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Trump Ramps Up Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Despite Backlash; Michael Cohen to Hire Experienced Trial Attorney; Trump to Meet with GOP Leaders to Discuss Immigration; Foundation Champions for Change on Alzheimer's Disease. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 19, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Republican mutiny. President Trump is about to huddle with House Republicans as a growing number of GOP lawmakers voice opposition to his policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the border. Will the president derail two major immigration bills up for a House vote this week?
[17:00:23] Lawyering up. A source tells CNN that Mr. Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, plans to hire an experienced trial lawyer in New York as Cohen contemplates whether to fight charges he may face from the criminal investigation he's under or whether he'll flip on the president.
Returning fire. President Trump orders U.S. trade officials to identify an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods for a 10 percent tariff if China doesn't back down in the current trade standoff. The news sending stocks into a dive as American businesses brace for fallout from Mr. Trump's trade war.
And he and Xi. China's president gives a red-carpet welcome to Kim Jong-un as the North Korean dictator arrives in Beijing for a debrief on the summit with President Trump. What role is China playing in behind-the-scenes talks between Washington and Pyongyang?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Trump heading to Capitol Hill this hour to talk immigration with House Republicans as the administration faces some fierce backlash over its policy of separating migrant families at the border. And as the House prepares for major votes on two immigration bills this week.
We'll talk about it with the acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency Tom Homan. And our specialists and analysts are also standing by.
First let's go to CNN's White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president is ramping up his rhetoric, despite the bipartisan backlash to his family separation policy.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, Wolf. And he's actually scheduled to go to Capitol Hill any minute now. Reporters are actually gathering here outside the White House for that departure.
And that was essentially supposed to be a meeting that was along the lines of an immigration pep talk, but the calls and the backlash to the president and his administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy on the border are growing louder and louder by the minute to where the president simply can't ignore them anymore.
Now so far the president has been resist to those critics of the policy who say he should end it, but the question is how long will that last and will the president let up?
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump defiant and defensive tonight amid public outcry over his administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before going any further today, I want to take a moment to address something you've been reading a lot about.
COLLINS: The outrage over children on the border being separated from their parents and kept in cages has consumed headlines. But the White House insists this crisis is a problem for Congress.
TRUMP: Politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety.
Those are the only two options: totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law breaking.
COLLINS: Today the president insisting --
TRUMP: I don't want children taken away from parents.
COLLINS: But seconds later mounting an aggressive defense of his administration's policy.
TRUMP: And when you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away. Now we don't have to prosecute them but then we're not prosecuting them for coming in illegally.
I don't want people coming in.
COLLINS: Trump stating that the separation policy acts as a deterrent.
TRUMP: When people come up, they have to know they can't get in. Otherwise, it's never going to stop.
COLLINS: Contradicting what his homeland security secretary said Monday.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?
COLLINS: The president continuing to blame Democrats.
TRUMP: As a result of Democrat-supported loopholes in our federal laws, most illegal immigrant families and minors from Central America who arrive unlawfully at the border cannot be detained together or removed together, only released.
COLLINS: And in Mexico --
TRUMP: Mexico does nothing for us. You hear it here. They do nothing for us. They could stop it.
COLLINS: And the media --
TRUMP: They are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe.
COLLINS: Earlier the president ramping up his rhetoric, claiming Democrats want illegal immigrants to, quote, "infest our country."
The leader of the Republican Party is on his way to Capitol Hill tonight to discuss immigration, after throwing those negotiations into chaos.
[17:05:05] TRUMP: So we have now a House that's getting ready to finalize an immigration package that they're going to brief me on later, and then I'm going to make changes to it.
COLLINS: One day after the White House said he would sign what Republican lawmakers sent him.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are currently two bills that are in process in the House. The president supports both of those pieces of legislation that we have voiced support for the details in those.
COLLINS: Trump also throwing cold water on Texas Senator Ted Cruz's proposal to double the number of federal immigration judges to expedite cases.
TRUMP: I don't want judges. I want border security. I don't want to try people.
COLLINS: Leaving a solution hanging in the balance as the crisis on the border intensifies.
TRUMP: We have one chance to get it right. We might as well get it right, or let's just keep it going.
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, we are seeing something stunning here with these Republicans coming out and saying they don't agree with the president on this, and they think he should end this practice and that is in his hands to do so. Now he's going to Capitol Hill and he's going to meet behind closed
doors with these House Republicans. The question is what's going to come out of that, and do these Republican words mean action?
BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins reporting for us from the White House. Thank you.
And let's go live to Capitol Hill right now as we await President Trump's arrival there. Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash is on the scene for us.
Dana, so what's the mood among Republicans whom the president will be facing very, very soon?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Frustration. Exasperation. You name it. Any kind of synonym to those two words, that is the feeling among Republicans across the GOP spectrum and across the Capitol tonight. There is no question about it, which is why you saw the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, come out of a closed-door meeting today and say that, after a robust discussion, they have concluded that they, despite the contradictory information about whether Congress has to act, they want to try to act. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: All of the members of the Republican conference support a plan that keeps families together while their immigration status is determined. We had a very robust discussion at lunch about the need to fix the problem. I understand the president just called on us to fix the problem. And obviously for that to occur in the Senate would require bipartisan discussions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And therein lies the rub. The -- you would think that listening to the majority leader say that there is unanimity among Republicans on the sticky issue of immigration, as narrow as this is, the question of keeping families together, keeping children with their parents, that it would be something that would potentially easily pass.
But that's not the case right now, Wolf. And the reason is because Democrats say that, A, they don't trust that this legislation really will be as narrow as they say. They haven't seen any language on it.
And B, they simply say this isn't something that Congress has to deal with. This is something that the president can change with the stroke of a pen, and that that is something that he should try to do.
So just because you do have Republicans who are in control of the Senate saying they want to actually fix this, that is something that, over the past ten years, anything having to do with immigration has been very, very tough. Even something as emotional and as bipartisan as the desire to do this, to keep kids with their children, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes. So Dana, what are they specifically wanting to hear
from the president? He's about to meet with the Republicans up in Congress. What does the president have to tell them?
BASH: You know, they're looking for something really simple, and that's clarity. This is a bit of a different situation, because of course, on the House side, you're talking about the leadership wanting to move to two different Republican immigration bills that deal with illegal immigration, broader bills, to deal with them this week. As soon as this week.
And the president has really confused the situation, not saying exactly which one he supports. He said he supported both. How much he will really put his active energy into backing either one of these bills. And so they want to know from him what exactly he's thinking.
Again, that is the broader discussion about border wall funding, about changing the visa program, and other things that conservatives and moderates have said that they want to have a vote on. Frankly, no matter what, it's probably going to be a bit of a show vote so that they can go back to their constituents and say, "I voted for X, Y and Z on immigration."
But of course, as part of that discussion is going to be this issue of separating children from their families, because today the House Republican leadership incorporated some language into their bill to deal with that.
[17:10:07] And the question again, as it has been for some time, whether the president will support that and whether or not he's going to help the leadership get votes to pass it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you.
A complicated situation, indeed. Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, the acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE as it's called, Tom Homan.
Tom, thanks very much for coming in.
TOM HOMAN, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: You heard what the Republican leader, majority leader, Mitch McConnell, just said, that every Republican in the Republican conference, they don't want to see what's going on right now. These little kids separated from their moms and dads as they await adjudication. What do you say about that?
HOMAN: Nobody wants to see that. I mean, I'm a law enforcement officer for 34 years. These men on the Border Patrol, men and women of ICE, we're all law enforcement officers. We see sad things every day. But we've still got to do our job.
So there's a way Congress can address it. They can fix this, and that's what we're hoping they do.
BLITZER: The president could fix it too, because it was the Trump administration and in April which announced this change from earlier administrations, the Bush administration and the Obama administration to go ahead and separate these kids from their parents.
HOMAN: Look, we've been separating families over the last several presidents if we can't prove premier relationships. There have been separations.
BLITZER: But this isn't the law. This is a policy change that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced after it was debated for more than a year by senior officials in the White House.
HOMAN: I've been acting director a year and a half, and that's something I said a thousand times. Entering this country illegally is a crime. The attorney general is enforcing the laws on the books.
BLITZER: What changed after --
HOMAN: You've got to -- you've got to understand where this is all coming from. Right? We have -- we have a lot of families come up and claiming asylum.
Under the current process, we cannot detain those families because of what they call the Flores Settlement Agreement. We can only detain them for 20 days. They can't see a judge that quick.
So they're coached on what to say. They'll say the right thing to get released from detention. They won't show up in court, and when they show up in court, 80 percent of these people claim fear and lose their case. They don't have a valid claim.
But they're already in the United States. They're lost in society. They never get removed. So as long as we send the world this message -- come and say the right thing, get released, never to show up in court, you're never going to fix this.
BLITZER: Most of them do show up in court. They don't necessarily disappear. But just explain how ICE -- and we're grateful to the men and women of ICE who do what you're doing. It's a very, very tough job. But something changed as a result of the attorney general's announcement of a policy change in April.
Walk us through how the men and women of ICE now have to change their own attitude, their own responsibilities towards these families coming in.
HOMAN: We're not changing our attitudes or anything. We're law enforcement officers. We'll enforce the laws enacted by Congress, the laws on the books. They took a sworn oath to uphold the law. This president is letting them do their job, which the last president did not do.
But let me fix something. You said that most people do show up in court. Last year, Executive Office of Immigration -- the immigration court issued over 40,000 removal orders in absentia. These are people that did not show up to get their --
BLITZER: But you used to have discretion before April on when to take these little kids away from moms and dads, and now you don't.
HOMAN: We still have discretion. Our officers have discretion every day.
BLITZER: But in the last few weeks, more than 2,000 of these kids have been separated from their parents. I think 2,300, the number we received today.
HOMAN: OK. So bingo, what do they got to do? If the parents don't want to be separated from their children, they enter through a port of entry through the legal system. When you want -- when you choose intentionally to violate the laws of this country and enter illegally, you put yourself in that position.
BLITZER: But --
HOMAN: You put your child in that position. So if you want to blame somebody --
BLITZER: But if you did have some discretion --
HOMAN: If you want to blame somebody for separating families, blame the parents who choose to break the law --
BLITZER: I understand what you're saying, but you did have discretion before April. And now the president says, the attorney general says, the secretary of homeland security says no more discretion. All of these children are going to be taken away from their parents.
HOMAN: Officers do have discretion. There's zero-tolerance policy, but not every family is being separated. They're not being separated if they're small infants, breast feeding, there's a lot -- if there's medical issues.
Now the only -- the only families we separate at a port of the entry are those that we can't prove a family relationship. And people posing as families, the fraud occurring with people saying, "I'm their parent" when they're not, and these kids are actually victims of trafficking, is up over 300 percent. Our responsibility is for the health and safety of these children.
BLITZER: But you say, you know, you want -- you have discretion. You've been a law enforcement officer for 34 years, and I thank you for all the good work that you've done. But you always have had discretion. When do you charge someone, when do you arrest someone? When do you let that person go?
It seems now that the president wants no more discretion as far as families are concerned.
HOMAN: The president is doing his job. The president's No. 1 concern --
BLITZER: But he's changed policy.
HOMAN: This president is trying to secure the borders of this country, which we have a right to do. We are a sovereign country. We have the right to secure our borders.
[17:15:00] BLITZER: But do you have discretion, as the head of ICE, to decide whether or not to charge someone illegally crossing the border?
HOMAN: I absolutely do.
BLITZER: You have -- so some people you just let go, and some people you throw in jail?
HOMAN: Every -- every law enforcement ICE has discretion and we practice it every day. There are certain people, when we go out and do operations, we run into people, my officers sometimes will take people in custody. Sometimes they won't. They have discretion every day.
But they're law enforcement officers. No one should be vilifying the men and women of ICE. And you're certainly not doing it, but a lot of media outlets out there are, for simply doing their jobs.
Congress needs to do their job for once. We've been dealing with immigration issue for the 34 years I've been an immigration officer. They need to pass some legislation.
BLITZER: I totally agree. Congress needs to pass comprehensive immigration reform. You've studied this for a long time. And they haven't been able to do it during any of the recent administrations. It's a tough, tough challenge, because there's such a wide disparity of views.
But in the interim, until they do that, we see these heartbreaking pictures, and I know -- you must be heartbroken seeing little kids taken away crying from moms and dads. And unfortunately, the men and women of ICE have to deal with this. What do you say to them when they say, you know, "We can't do this anymore"?
HOMAN: Look, I'm a father, and we all feel bad about what's happening, but we're also law enforcement and we have to enforce the laws.
The parents are making a choice. They're choosing -- rather than entering through a port of entry, where they won't be separated, they are taking it upon themselves to enter illegally and have their children taken away. So if anybody is to blame here, it's the parents who made a decision, "I'm going to break the law, rather than going through a port of entry."
BLITZER: But if you say you have discretion, why do you charge everyone crossing the border?
HOMAN: Why should someone -- because you're illegal alien, you get to commit a crime, you get a pass? How many U.S. citizens get a pass when they commit a crime? I mean, we need to hold these people accountable. You can't -- I can't blame anybody for wanting to be part of the greatest country on earth, Wolf, but you can't want to be a part of the greatest country on earth and not respect the laws.
BLITZER: But you just said you do have discretion.
HOMAN: We absolutely do have discretion. But I'm saying, there shouldn't be a different set of rules because you're an illegal alien.
If we -- when I was a police officer in New York, I arrested parents. I took parents out of the home for domestic violence. I separated that father from his child. It was sad. The child cried. But you know what? They got separated because the parent got charged with a crime.
Same thing is happening here.
BLITZER: I'm a little confused on when somebody is committing a crime. You say if somebody is seeking asylum here in the United States, they have to go to an official port of entry. But we did some checking, citizenship and immigration services, the website. It says you can apply for asylum if you are in a port -- an official port of entry, or -- and I'm quoting now, in the United States. You can apply for asylum if you're in the United States.
So some of these people may cross illegally, but they're in the United States. Why can't they apply for asylum?
HOMAN: It's simple: 8 USC 1325. Illegal entry into the United States, it's a crime. It's a misdemeanor first offense, the second offense a felony.
BLITZER: But if they're seeking asylum is that still a crime if they're crossing the border illegally?
HOMAN: You're clouding the issue. The issue is, if you don't want to be separated from your child, come through a port of entry. We have been clear on that.
BLITZER: All right. So let me just clarify something else, because you just said it's a misdemeanor if they do that. You're separating mothers and their children over a misdemeanor?
HOMAN: We're separating mothers and the children because they've chose to violate the --
BLITZER: But you just said it was a misdemeanor.
HOMAN: The first offense is a misdemeanor.
BLITZER: OK. So for a misdemeanor you're separating parents from their kids?
HOMAN: We're enforcing the law. We're enforcing the law and continue --
BLITZER: But you have discretion.
HOMAN: We enforce the laws against illegal aliens, just like we enforce them against citizens.
BLITZER: But it's just a misdemeanor, and you don't have to do it. If you have discretion. And it wasn't done during the Obama administration or the Bush administration. It's only been done now in the last couple of months during the Trump administration.
HOMAN: We could go back and forth. They don't have to commit a misdemeanor. They can come to a port of entry --
BLITZER: But these people are being tortured or being threatened with death and they seek entry into the United States under asylum. You have to understand what they're going through.
HOMAN: And that's a false statement right there, Wolf, because the immigration courts in the last year and a half have said 80 percent -- up to 80 percent of these cases are frivolous. These people are up here committing fraud. They're being coached what to say.
BLITZER: I know --
HOMAN: They lose their cases. So they say there's fear and persecution and that's just factually wrong.
BLITZER: Because some of your colleagues have used that 80 percent number, and we've done some checking on that. And let me give you the numbers. This is the Justice Department numbers, the most recent numbers we have from the Justice Department. Much lower, about 25 percent in 2016. It was between 11 and 28 percent of people who didn't show up from 2012 to 2016. That's according to the annual Justice Department "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics." Not 80 percent.
HOMAN: I'm looking at the Executive Office of Immigration Review. This is the courts that makes the settlement of these cases. I reviewed the stats yesterday. So a vast majority -- it could be 70 to 80 percent or 81 percent.
The bottom line is the vast majority lose their case, because what they've decided is that they've been coached on what to say and what -- we've got to understand, where did this all come from?
BLITZER: But you admit that in El Salvador or Honduras or Guatemala, the situation there is horrible.
HOMAN: First of all, the homicide rates of Guatemala are half what they were. The homicide rates in Honduras is down. There is no evidence showing the crime rate in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have risen in this fashion (ph).
[17:20:05] BLITZER: So you're saying these people should not try to leave these countries?
HOMAN: I can't -- I've said it -- I've said it a hundred times. I can't -- I can't blame anybody for wanting to be a part of the greatest country on earth. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do it. We've got -- we've got thousands of people standing in line the way they're supposed to stand in line.
BLITZER: OK. So let me -- let me get to, because I know we're going back and forth. But if you say it's a misdemeanor, public intoxication, for example, is a misdemeanor. Right? That's a misdemeanor. You don't separate families if there's public intoxication.
HOMAN: Let's just cut to the chase. What's the underlying issue here, right? So let's talk about where we were before this zero- tolerance policy was put in place, because American people need to understand that.
Under the current process, we can't detain them long enough to see a judge. They don't show up in court. Most of them lose their cases.
BLITZER: Most of them do show up. According to these numbers from the Justice Department.
HOMAN: Forty-thousand -- 40,000 detention orders last year. Bottom line is they're not following the judge's orders. Just leave it there. Right? They're ignoring judge's order.
If you and I ignore a judge's order, we're going to jail. So they ignore a judge's order. So if that's the message we want to send the rest of the world, that says come to this country --
HOMAN: Let me finish, please. Violate the laws of this country, ignore a judge's order and you're fine and go have a U.S. citizen child, and we won't ever separate you, because now we don't want to separate families. What that does, Wolf, is that continues to entice people to make this dangerous journey. This isn't just about enforcing law; this is about saving lives.
BLITZER: But you're --
HOMAN: People die coming to this country every day, and we keep enticing them with the promise of sanctuary, a promise of we'll look the other way, a promise that you get a pass. We've got to stop that.
BLITZER: But you're separating these families even before they don't show up in court, in advance, of the fear that they might not do the right thing. That's when you're separating these families. And that's what's causing so much anguish, so much heartburn across the country right now, when they see the separation of this zero-tolerance -- this new policy that was enacted in April.
HOMAN: Then the parents may -- need to make a clear choice. Enter through a port of entry, you won't be separated. They're making that choice. They put their families in that position. If anybody is to blame for that child being taken away, it's the parent that chose "I'm going to break the law rather than going to a port of entry." BLITZER: People are watching us --
BLITZER: In the United States and all over the world, and they're wondering what's going on in the United States right now. From your perspective -- and I know you've got a distinguished career in law enforcement. We're grateful for all the important work that you did. But is this new zero-tolerance policy that the president has supported, that the attorney general announced, is it humane?
HOMAN: I think -- I think it's the law. As a law enforcement --
BLITZER: It may be the law, it's the policy, but is it humane?
HOMAN: I think it's the law, and I'm a law enforcement, and I must follow the law.
I think we take good care of these children. I think what's inhumane is parents that choose to put their kids in the hands of a smuggling organization, a criminal smuggling organization, have their kid smuggled into this country. That's humane -- inhumane.
I hear all these accusations of child abuse. You know what child abuse is? It's the tens of thousand of UACs, unaccompanied children that parents here in the United States hire the smuggling organization, have their child smuggled into the United States by a very criminal organization that smuggled guns and drugs. Very criminal organizations that murder Border Patrol and special agents. That's inhumane.
We take very good care of these kids, and we spend a lot of money, a lot of taxpayer money spent taking care of these families and taking care of these kids.
BLITZER: These kids potentially --
HOMAN: I will never apologize for enforcing law, and the president of the United States is not going to apologize for --
BLITZER: Even though these kids, this could have longtime ramifications from not being with their moms and dads during a critical -- they're six, seven, eight, nine years old; they're crying for their parents.
You're a parent. You understand what's going on. And so many people -- and I notice the long pause. It's unfair to the men and women of ICE To make them engage in an inhumane policy.
HOMAN: Then the parents of these illegal alien children need to make better decisions, like I hope I'm making the right decisions for my children. They need to do the same. Don't put your kids in this -- in the arms of smuggling organizations. Don't put your kids through this treacherous journey. Don't make your kids cross that river. Make your kids walk into the port of entry with you, where there's air-conditioning, there's people there to greet you. There's people that will hear your case. Don't break the law and go around.
Because the fine men and woman on the Border Patrol, these are American heroes that strap on a gun on every day and defend that line. While they're dealing with this migration, there's drugs, there's guns, there's bad people wanting to enter the country to do what's wrong.
If you want to come to this country, do it the right way. Go through a port of the entry. This is a choice clearly made by the parents. And I will not stand by and let people vilify the men and women of ICE or Border Patrol --
BLITZER: We're not vilifying --
HOMAN: But you are --
BLITZER: We appreciate the men and women of ICE. And as someone who appreciates -- and I've seen what you guys do, and we're very, very grateful for the important work that you do. It hurts me, and it hurts so many people who are involved with ICE to be forced into doing -- to punish children for what their parents may be doing.
HOMAN: We're not punishing the children.
BLITZER: The children are being punished.
HOMAN: Have to follow their parents. The parents are making a clear decision.
[17:25:04] BLITZER: But the ICE personnel have to deal with that, and it clearly looks so inhumane.
HOMAN: That's our job. Our job is to enforce the law. We don't get to pick and choose what we do. We enforce law. Every law enforcement officer -- I've been doing this for 34 years and I've seen a lot of terrible things in my career. Every police officer sees sad things, but he's still got to do his job.
BLITZER: All right. We've got to leave it there, but you know -- and I know you appreciate the whole world right now is watching what the men and women of ICE are doing, and it's causing a lot, a lot of concern.
HOMAN: I understand that totally.
BLITZER: And so we're counting on you to do whatever you can -- I know you're getting ready to retire -- to fix it as quickly as you can.
HOMAN: What I want is Congress --
BLITZER: You don't want to see these kids separated.
HOMAN: What I think we all want to do, we want Congress to do their job. Once and for all sit down and fix this issue.
BLITZER: But the president also has got a job to do, and he could change it with a phone call.
HOMAN: Congress needs to fix this. There's loopholes in the system.
BLITZER: Congress has got to fix comprehensive immigration reform. We all agree on that. Everybody wants to see that. And I hope they can do it. Let's hope they could do it in the next few weeks. That would be great.
But the president in the interim could stop what so many see as an inhumane policy of taking these kids away from the parents.
HOMAN: The president is doing his job. The president's doing what he's promised the American people. We need to secure our borders. We are a sovereign country. We have the right to defend our border. That's what we're doing.
BLITZER: Nobody is disagrees with that. The U.S. deserves secure borders. The question is how do you do it when these kids are coming with their moms and dads. And I'm grateful to you, Tom, for coming in. Thank you so much. I know you're getting ready to retire. We appreciate everything you've done. And good luck with the next chapter in your life.
HOMAN: Thank you. I appreciate you.
BLITZER: And you're a fellow upstater like I am. So we've got something in common.
Tom Homan, the acting director from the U.S. Immigrations and Custom Enforcement.
There's more breaking news we're following, as we await the president's arrival up on Capitol Hill to talk about this specific subject, immigration, with House Republicans.
Also Michael Cohen now hiring a very experienced trial lawyer as the criminal investigation he's facing moves forward. Will part of the new legal strategy include potentially flipping on his long-time client, President Trump?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Standing by. Looking at live pictures of the president's motorcade getting ready to leave the White House, heading up to Capitol Hill. The president will be meeting with House Republicans on immigration, including of course, the latest U.S. policy, separation of families, zero-tolerance policy that was announced in April going forward, where children are being separated from their parents as they illegally try to enter the United States. We'll have much more on that. Stand by.
[17:31:52] But there's other breaking news we're following, as well. CNN has now learned that President Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, plans to hire an experienced criminal trial attorney in New York.
Let's go to our national political reporter M.J. Lee. She's working the story for us.
M.J., who's the lawyer that Michael Cohen plans to hire?
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we've learned just moments ago is that Michael Cohen plans to hire a new lawyer. His name is Guy Petrillo. He is an experienced trial lawyer, as you said. He was the former head of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And the paperwork in the retainer may not have been fully finalized just yet. But again, we expect that Michael Cohen will begin working with this new lawyer, Guy Petrillo.
Now, what does all of this mean? Well, it's clearly a shift in legal strategy, to say the least, at a moment when we know that Cohen is obviously feeling a lot of heat. He is currently under criminal investigation in New York. The FBI raided his home, his hotel room and his office earlier this year, as you know.
And what he's thinking through right now is what is the best thing to do for him and his family. and one thing we've been reporting on is the fact that Cohen would like a lawyer who is very familiar with the southern district of New York. this is where the criminal investigation is -- is taking place.
And I should note -- and this is an important reminder -- Cohen has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing. But his attorneys have been going through some millions of files and hundreds of encrypted messages that were collected as a part of this raid. So it's potentially significant, Wolf, that he has decided to team up with this new lawyer.
BLITZER: Yes, M.J., you're also getting some new information on whether Cohen will stay loyal to President Trump.
LEE: That's right. We are told that Cohen has signaled to friends that he is willing to give investigators information on the president if that is what they are looking for.
Here's what a friend of Cohen's told CNN. Quote, "He knows a lot of things about the president, and he's not adverse to talking in the right situation. If they want information on Trump, he is willing to give it."
Now as we have been reporting all along, Wolf, we know that Cohen has been feeling increasingly isolated from the president, a man he has famously said he would take a bullet for. Now that Cohen is in a lot of potential legal trouble, Trump has not exactly had Cohen's back in public. He has distanced himself from Cohen, saying he didn't do a ton of legal work for him, and they haven't spoken in a long time.
So given all of that, what we are told is that Cohen continues to feel let down by President Trump and that, ultimately, Cohen may have to decide, "Do I have information about President Trump that investigators might want?" And of course, Wolf, we don't quite have the answer to that yet.
BLITZER: Yes. Not yet. All right, M.J., thank you. M.J. Lee reporting for us.
Also breaking this hour, President Trump due to arrive very soon up on Capitol Hill, where he'll huddle with House Republicans as GOP opposition is growing to the president's new policy, separating undocumented families at the U.S.-Mexico border. At same time the House is preparing to vote on two major immigration bills.
Our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty has the latest for us. Sunlen, so what do Republican lawmakers want from the president at this meeting?
[17:35:00] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Specific direction, Wolf. I've been talking to lawmakers who are going into this meeting that will happen in just a few minutes up here on Capitol Hill behind these closed doors. And we know President Trump is on his way now up here to meet with House Republicans.
And many lawmakers tell me they want specifics; want specifics on what exactly President Trump would sign, what exactly -- direction that he wants the House Republicans to go on this issue.
I talked to one lawmaker. I said, "What exactly do you want to hear?"
And he said, "Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine," an acknowledgment here, Wolf, that the president has been all over the map on this issue, and they just want to hear more specifics from him tonight.
In the House there has certainly been an uproar of criticism from House Republicans, criticizing this policy saying, "Look, we've got to do something about this family separation that's playing out on the border," these heartbreaking images of parents being separated from their babies. And in the House, they're considering taking care of that, potentially doing a legislative fix, attached to two other broader immigration bills that they're considering. One is a more conservative immigration proposal. The other is a legislative backed more moderate proposal that just today had been tweaked to include some language to allow families to be kept together while detained.
So the big issue going into this meeting tonight here on, Wolf, such a critical moment, is what President Trump will potentially get behind, what will he embrace, what will he speak out on. That we're hearing from lawmakers tonight.
And of course, we'll be most interesting to watch how hard Republicans -- members of his own party press him on this issue as we've been watching in the last 48 hours, they've been very vocal, very critical of President Trump's policy on this. The big question is, Wolf, will they stand up to him directly when they're in the room with him tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're about to see the president walking through the doors there up on Capitol Hill. We see the security, the advance people heading, the president heading to that meeting. We'll keep that shot up as we bring in our analysts to get some -- get some good analysis.
And Gloria Borger, as we watch these pictures, what are you expecting?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, hopefully, they're going to get some clarity about what the president wants and what he doesn't want. What he's going to take --
BLITZER: One second --
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So the system has been broken for many years. The immigration system. It's been a really bad, bad system. Probably the worst anywhere in the world. We're going to try and see if we can fix it. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Let's see if he can fix it. He says the system has been broken. But go ahead.
BORER: Nobody would disagree with that. And look, there are -- there are different points of view within the Republican Party about what ought to be done. And a compromise bill, which includes the money for the wall that the president wants. Also includes a pathway to citizenship, which the president does not want.
So the president said that he will change the bills, so we have to see what he wants to do. But he has clearly dug in on the notion that he doesn't want to do something halfway, that he doesn't want to do any kind of narrow legislation and won't make a phone call to fix this. He wants to get the big enchilada here.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The last point that he said, won't make a phone call to fix this, what he's dug on is he's not going to reverse course, it seems, from this zero-tolerance policy at the moment.
But Wolf, 12 Republican senators just sent -- Orrin Hatch was the lead on this -- a letter that basically blows to smithereens this argument that Donald Trump has been making that it is somehow the Democrats' fault on this. We've, of course, reported that that's not true.
But this letter states plainly that it is, in the immediate, this zero-tolerance policy that is causing this fallout, and they are pleading with him to pull that back.
And here's the thing -- if you want to understand the politics of this, who are the senators on this? You'll recognize some names like John McCain and Orrin Hatch and others. But so too is Dean Heller, the only incumbent Republican up for re-election in a state Hillary Clinton won; and Cory Gardner, the head of the Senate campaign committee, trying to keep the Republican majority in the United States Senate. Making crystal clear, where the politics is on this, they've got a problem.
BLITZER: How can they convince the president to find some face-saving way to back away from this new policy? You know, the president, he never likes to admit he made a mistake. CHALIAN: That is certainly true. He does not like to admit he made a
mistake, and as Gloria said, they're searching for a legislative fix. But that does not negate the point that they are making in this letter, which is that this could be halted right now by the president.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, someone would be thrown under the bus. So the president would not look like he did this.
I mean, we even heard from Anthony Scaramucci on Twitter saying that the people around the president are not serving him well with this zero-tolerance policy.
But on the immigration issue, this is a very dangerous issue at this moment with this emergent issue with zero-tolerance. If, indeed, they try to put this up before midterms and still have zero-tolerance and this wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, you're in trouble.
[17:40:03] The kids were the pawn for a wall. This is a very slippery slope that this president is going down. This is not politics. Everyone wants to hear -- they want to be briefed on what the president thinks. This is not about politics; this is about humanity.
BLITZER: Yes. We may see the president walking down the stairs. That's why we're showing that picture, winding his way through the corridors up on the Capitol Hill.
You know, Jeffrey Toobin, the president keeps saying this is a black and white issue. He says there are only two options: totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law breaking. Are those really the only two options?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, this whole family separation issue has been an interesting moment in journalism, as well as politics, because we have been saying -- and I think we've done a good job saying over and over again that the president is simply wrong. He is saying something false about whether he and his administration are obligated to separate families, about whether this was the obligate -- the Democrat have forced this on him.
This comment today, too, that there are only two choices, open borders or the current policy. That's clearly false.
But we don't have as big of a megaphone as the president of the United States, and that's appropriate, I guess. But the real question here is whether the president's false statements, repeated over and over again, are -- take on a life of their own or whether the -- really the factual corrections that we've made and other journalists have made make a difference either. And you know, I really don't know what the answer is to that. All we can do is just try to tell the truth and state the facts.
BORGER: And it's also very hard to know what's going on in the president's mind. Obviously, he cares about his base. And he believes that immigration is the key issue for him with his base, and he has to stand strong. But Republican pollsters will tell you that, in terms of keeping the
House, you -- you have to get suburban women in those suburban districts and that this issue is not going to play well with those voters.
The president is intent on this right now. He doesn't back down very easily. And it puts his Republicans in the Senate and in the House, he's put them in a pickle here.
BORGER: And how do they get out of it?
BLITZER: And he's doubling down --
BLITZER: -- on the Democrats -- you know, David, let me put up on the screen a tweet from earlier in the day. This is the president. "Democrats are the problem. They don't care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country like MS-13. They can't win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters."
CHALIAN: Right. I mean, using a word like "infest," that's classic Trumpian language there to just set off alarm bells, enliven your opposition, and enthuse your base. There's no doubt about that.
But the core of that is that Donald Trump is trying desperately to move this conversation from one of all the images and sound that all of America has heard over the last few days, to a conversation about gangs and crime and MS-13. And he's having a hard time breaking through with that other message right now. Certainly, his supporters are hearing that, and it's a message that deserves a hearing, as well.
But it's not breaking through these images right now, which is why you see these Republicans on Capitol Hill very concerned and eager to hear from him tonight.
BLITZER: April --
TOOBIN: Wolf, can I just --
BLITZER: Hold on, Jeffrey, one second. Go ahead, April.
RYAN: MS-13 is a problem, but it is not about MS-13. This is about -- and they are bringing other issues in, children coming by themselves. This is the issue: parents and children coming across the border together and then being separated.
RYAN: That is the issue. When you talk about infestation of a certain group of people, that is very ugly. It's very divisive.
BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey, go ahead. TOOBIN: Can I -- can I just call attention to that moment in your
interview with Mr. Homan, the former -- the acting head of ICE when you asked him, "Is this policy humane?" And there was this painful, pregnant pause where this -- effectively, the chief law enforcement officer in charge of enforcing this policy -- he didn't invent the policy, but he's enforcing it -- he couldn't really answer whether it's humane. And when the people in charge can't say it's humane, there's a big problem.
BLITZER: Yes, and then I asked him a second time, "Is it humane?" Again, a long pause. He couldn't say it was a humane policy.
And we've got to take a quick break. Everybody stick around. We're going to have much more on all of these developments. Also coming up, we'll have the latest on our top story. President Trump meeting right now with Republicans up on Capitol Hill amid bipartisan backlash to the migrant family separation crisis on the U.S. Southern border.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by as President Trump meets with Republican lawmakers amid the growing backlash to the administration's policy of separating migrant families at the border. We're going to have much more on that in just a few moments.
But, first, this week, CNN has been telling the stories of extraordinary people and organizations that are making a difference. This special series called "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" gave us an opportunity to highlight issues that are important to us.
I wanted to take a closer look at a disease impacting millions and millions of Americans and something that's affected my family's life -- dementia and Alzheimer's.
BLITZER: My mother's life was defined by her memory. So when she began to lose hers, it was difficult to watch.
During World War II, my mom was taken to a slave labor camp with her brothers and sister and her parents. Her two brothers and sister survived. She did as well. Her parents did not.
[17:50:10] After meeting my dad, she came to America to start a new life and create new memories.
My mom, of course, never forgot what happened during World War II to her and her family. But when she had the opportunity with my dad to come to Buffalo, New York after the war, she was always so vibrant, so smart, so enthusiastic.
CESIA BLITZER, MOTHER OF WOLF BLITZER: We couldn't dream that he's going to be what he is. He is the best son parents can imagine.
BLITZER: But in the last few years of her life, something changed.
It was so painful for us in the final few years of her life. We could see she was beginning the process of going through some serious dementia.
You know, she didn't remember, you know, details of what happened even a few hours earlier. Her memory was slowly being robbed by dementia, what her doctors thought could be Alzheimer's.
Dr. Hodes, explain what Alzheimer's is.
DR. RICHARD HODES, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON AGING: The loss of function, the loss of independence. Dementia is a syndrome that we can recognize, that clinicians can recognize. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of these symptoms.
BLITZER: My mother died at the age of 95 last summer. It was very painful. And that's why I have become involved in trying to help these organizations that will find a cure and treatment of Alzheimer's.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you know him as CNN's lead political anchor and host of the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: And that led me here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: To the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.
The ADDF is getting close. It's solely focused on finding drugs to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease.
DR. HOWARD FILLIT, FOUNDING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, ALZHEIMER'S DRUG DISCOVERY FOUNDATION: Alzheimer's research didn't start until about 1980. Cancer research started in the 1920s.
We have come so far that I truly believe we know as much about the biology of Alzheimer's disease as we know about cancer and heart disease. But because of that historical lag time, we don't have the drugs yet.
BLITZER: The Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation is funding innovative research. One of the most promising of those studies is at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Dr. Ronald Crystal isn't just looking for a treatment. He is searching for a cure, stopping the disease in its tracks by focusing in on a gene that defines whether some people get Alzheimer's and others don't.
DR. RONALD CRYSTAL, CHAIRMAN OF THE DEPARTMENT OF GENETIC MEDICINE, WEILL CORNELL MEDICINE: We realized that one of the well-known aspects of Alzheimer's is a gene called ApoE. And there are three basic types.
Most of us are ApoE2 and that protects us from Alzheimer's. But about 15 percent of us carry ApoE4. And that, if you have that genetics, you have a much higher risk for the development of early onset Alzheimer's.
BLITZER: ApoE3, moderate/average risk. But ApoE4, you're in trouble?
CRYSTAL: That's exactly right.
BLITZER: Dr. Crystal and his team are trying to flip a switch in people's brains so if you have a high risk of developing Alzheimer's, through a gene therapy they're working on right now, might prevent from you getting Alzheimer's.
CRYSTAL: We have to use a virus to carry it, sort of like a Trojan horse to carry the gene into the cells of the brain. So what we're doing is basically administering it to the fluid that bays the brain.
BLITZER: If your clinical trials work, you can get people who have ApoE4 down to 3 or 2?
CRYSTAL: If it works. We have to see and we don't know until we do the clinical studies. But if it does work, this, for people who have the Apo4 gene, could protect them from developing Alzheimer's.
BLITZER: So could this mean a cure for Alzheimer's?
CRYSTAL: It could for those who have the abnormal gene.
BLITZER: You give us hope that we are going to beat this disease. And I know we can because of what you are doing.
A wise teacher once said we remember the good and the bad of what happened before us so that we can make tomorrow better than yesterday. And today.
That was my mom, someone who went through horrendous hardships and sacrifices and painful, painful memories. But she emerged out of that very strong.
That's how I want to remember my mom. And it's why I support these champions for change. So that others can remember, too.
BLITZER: With help from the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, people like Dr. Crystal are thinking outside the box, trying to tackle and cure this horrible, horrible disease.
We're going to continue to share these inspirational stories this week. And watch the "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE" one-hour special this Saturday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. There's breaking news coming up. We're following developments up on
Capitol Hill where President Trump and House Republican members are meeting right now, discussing the immigration uproar. We'll have a live update straight ahead.
[17:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Separation anxiety. President Trump is meeting right now with Republican lawmakers who are nervous about the political backlash as hundreds of undocumented immigrant children are taken away from their parents. Can they agree on a way to end the nightmare on the border?
[18:00:03] Cohen's new counsel. As the President's longtime lawyer considers whether to cooperate with prosecutors, he is planning to hire an experienced criminal trial attorney. We have new information on whether Michael Cohen --