll find out more then about whether or not he's willing to get on board with some of these proposals -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Day who knows what now and they're still not clear whether it's policy or not. It's amazing. Abby, thanks so much for bringing me the latest. Really appreciate it.

So, despite all the backlash and growing course of condemnation from the left, right, and center. There's also this side of it. Would you consider these detention centers summer camp? Listen.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Since more illegal immigrants are rushing the border, more kids are being separated from their parents and temporarily housed in what are essentially summer camps.


BOLDUAN: Yes. Let's go to the border hear from people living through this now. CNN's Nick Valencia is in South Texas for us. Nick, you're there. I'm very sure and confident this is far short of summer camp. What are people telling you?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they're called shelters, but these kinds aren't allowed to leave. So, they're effectively detention centers. This here is called a child shelter behind me. It's one of the largest centers for child migrants in the country.

We are hearing excruciating video from the U.S.-Mexico border personalizing this issue. A sound released by the investigative non- profit, "Propublica." They claimed this audio was taken last week somewhere along the U.S./Mexico border. It is absolutely excruciating, so heart breaking to hear the cries and screams of these children, some of them as young as 4 years old.

Families that were faced with a decision between life and death, and who have come from nothing only to be separated at the border because of this zero-tolerance immigration policy. We still have questions at CNN about this audio. We're trying to independently verify it. We should warn, though, some of you may find this disturbing.


VALENCIA: It was yesterday at a White House briefing that the Department of Homeland Security secretary doubled down on this zero- tolerance policy. Last week, we've heard the president himself blame this issue and this immigration crisis currently happening in America on Democrats for not being tougher on border security.

The Democrats here in Texas that I've spoken to say that is not only disingenuous and the president's policy is un-American. He's turning the American dream into the American nightmare.

This as we're seeing new poll numbers, Kate, with the majority of Americans disapproving with this zero-tolerance policy. About two thirds of Americans saying that they don't like what's currently happening.

And we've seen bipartisan outrage. We've seen Laura Bush come out with an op-ed and we've seen even the first lady, Melania Trump, weigh in on this issue, heartbreaking scenes here along the U.S./Mexico border -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Not going away anytime soon. Nick, thank you for being there. Really appreciate it.

Joining me right now, CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cilizza. Dana, first, it was the images of the children, right. Now as Nick is playing for us, it's the sounds of the children being separated from their parents.

Then add to that the reporting from the "New York Times" and "Washington Post," and I'm sure you're hearing it as well, of course, that Donald Trump and folks around him see -- always see immigration as an issue working for them.

One quote from "The Post" was if we're having an argument on immigration, we always win because that's our ground. No matter what the nuances of the argument are. What are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, the raw politics of this, they're right because when you -- you played some of what Fox News has been doing.

[11:10:00] When their supporters hear in the echo chamber of conservative radio and Fox News that this is summer camp or a diversion to talk about MS-13 and other legitimately dangerous illegal activity, of course, they're going to support being tough.

But that doesn't make what the administration is doing right. The fact that despite, Kate, the poll that came out on CNN yesterday showing nearly six out of ten Republicans saying that they think this policy of separating children is right, despite that, you have Republican after Republican, even the most conservative of Republicans like Ted Cruz saying this cannot happen.

This is a policy that cannot happen. So, I think really for the first time despite the fact that it is clearly politically beneficial as horrible as that is to say, it is the reality. It is also something that even the most politically -- people seeking the most political advantage on Capitol Hill and elsewhere are saying we don't care. This can't stand. BOLDUAN: It comes from voices that we know well, right. Chris, the head of the House Republican campaign arm, Steve Stivers, he spoke out. He puts out a statement that says asking the administration to stop separating children from their parents. If the policy is not changed, I will support other means to stop unnecessary separation of children from their parents. You know, he does not issue a statement like that without thinking about it.

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: No. Look, Dana is right, and that Trump official is right in that immigration does work for the Trump base. The argument that, well, it's the rule of law and if we don't have law, we don't have a country, obviously, that's hugely over simplifying what's going on here.

But it does work politically for their base, but the reason that Steve Stivers put out that statement, he does it with a clear purpose which is to say Mr. President this is going to be a problem, not with our base, but in suburban districts, like Chicago, Orange County, California, suburban Philadelphia, and that's where the majority will be deciding the House in November.

It is not in a district that Donald Trump won by 60 points. It isn't district that he may have lost, the district he won by one point, it's the middle. The base is going to be for Donald Trump. They're going to like this policy. The issue is independence.

People are loosely affiliating and may have voted for Trump, but they're not sure about him now, the images and the audio coming out of the border is hugely problematic for people like that. That's why Stivers said something because he wants to send a signal saying this is a big problem. We need to find a solution quickly.

BOLDUAN: Dana, what do you think this meeting will be like tonight when Trump meets with House Republicans? Because I do feel like we're seeing more Republicans speak out against the president directly kind of contradicting the president on this issue than really we've seen in quite some time. There are plenty of issues where they say I disagree.

BASH: You know, it's interesting. This whole issue erupted about separating children at the border has become kind of conflated with the already very, very difficult tasks that House Republicans were trying to get through of dealing with a broader question of immigration, trying to please all the different factions within the House Republican caucus all of who are up for re-election.

And trying to please their constituencies. You have really had what you're talking about legislatively were ways to address the border, ways to address the president's --paying for the president's wall, the visa lottery, things that are very, very important to a lot of these Republicans on the moderate side that Chris was talking about.

Dealing with the DREAMers on the conservative side that the president, you know, cares a lot about dealing with things like giving more money and changing the policy. That's what the president was going to talk about initially to try to figure out there are two pieces of legislation moving through the House we think.

Neither of those bills has enough votes to pass. So, they're waiting with baited breath to see if the president endorses either of those. That has become muddied by this very real debate about what to do about these children. They're trying to change the leadership legislation, the one that has the backing of the House Republican leaders to deal with this.

[11:15:03] But it's unclear if this whole issue of child separation is potentially going to sink those broader illegal immigration bills they wanted to badly to help their Republicans at the polls.

BOLDUAN: Sink them or is this an opportunity to get something done. Who knows? Let's just all wait and watch. Chris, Dana, thanks guys. Great to see you.

Breaking news right now that we are following, stocks are getting pummeled as the president puts out a new threat to China with more tariffs on China. China shows no signs of backing down. We'll go live to the stock exchange and talk about when is it a trade war.

Plus, the president also said he was going to call North Korea's Kim Jong-un over the weekend. Now we know they did not talk. Now Kim Jong-un is in China. What's going on here? We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Forget tariff on $50 billion of goods coming from China. President Trump is now threatening to see his own bet and raise it to $200 billion, and the threat is already having an impact, maybe not on China but on the markets.

Alison Kosik is on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for us right now. Alison, what are you seeing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Kate, those losses really hanging on, the Dow dropping 307 points. They're actually at the highs of the session, believe it or not. This after this war of words is really ramping up. The latest salvo actually beginning on Friday when President Trump said he would slap China with a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports.

China saying it would immediately retaliate and place tariffs on American exports to China. Products that are huge here in this country that have high value like soybeans, pork, cars and crude oil. The Trump administration last night saying if China does go ahead and retaliates on those products that we would go ahead and slap China with another $200 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods.

That setting the market into a tailspin. We did see the Dow down as low as another 400 points lower. But what's interesting about the war of words going on right now, Kate, it is just words. There have been no tariffs implemented except those on steel and aluminum. So, it's really just the fear of what if, although, that $50 billion worth of tariffs should be taking effect on those Chinese exports on July 6th. That's a few weeks away. So, it could really become a reality if that comes to pass -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Alison, thank you so much for that check. I really appreciate it. Joining me right now is CNN global economic analyst and associate editor with the financial times, Rana Foroohar. Great to see you, Rana.


BOLDUAN: Forget 50 billion, let's talk $200 billion. It's a threat right now, but what could the Trump administration be looking at next?

KOSIK: Well, look, the math actually works in the U.S.'s favor if we look at how much the U.S. sends to China about $130 billion worth of goods every year and China sends to us over $500 billion. If you're looking at tit for tat, yes, we've got more leverage when it comes to putting tariffs on a certain amount of goods.

But that doesn't take into effect that China has other leverage that can pull, slow down U.S. products coming into the country. There are a lot of complex supply chains that go through China that may end up in other countries that eventually come to the U.S.

They can slow those things down and make those supply chains more costly and they can excerpt political leverage on situations like North Korea, for example. The U.S. really needs China to play ball in order to denuclearize North Korea and it's interesting the optics of Kim being in China right now.

BOLDUAN: Do you think it's a coincidence that Kim Jong-un is in China now?

FOROOHAR: I don't. I don't think it's a coincidence. I think the Chinese are signaling, look, we can work with you on this or we cannot work with you on this. I think one thing that's going to be fascinating is how quickly both countries in source their supply chains.

I mean, look, there's already been a trend in the U.S. towards manufacturing coming back for all kinds of reasons. You are seeing them. Manufacturing jobs are still up. The other thing I would probably say there's never a good time for a trade war. This is as good a time as any --


FOROOHAR: -- because growth has been pretty high this quarter and it's probably going to be higher next quarter unless something really changes in the global picture. Now, you know, lots of things are in the air right now, but again, timing is everything. It will be interesting to see whether if we can go to the midterms without a major problem.

BOLDUAN: A war of words is not a trade war, right?

FOROOHAR: That's right. You have to look at what's been implemented. That said you can see the markets reacting. The markets are jittery. They don't like the uncertainty of all of this.

BOLDUAN: Do you think this goes beyond threats? I mean, do you think this --

FOROOHAR: Well, yes. I think that just from a strategic standpoint, China and the U.S. are going different directions particularly on technology, internet regulations, high-tech industries like artificial intelligence, the chips that are going to power the internet and everything. I have no doubt that the U.S. and China are going to have very separate systems on that within the next five to 10 years.

BOLDUAN: So, Rana's advice to sit back.

FOROOHAR: Hold on to your hats.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Rana. I really appreciate it.

All right. So, as this trade battle heats up between the U.S. and China, Kim Jong-un is in China today. What should Donald Trump be looking for? When he picks up the phone and gets Kim on the phone, what should be his first question? We're live in Beijing.



BOLDUAN: For his first six years as the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un didn't leave his country, not once. Now a week off his Singapore summit with President Trump, Kim is on his third trip to China in as many months meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in Beijing.

Joining me now CNN international correspondent, Matt Rivers, from Beijing. So, Matt, what are you hearing about this visit fresh on the heels of Kim's meeting with Trump?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We woke up this morning and there were rumors that a plane was flying around from North Korea. Shortly thereafter, the Chinese confirmed that it was Kim Jong-un on that plane. Not a huge surprise given that we were expecting these leaders to meet after the summit happened given that this would be the third time they've met. It's kind of become normalized in a bizarre sort of way.

At this point, Kate, but you can imagine, top of this list here is going to be Kim Jong-un briefing Xi Jinping about that summit with Donald Trump, what was said behind closed doors that the press and the --