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Family Separation Policy Firestorm; Michael Cohen Plans to Hire New Attorney; Interview With Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego; Kim In China Trying to Seize Momentum After Trump Summit; Trump Meets with Congressional GOP Members about Immigration. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 19, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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 may be ready to flip.
Stones roll. Trump ally Roger Stone releases a strange new statement downplaying his two-year silence about a secret meeting with a Russian national. Are investigators buying his "I was set up" defense?
And Giuliani investigated. The president's attorney and attack dog reveals he was questioned by the feds about the kind of law enforcement leaks he railed against. Did Rudy Giuliani receive inside information about the Clinton e-mail probe?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news on Capitol Hill, President Trump meeting right now with Republican lawmakers as more and more Republicans condemn the separation of undocumented immigrant families.
A dozen Republican senators now calling for the practice to stop immediately. But Mr. Trump seems unapologetic, telling business leaders today the United States has to take children away in order to prosecute their parents.
I will get reaction from Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona.
And our correspondents and analyst are all standing by.
First, let's go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, we heard the president strongly defend the administration's so-called zero tolerance policy before he went to Capitol Hill.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We did, Wolf. And then we heard the president, as soon as he got on Capitol Hill,
just a few minutes ago, remarking that the United States' immigration system is badly broken. He is hoping they can find a solution tonight, he said.
And he is joined by his chief of staff, John Kelly, the deputy -- the Department of Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, as well as his policy adviser Stephen Miller.
Those are all three central players in an uproar over the response to the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy on the border that is causing all that outrage over those children being separated from their parents.
And he is going into a meeting with some members from his own party who are openly rebuking the White House's response to that, Wolf, so this should get interesting.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump defiant and defensive tonight amid public outcry over his administration's zero tolerance immigration policy.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Before going any further today, I want to take a moment to address something you have 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: 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, U.S. SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: 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 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.
TRUMP: So, we have a House that's getting ready to finalize an immigration package that they're going to brief me on later, and that I'm going to make changes to.
COLLINS: One day after the White House said he would sign what Republican lawmakers sent him.
SARAH HUCKABEE 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.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS: Now, Wolf, so far, the president has resisted demands from Democrats and Republicans to end this policy. He has showed no signs of letting up so far. We will see if that changes when he leaves that room on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: Soon enough. We will see what happens.
Kaitlan Collins, thank you.
Let's go up to Capitol Hill right now for more on the president's meeting with Republican lawmakers and the scramble to pass new immigration legislation.
Our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is watching all of this unfold.
Phil, what's the latest?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, President Trump came to Capitol Hill with a lot more questions than answer on the part of the Republicans he's now meeting with behind closed door.
Just to take you behind the scenes...
BLITZER: Looks like we just lost our connection with Phil Mattingly. We will check back with him.
That meeting is taking place right now. We will see what happens once the lawmakers emerge from that session and see if they say anything, if the president says anything, if they can come up with some sort of immediate fix to stop the separation of these kids from their parents.
I don't know if Phil Mattingly -- have we reconnected with Phil?
We have not reconnected with Phil. But we will get back to him shortly.
In the meantime, let's bring in Congressman Ruben Gallego. He's an Arizona Democrat. He serves on the Armed Services Committee.
The president says, Congressman -- and thanks very much for joining us -- there are two options right now. You either prosecute everyone coming in to the United States illegally, or you have open borders.
He says those are the two options. What do you say?
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: Well, either the president is lying or he has no clue what he is talking about when it comes to immigration enforcement.
There are so many things you can do in the meantime. You can have joint detention for a little while, so that way it's at least humane. You could send people out with some type of tracking system, ankle bracelets, whatever it is, to make sure that they know they -- where they're reporting. You could actually put them in halfway homes, where we could
conceivably check on them. There's just so many ways you could do this. The problem is, the president doesn't want to actually look at those other options, because he wants a political situation, number one, to get his vote out, but, number two, to basically hold these kids hostages.
And now we know -- we have it confirmed, he just said it himself -- that he is trying to set up a scenario where he wants to force a border wall onto the American citizens, something that he promised was going to be paid for by Mexico. And now we know that that's not the case.
Again, the president is basically holding these kids hostage for his political stunt.
BLITZER: Clearly, this was -- this new zero tolerance policy was seen by the administration as a deterrent.
More than a year ago, I interviewed John Kelly. He was then the secretary of homeland security. He's now the White House chief of staff. He was sitting in the same seat where you are sitting. And he said they were considering this policy, even though he knew it would look bad, separating moms and dads from their little kids, because this could be seen as a deterrent to people trying to flee illegally into the United States.
They had a long debate. And it wasn't until April of this year when they decided to finally go ahead with it. What do you say about that?
GALLEGO: Well, number one, it's illegal to use this inhuman tactic to create a deterrent, which actually will not end up being a deterrent.
People that are trying to flee these awful places are going to do whatever they can to survive. Number two, you didn't even do it well. There are right now children that we don't know if we are going to able to be ever to reunite with their parents. We are creating orphans.
This country has now created orphans. We don't -- we have zero understanding of where -- what happened to the thousands of little girls right now, because this DHS will not tell us where they are. We don't know who is taking care of these kids.
There are kids right now that we -- are going to be going to sleep crying. No one is going to console them. What happens when they are sick? I have a young son. Maybe -- it's great that they are getting fed. It's great that they have a bed.
But who is actually going to rock these babies to sleep when they are tired, when they are angry, when they are missing their parents? And this administration cannot answer that, because they are so inhumane and they were so caught up on the idea of deterrence, that they forgot to take care of the little things.
BLITZER: Listen to Tom Homan, the acting ice director, who was on this program in the last hour, when I had this exchange with him, because the men and women of ICE, they have to implement this zero tolerance policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is this new zero tolerance policy that the president has supported, that the attorney general announced, is it humane?
THOMAS HOMAN, ACTING U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT DIRECTOR: I think -- I -- I think it's the law.
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 officer. 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 kids smuggled into this country. That's humane -- inhumane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's your reaction to the ?
GALLEGO: If you have to make excuses why your actions are humane, it probably means that your actions are inhumane.
These parents are going through horrible situations in their home country. And they are coming to ports of entries and actually legally asking for asylum.
What is inhumane is that this ICE, DHS are purposely creating barriers for them to -- even asking for them to legally have asylum, and then turning around and separating families to a point where you have kids so scared that they are crying on -- we have heard this recording, kids crying asking for their family members.
And you have ICE agents that are so cold-hearted, they are actually making fun of these little kids while they are trying to ask for where their parents are. And the fact that you have ICE agents doing that is because they understand that the leadership of DHS and ICE accept that type of inhumanity.
BLITZER: We don't know if these ICE personnel were making fun or they were trying to stop the kids from crying by saying, you are listening to an orchestra or something along those lines.
We don't know what their motive was. I bend over to give these guys, these men and women of ICE some credit. They have got a tough job.
But what was interesting is when I asked the acting director if the policy was humane, you saw that pregnant pause. He couldn't say it was a humane policy that the president has ordered them to implement.
Wolf, I have dealt -- I have been in horrible situations. I have been in horrible combat and been in some awful, awful places with -- surrounded by children in war, in the Iraq War.
And even then, us young men in some real horrible situations, we did everything we could to keep our humanity, to treat that everyone that we met with in a respectful manner that would be -- keep the dignity of the United States.
What's happening right now is undignified and un-American. And the reason it's happening is because the president has set the tone and everyone is following it.
BLITZER: These parents who are bringing their children illegally across the border into the United States, they are charged with a misdemeanor.
And what seems to be inhumane, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, why are you taking the kids away from who is charged with a misdemeanor? And he also did say, they -- these ICE agents, they do have some discretion in dealing with all of this.
They do have some discretion. But apparently the president just wants them to arrest everyone and, if they come in with kids, separate the kids.
GALLEGO: Well, look, and maybe they do have discretion or not.
But we don't know what kind of pressure they are getting from their management. What do we know is that we have a president that's intent, as well as his administrators, with Kelly and with Secretary Nielsen, that they want to scare as many people as possible.
And that includes separating families. So, they are going to do everything they can. They are going to put pressure on these ICE agents. These ICE agents should try to take as much discretion as possible.
They should remember that they are still human. And at the end of the day, this is not going to end up deterring anybody from coming into this country. It's only going to -- the worse that is going to happen is, it's actually going to be a black eye in the history of this country.
BLITZER: Listen to the Republican leader in the Senate, the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, because he says all 51 Republicans in the Senate are on the same page.
(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, it would require bipartisan discussions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's your reaction to that?
GALLEGO: Well, I think we have to get into the details.
One of the things that I'm afraid of is that they are going to use this as a backdoor excuse to have indefinite detention of these families until they're processed -- they go through the process. That's unnecessary and just as inhumane.
Under the Obama administration, you did have families being detained together until we could determine, number one, if that kid belonged to that family, and, number two, whether or not they were a flight risk should they go through the asylum process.
We don't have enough information. This -- Senate Republicans do not have a history of really standing up to Donald Trump. And I doubt they're going to suddenly begin doing that.
BLITZER: Would you be willing to go along with compromise legislation? If there can be comprehensive immigration reform, Democrats have to compromise, Republicans have to compromise.
If it includes an opportunity for the dreamers, the DACA recipients, to have a pathway to citizenship, would you be willing to support what the president demands, $25 billion for that border wall with Mexico?
GALLEGO: We have had these discussions before.
Let's not forget that the Senate Democrats and actually Senate Republicans did have a bipartisan bill that did include money for the border wall. I don't remember it being $25 billion, but close to $8 billion, with a pathway to citizenship.
And the president rejected it. So, there's a lot of things I'm willing to talk about and a lot of things I'm willing to compromise.
But you have something on the other side, Donald Trump, who doesn't know how to deal. For someone who says I can fix this, I'm the person you should elect because I could fix everything, he has yet to be able to fix anything during this whole -- during his whole administration.
The one thing he can fix is this. He can just pick up the phone and end the family deportations. He is unwilling to do it.
BLITZER: Do you think the House will pass this compromise legislation this week or next week? GALLEGO: I don't believe they are going to be pass that compromise
legislation, because the compromise is among moderates and conservative Republicans. It has nothing to do with us on other side. And they need us to have that vote.
And what they have in that is poison pill legislation that we can never support.
BLITZER: Congressman Ruben Gallego, thank so much for coming in.
GALLEGO: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead: There's other news we're following, including news about Michael Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer. Is he about to turn on the president? We are getting new information about the former fixer's legal strategy as he considers cooperating with prosecutors.
And Trump ally Roger Stone says he is the target of a setup. Is he trying to change the subject from his newly disclosed meeting with a Russian national?
BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight on the president's longtime attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen. He is lawyering up right now, as he is under criminal investigation and considering whether to cooperate with prosecutors.
Let's bring in our political correspondent, Sara Murray. She's working the story for us.
What are you learning about Cohen's new legal team?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, our team is learning that Michael Cohen has been telling friends that he is willing to provide information on President Trump, if that's what prosecutors are looking for.
And that could be a shakeup in his legal strategy. He is certainly shaking up his legal team. He is planning on hiring a new attorney, Guy Petrillo. He's a former chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, an experienced trial lawyer.
And I think what you are seeing here is Michael Cohen preparing for the possibility of an indictment and changing his legal team to prepare for the criminal investigation he is under. Remember, the lawyers he had originally hired, the guy who was leading the charge was from D.C.
And they were basically preparing for congressional inquiries, to create and produce documents for Congress. They weren't prepared for what has become an incredibly invasive criminal investigation that also included a raid of Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room. And so I think we are seeing Cohen make this change in part to deal with that criminal investigation and also potentially for a change in legal strategy.
BLITZER: And I understand, Sara, you are getting some new information on whether Cohen will stay loyal to the president?
MURRAY: Well, that's what we are waiting to hear.
Like I said, he has signaled to friends that he may be willing to provide information on President Trump if that's what prosecutors are looking for. And I think that we have to remember, Michael Cohen, like anyone in this position, is a human being. He has gone through a lot of public scrutiny.
He has gone through investigators digging through his life. He has his own family that he needs to consider. And so he seems to be kind of hunkering down and preparing for the potential that there could be an indictment, he could be facing criminal charges and trying to figure out what he would do in that situation.
Now, we don't have those charges yet. And, again, he is a human being. We will see what happens when that situation presents itself. But he is certainly weighing his options, Wolf.
BLITZER: And I understand there's also a new statement that's been released by Trump ally Roger Stone about that just recently disclosed meeting he had with a Russian.
MURRAY: That's right.
And we talked yesterday about this new meeting that Roger Stone is admitting he attended in May of 2016 with a Russian who said he would provide dirt on Hillary in exchange for $2 million of Donald Trump's money.
So, Roger Stone has released, in typical Roger Stone fashion, a very lengthy statement in which he essentially says that the issue is not that he met with this Russian who was promising damaging information, but that the FBI was setting him up.
And here is the last portion of the statement: "The real question is not why I failed to remember an innocuous meeting. It's the FBI was using an informant to set me up."
He very much believes that this was law enforcement trying to entrap another member of Trump's inner circle, rather than what investigators may see it as, which is another Trump ally accepting a meeting with a Russian national promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: All right, Sara, good reporting. Thank you very, very much.
Just ahead: Are Republicans giving the president an earful right now about the separation of families at the southern border? We are going to have more on Mr. Trump's trip up to Capitol Hill.
And what did Rudy Giuliani tell federal investigators when he was questioned by them about leaks in the Clinton e-mail probe?
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, we're getting new information about what's going on behind closed doors up on Capitol Hill, as President Trump meets right now with Republican lawmakers who are very angry about the separation of migrant families at the border.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly. He's joining us.
Phil, what are you learning?
MATTINGLY: Well, Wolf, people inside the room say President Trump is still talking.
It's been a lengthy presentation, one that was supposed to be almost entirely about immigration that has also touched on things like trade, the opioid epidemic, at one point telling Republicans gathered in the room that they are a hot bunch right now, saying that things are obviously in a positive way.
The interesting element right now, though, Wolf, obviously has been immigration. Right now, Republicans in the House are trying to figure out if they can find a pathway to pass a broader immigration bill, one that also addresses the family separation issue.
What Republican leaders needed the from the president tonight was an endorsement of a compromise bill that was just released about an hour ago. They haven't gotten that.
What I'm told from inside the room is, the president said he supported Republicans 100 percent on their efforts, that they needed to pass a bill, but not that he supported their effort to pass that bill.
So, that remains an open question. I'm told he has briefly touched on the family separation policy, said he was aware that the pictures are bad, but hasn't gone any further than that.
I will note one other kind of interesting and rather awkward moment. He pointed out specifically Congressman Mark Sanford, the South Carolina Republican who lost his primary. The president came out opposed to him during the primary.
He congratulated him on the race and called him a nasty guy in front of his colleagues, which led to what I'm told was kind of an awkward, stunned silence and mumbling. Kind of a wide-ranging behind-closed- door speech and presentation from the president so far.
[18:30:19] Has it given Republican leaders what they want? Not necessarily. But he has addressed immigration. The big question now coming out of this, Wolf, is, A, will House Republicans have the votes to move their immigration proposal forward? And B, does this bring them any closer to a solution on the family separation issue that has so royally roiled Republicans in both chambers over the course of the last couple days?
BLITZER: Yes. Let's see what they say when they emerge from this meeting. Phil Mattingly, you're standing by. We'll get back to you. Thanks very much.
Let's bring in our analysts. And Rebecca Berg, how does all this bode for some sort of deal within the next day or two or three, potentially, to stop this policy of taking these kids away from their moms and dads?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, Wolf, the public pressure that we are seeing, the backlash against this family separation policy, and against the zero-tolerance policy of the administration more broadly, might make a deal more likely.
We're seeing Republicans caving to the political pressure. They're recognizing that the popular support, as our CNN polling has shown, is not there to continue this policy. And so they're looking for some sort of solution.
But one of the main questions that is going to be answered over the next few days is what does the solution look like? Are they only able to bring out something narrow, something that addresses this policy and maybe a few other items? Or are they looking at a broader immigration solution?
It's not clear right now that they are going to have the votes for either this moderate leadership solution or the more conservative version that Goodlatte is pushing in the House.
But the political pressure has been building, and we've seen Republicans acknowledging that. For example, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee coming out and saying that the president needs to address this problem.
BLITZER: Yes. They need to fix it and fix it quickly. Samantha Vinograd, I want you to listen to this exchange I had with the acting ICE director, Tom Homan, in the last hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM HOMAN, ACTING DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: It's simple: 8 USC 1325. Illegal entry into the United States is -- it's a crime. It's a misdemeanor first offense, 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 their children because they chose to violate the --
BLITZER: But you said it was a misdemeanor.
HOMAN: The first offense is misdemeanor.
BLITZER: OK, so for a misdemeanor, you're separating parents from their kids?
HOMAN: We're enforcing the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Sam. What's your reaction?
VINOGRAD: My reaction, Wolf, is that this is indefensible. And it's pretty telling that the administration sent a career law enforcement officer to speak with you to try to explain a policy that doesn't make any sense.
And let's just be clear. This policy is not just going to impact children on the southern border. It's going to impact children all around the world. I remember a time not too long ago when the United States was a leader on children's issues, was a leader on advocating for children.
And now we're in a position where the United Nations is calling our own actions unconscionable. And we have absolutely zero credibility going anywhere around the world and fighting on behalf of children. And that is going to have a lasting impact.
BLITZER: David Swerdlick, this is how the president is framing this sensitive issue. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under current law, we have only two policy options to respond to this massive crisis. We can either release all illegal immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America, or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options: totally open borders or criminal prosecution for law breaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But that's not necessarily true, David. Before this new policy was announced and began to be enacted in April, most of the undocumented immigrants who went through what was called the civil court system, not the criminal system, so they could at least stay with their children.
This is -- this is a new strategy, a new policy by the administration, as they themselves say, to deter people from crossing the border illegally.
SWERDLICK: A new policy, one announced publicly by Attorney General Sessions at the border in April. The president frames it that way, Wolf, because he wants to make it
seem like his hands are tied, it's a very simple situation, and they have no good options.
But as you point out, they could amend the law quickly. They could do it tonight. They could do catch and release, which is what the Obama and Bush administrations did before them.
And for people who say, "Well, look, then you're letting people go into the interior, never to be seen again." But when you're talking about kids, you have to weigh, if you're a member of Congress, what's the better option?
[18:35:04] Or they could direct people to ports of entry, as they say, to make these asylum claims, and they will have judges determine whether they have valid claims or not.
That is our system. We're a country of laws, not a country that just lets people willy-nilly decide at the border what's going on.
BLITZER: Phil, you know, let me read to you what the president tweeted this morning about all of this. Quote, "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."
What does it say when the president uses words like "they want -- these illegal immigrants are going to pour in and invest our country"?
MUDD: We've made this conversation, because of the president's questionable leadership, a conversation about law and policy. It is a question of moral imperative.
For a country where we had a president who lost his life, Abraham Lincoln, to say, "I will protect the weak."
We had a president in the 1960s named LBJ who said, "I will protect the weak."
President Bush did something -- the second President Bush, Bush the son, in Africa, underreported. "I will protect the weak," with incredible support on AIDS funding for Africa.
And now we have a president who says about the weak the following, "Mexicans are rapists. Latin Americans are gang members, and people from black countries are shit-holers."
This is about a moral imperative, and the president has reduced it to a question of law and policy. It is not. It's a question about a country that said, "We are a beacon for protecting the weak," and we failed. That's it.
BLITZER: And Samantha, the president doubled down on that tweet that he had earlier in the day with a statement that he then made. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We need Democrat support. They don't want to give it, because Democrats love open borders. Let the whole world come in. Let the whole world, MS-13 gang members from all over the place, come on in. We have open borders. And they view that possibly, intelligently, except that it's destroying our country. They view that as potential voters. Some day they're going to vote for Democrats. Because they can't win on their policies, which are horrible. They found that out in the last presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So what's your reaction?
VINOGRAD: My reaction is the president has an infantile response every time he's under pressure. He can't just man up and say this was a decision that he made. Instead, he lies. He distracts, and he blames someone else. This is like a child. This isn't like the president of the United States.
And to Phil's point, Wolf, we've heard language like this before. The notion of comparing any class of people to a subhuman category has been seen throughout history to really preface atrocities like the Holocaust. My father survived the Holocaust. And guess what? They compared Jews and other classes of people in Germany to insects and pests and to animals.
And what is really galling here is that the president is continuing this language, and there's no one in the administration that is speaking up and saying enough is enough.
BLITZER: So what's going to happen, Rebecca? Because I know you're well plugged in up on Capitol Hill. You've been doing a lot of reporting on this. Do you see an easing of this new -- this new policy of separating kids from their parents, at least in the next few days?
BERG: Right. So you have heard Republicans, Wolf, talking about pressuring the administration to end this zero-tolerance policy, and trying to find solutions in the meantime to the detention issues.
One thing we heard, for example, from Senator Marco Rubio is detain families together. So come up with family detention centers like we saw, in some cases, in the Obama administration. Don't separate the families while they're awaiting their hearing, while they're awaiting their court date for their misdemeanor charge.
So that is where we're seeing a lot of Republicans at this stage. Where I don't expect you would see Republicans go is saying --
BLITZER: By the way, the president is leaving Capitol Hill right now. Let's -- let's see if -- these are some Democratic congressmen who have shown up. They're blocking. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, don't you have kids? Don't you have kids, Mr. President? How would you like that they took them away?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you meeting go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put them in cages?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you guys like it if they separated your kids? It's wrong. It's not the America we know, and it's not biblical. Where did Christ say that? Show me where.
BLITZER: All right. So you see a handful of lawmakers that are Democrats, protesting the president as he's exiting. We're going to say what lawmakers say as they emerge from this meeting. House Republicans meeting with the president of the United States. He's heading back to the White House. He'll get in that motorcade fairly soon.
How do you see it unfolding?
SWERDLICK: The problem, Wolf, for the president all week and the moral problem here is that you have the president -- he and his party control both Houses of Congress and the White House. They've put a policy in place. And they're dragging their feet on solving the problem.
[18:40:16] You're talking about children here. And that's why you see this kind of coming to a boil. It's not like other issues where people say, "Well, let's see how this plays out going forward." People are -- people are angry.
BLITZER: All right. You see the president now walking through the corridor up on Capitol Hill. He's going to get closer to the cameras, closer to the reporters.
I just want to listen briefly to see if he says anything as he passes by the pool -- the pool of reporters who have gathered there up on Capitol Hill. He spent more than an hour meeting with lawmakers, Republican House members. We'll see what he says. Let's pause for a moment and listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --
TRUMP: We had a great meeting. These are laws that have been broken for many years, decades. But we had a great meeting. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: The president says, "We had a great meeting." So you saw Kevin McCarthy, the -- the majority leader in the House, escorting the president out of the House of Representatives.
Phil Mattingly is monitoring it.
You've been speaking to individuals who have been inside. What else are you learning about what happened, Phil?
MATTINGLY: Yes, Wolf, members are filing out as we speak. And the honest kind of reality here is members are actually going to the real work. Right now, House leadership is going to be whipping those immigration bills that they plan to consider later this week, with the real question being what the president just did, his hour-long presentation, is that enough to get one of the House Republican proposals across the finish line?
Now Wolf, since we last spoke, I'm told the president, as he was giving his remarks, went heavy on the wall, talking again about the need to get the wall, about the various proposals and deals that have been on the table that have so far to this point come up short, and also making clear, I'm told by one person in the room, that the family separation issue is something that can be addressed if the wall is involved.
What you're hearing, basically, from that, at least, as has been described to me by some members is the president's insistence that this not be a targeted or small solution when it comes to the family separation issue but that it be addressed in a broad immigration proposal.
We've heard this from the White House repeatedly. Obviously, Wolf, we know the Senate, Senate Republicans have been talking about a targeted approach to the family separation issue. The president making clear he wants a broad approach, a broad solution to this. Well, that's what Republicans are going to get him -- give him, at least, an opportunity to get on the House floor on Thursday, depending on where the votes are.
Wolf, I'll say another interesting element of this. We talked to a bunch of members who have come out. And as is often the case, when the president speaks behind closed doors, members tend to hear what they want to hear. I've spoken to some members who believe that the president outright endorsed the compromise immigration proposal the Republican leaders have been working on. I've also spoken to a number of members who said that's not the case at all. He wasn't explicit about what he was endorsing.
Here's what I do know. The president said he's behind Republicans -- House Republicans 100 percent. That's the quote. What he's actually behind and whether or not that's going to change at any point in the next 48 hours, that remains an open question. As I would note, whether the Republicans can get the vote is unknown.
And also what, if anything, will be done to address the family separation issue that, while the president hasn't backed off where he stands, Republicans in both the House and the Senate have made clear they need to do something to address it in the near term, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. We saw that presidential motorcade leaving Capitol Hill, heading down Pennsylvania Avenue, back toward the White House.
It sounds to me, Phil, like the headline emerging is that there's going to be no change in the separation of families policy until there's comprehensive immigration reform, something that passes the House, goes to the Senate. They've got to reconcile whatever these two chambers pass, assuming they do pass something, and then the president has to sign it into law. That could take a while if it happens at all. In the meantime, moms and dads are going to be losing their kids. Is that what you are hearing?
MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, based on members that I've spoken to, both that were in the room while it was happening that have filed out since, there was no impression whatsoever that the administration is going to reverse course. The family separation policy, the zero- tolerance policy, wasn't a primary point. The issue, there was no question and answer with the members.
The focus was on a broad immigration overhaul, not a targeted fix. That is clearly where the president's mind is at. That is clearly where the administration is at. The question is, can lawmakers actually deliver that?
Wolf, I think you hit the key point here. That is not just an open question at this point. That seems almost impossible, based on the dynamics we've seen, not just for the last year but for the last ten years when it comes to immigration and how both parties view this issue up to this point, both from an emotional perspective and from a very divisive policy perspective, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. And as -- as the president himself says, you need 60 votes in the Senate, not just 51 Republicans. You need 60 votes to get it through.
One clarification, the president is heading to a dinner with supporters right now, not immediately heading back to the White House. More on the breaking news right after this.
MATTINGLY: That is not just an open question at this point. That seems almost impossible based on the dynamics we have seen not just for last year, but for the last ten years when it comes to immigration and how both parties view this issue up to this point, both from an emotional perspective and a very divisive policy perspective, Wolf.
[18:45:08] BLITZER: Yes, and as the president himself says, you need 60 votes in the Senate, not just 51 Republicans, you need 60 votes to get it through.
One clarification, the president is heading to a dinner with some supporters right now, not immediately heading back to the White House.
Much more on the breaking news right after this.
[18:50:05] BLITZER: We're back with our analysts.
And, Phil, I want to play this change I had in the last hour with the acting director of ICE, Tom Homan. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is this new zero tolerance policy that the president has supported, that the attorney general announced, is it humane? TOM HOMAN, ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: I
think that, I think it's the law. It maybe the law.
BLITZER: Look, it's the policy, but is it humane?
HOMANS: I think it's the law and I'm law enforcement, 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 kids smuggled into this country. That's inhumane.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
MUDD: Well, you know, he's a senior government official. He's got two options. One, say yes, it's humane, and go home and take down every mirror in the house because he's never going to be able to look at himself again. Number two, he says no, it's not humane. You violate the principle you can't embarrass your boss on cable TV and he goes back and he gets fired.
He's got to go home tonight and figure out not only whether I want to represent the policy of the United States, but something I never remember witnessing in all my years in government. He's got to go home and say if something violates my moral imperatives, what do I do? What's my next step?
BLITZER: He's got 34 years, Samantha, as at law enforcement officer and he couldn't simply say yes, it's humane. You heard that pregnant pause twice.
VINOGRAD: And the silence is telling, Wolf. Who can say this is humane and we heard Secretary Nielsen, we've heard Kellyanne Conway. And now we heard this gentlemen indicate that these conditions are so humane and cite what's going on there.
Would they put their own children in these places? Can they answer for the fact there are children sleeping under runner's blankets? I worked with the U.S. fund for UNICEF. I know a lot of us are trying to organize to get these children what they need. These conditions are not humane and that's exactly why he couldn't answer the question.
BLITZER: You know, but, David, he just left this meeting with Republicans. Looks like the policy is going to stay in place until there's comprehensive immigration reform, unlike in the Senate where Republican leaders say they don't want it. They want to end it right away.
I didn't get the impression based on the reporting so far that he got a similar statement from House Republicans.
SWERDLICK: No. Quickly, Wolf, earlier, I said that Session announced this policy in April. It was actually in May. My mistake.
In terms of the president, he made that one comment on his way out saying, look, this has been in place for years. He's been the president for a year and a half. Regardless of what has come before, he won the election. His party controls both houses of Congress. It is on them to either fix it or keep this inhumane policy in place and, of course, it's inhumane.
They want them to think it's part of a bigger issue, but clearly, this is something that could be fixed right now if they wanted to.
BERG: And I think we need to remember, Wolf, that the president is the one who could fix it. This doesn't have to be done by Congress. Congress can address the detention issue by overturning the judge's ruling that families should be separated, but the president could address the zero tolerance issue with one phone call and he's trying to pass the buck off the Congress because he sees what this has become.
BLITZER: He clearly doesn't want to make phone call. At least not yet.
All right. Guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead, Kim Jong-un in China trying to get more mileage out of his summit with President Trump.
[18:56:18] BLITZER: New tonight, Kim Jong-un is taking part in another high level summit, meeting with China's president in Beijing. The North Korean leader is looking to seize the momentum a week after his historic talks with President Trump.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now.
Brian, Kim is taking an increasingly prominent role right now on the world stage.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is, Wolf.
Kim has just made his fourth trip abroad in the past three months after not venturing outside his own country for his first six years in power. Analysts say this is a highly choreographed attempt by Kim to normalize himself in the eyes of the world.
Kim's reality, of course, is that he's not a normal leader, but experts say as Kim and President Trump try the seize the momentum after the summit, Kim appears to have the early advantage.
TODD (voice-over): With the fanfare of the state visit, Kim Jong-un consults in Beijing with his closest ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping. This comes just a week after Kim's groundbreaking summit with President Trump. CHRIS JOHNSON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES:
Obviously, he's there first and foremost to brief Xi Jinping on the outcome of the summit. But, of course, since he flew to Singapore and back on a Chinese plane, you can bet that the first call he actually made on his back to North Korea was to brief Xi Jinping.
TODD: Kim's transformation from a veritable recluse to a globe- trotting statesman has been stunning. During his first six year in power, he never left North Korea. In the last three months, he's taken four trips, three of them to China.
Tonight, both Kim and President Trump are trying to seize the momentum from the Singapore summit. Analysts say, early advantage to Kim and his Chinese partner.
JOHNSON: They've struck first blood by meeting first. So, we'll have to see what happens in the aftermath, but I think it's fair to say that the U.S. and its allies are discombobulated, in somewhat of a disarray and the Chinese are taking advantage of that to seize the momentum.
TODD: The Chinese and North Koreans have the momentum experts say because they've successfully gotten the U.S. and South Korea to suspend their joint military exercises without giving up much yet in return. That decision by President Trump initially took his allies and his own military by surprise.
China could also be helping North Korea out by dialing back enforcement of sanctions against Kim's regime. One veteran diplomat says the fact that Kim has not yet had to make specific commitments to give up his nuclear weapons shows Kim may now have all the cards.
EVANS REVERE, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT IN SOUTH KOREA: This was the equivalent of having your wallet, your watch and your shoe laces stolen.
TODD: But tonight, President Trump is trying to seize some momentum himself, demanding credit for at least starting a dialogue with a dictator whose aggression many believed was out of control. Trump tweeted, quote: If President Obama who got nowhere with North Korea, had gotten along with North Korea and made the initial steps toward a deal that I have, the fake news would have named him a national hero.
Some analysts agree.
REVERE: Six months ago, we were talking about the possibility of a military conflict on the Korean peninsula. We are no longer in a situation where the topic of the day is, is there going to be a war on the Korean peninsula? So fair enough, let's give the president credit for that.
TODD: Still, sources tell CNN tonight there's nothing indicating that North Korea has begun destroying its missile launch sites despite President Trump's claims to the contrary and Mr. Trump's claims that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. Analysts say Kim Jong-un could be holding out for more concession from the U.S. before he starts destroying those missile sites -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lot of work still needs to be done. Brian Todd, good reporting as usual. Thank you very, very much.
And that's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.