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Cohen Willing to Talk; Asylum Seekers' Journey; Families Still Crossing Illegally; Tech CEOs Condemn Family Separations. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:31] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has told friends that he is, quote, willing to give investigators information on the president if that's what they want. The move signals his increased isolation from President Trump and the length it appears he's willing to go to protect himself and his family. He's also set to hire a new lawyer to handle a possible indictment from federal prosecutors that are investigating a number of his business dealings.

Our national political reporter MJ Lee is here with more.

So we'll get to his new attorney and legal representation in a moment, but what are you learning about his increasing willingness to cooperate?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, we're just learning a little bit more about Michael Cohen's thinking right now as he is under criminal investigation, as he faces the possibility of an indictment. And when he's fully aware that investigators have millions -- literally millions of documents and things that they have taken from this raid earlier this year, as he thinks through what is best for him and his family, he has shown an indication that he wants to potentially cooperate with investigators if that proves to be the best thing for him. And a part of the thinking, we are told, is that he's thinking about whether that route (ph) will involve offering information to -- about Donald Trump to investigators if they want it.

Here's what a friend of Michael Cohen's told CNN. They said, 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, the context here, of course, Poppy, is that Michael Cohen is angry at Donald Trump. He feels like he has not had his back in public. You've heard trump going out there and saying, you know, this is not someone I've talked to in a long time. He didn't do a lot of work for me. Another friend said that he feels let down and isolated by Trump. So this man who has famously said that he would take a bullet for Donald Trump --

HARLOW: Right. LEE: I think the question now is --

HARLOW: Well --

LEE: Is he going to remain loyal?

HARLOW: And, in April, the President Trump -- the president tweeted a long tweet and in it he said, you know, Michael Cohen would never flip, basically.

LEE: That's right.

HARLOW: The new legal representation, do we know who it is and what it would indicate?

LEE: So, Michael Cohen is planning to hire a new lawyer. His name is Guy Petrillo. Again, may not have signed on the dotted line yet, but this is the plan for now we are told.


LEE: In the '90s, Petrillo was the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and more recently he was the head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. So he's a very experienced trial lawyer. He has worked on a lot of high profile cases and clearly this indicates that there has been a shift in legal strategy and it could signal once again that Michael Cohen is at least thinking about the potential of cooperating with investigators.

But I should note, and this is important, he has not been charged yet.

HARLOW: Right.

LEE: And we don't know right now if investigators even want to strike a deal with him. So, again, we're just sort of reading the tea leaves here. But, at the very least, we know that Michael Cohen is taking all of this very, very seriously.

HARLOW: MJ Lee, thanks for the reporting, as always.

Ahead for us, top Republicans calling on the attorney general to halt the family separations at the border, but will Jeff Sessions listen? A former U.S. attorney general joins me next.


[09:37:41] HARLOW: As outrage grows across the country and across party lines as children are separated from their parents at the border, our Gary Tuchman has been doing extensive reporting on what the families who are seeking asylum right now are going through. Watch this.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is the first full day in America for Roberto and his son Oscar. How do they feel? Very good, very good, Roberto says. Father and son are from Guatemala and have just had their asylum interviews by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents in Nogales, Arizona, and have made it past the first step to stay in the U.S. They say they left Guatemala because of violence and poverty. They're still fearful and don't want their faces shown.

Roberto says they were robbed on the train on the journey to the U.S. He says machetes, bandits on the trains. They had machetes and guns. They took my money and my food.

They waited in Mexico for eight days. They waited in this line in Nogales, Mexico, for two days, camping out, before they got called in for what Roberto calls a police interview. An interview that could have expelled them immediately from the U.S., or allow them to proceed to future court proceedings.

TUCHMAN (on camera): How long did you talk to them?


TUCHMAN: Ten minutes first.


TUCHMAN: And then 30 minutes. The second interview.

TUCHMAN (voice over): And what kind of things was he asked during the interviews? In addition to questions about violence in Guatemala, he says he was asked, did your president, your government, your police send you here? I said, no, I came here out of necessity.

This is where father and son are now staying. The Casa Alitas, a house run by Catholic Community Services in Tucson, Arizona.

DIEGO PINA LOPEZ, CASS ALITAS: So we help them figure out the bussing and the processing, understand more of the courts and what it means to have those ankle monitors.

TUCHMAN: Indeed, Roberto and all the adult asylum seekers here have ankle monitors to keep track of their whereabouts. Roberto's first court date has been sent for July 2nd in Mississippi, where he will be staying with a friend. He says he will attend.

Dennis is here with his daughter, Nicoli (ph). They came to Nogales, Mexico, from Brazil out of economic necessity, he says.


[09:40:02] TUCHMAN: What I have been told at home, he says, is that life in America is 1,000 times better.


TUCHMAN: Eleven-year-old Nicoli says I want to study medicine and become a doctor. Dennis' court hearing is on July 3rd near his friends home --


TUCHMAN (on camera): In Boston.

TUCHMAN (voice over): The initial court hearing is a first step in a lengthy process. They could still get sent back to their countries, but both men say they're optimistic.


TUCHMAN (on camera): You're happy to be here?


TUCHMAN: Happy for your son? OK.

TUCHMAN (voice over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Tucson, Arizona.


HARLOW: Gary, thank you so much for that reporting.

This morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is defending the policy of separating children from their undocumented immigrant parents as they try to cross the border. In an opinion piece in "USA Today," Session argues the Trump administration wants a safe, lawful system of immigration. And in response to the children taken from their parents who come over the border, undocumented, illegally, he writes, these children are well-cared for. In fact, they get better care than a lot of American kids do. They're provided plenty of food, education in their language, health and dental care and transport to their destination city, all at taxpayer expense.

With me now is former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. He served under President George W. Bush.

Thank you for being here this morning.


HARLOW: Do you agree with Attorney General Jeff Sessions? Is that an accurate assessment that they're treated better than American kids?

GONZALES: Well, I do agree with General Sessions with respect to wanting safe and lawful immigration policies. As to whether or not these kids are treated better than American kids, I certainly hope that's not the case.

Listen, I think the main issue here is trying to find a way to keep our borders safe. We have an obligation as a nation to control our borders, to know who's in this country. But surely the greatest country on the face of the earth can do this in a way that doesn't separate children from their parents any longer than necessary to ensure that those people that are dangerous or criminals are not allowed into our country. HARLOW: And just continuing on that, that the assertion that Attorney

General Sessions made, that these kids are being treated better than some American kids. The reporting we have -- look, we don't have cameras in these holding facilities, these centers, because they're children, right? But the AP, "The Associated Press," has had reporters inside, especially in the tender age shelters we're learning about this morning that are holding infants, babies, toddlers, and they say, yes, they're fine, they're clean, they're safe, but what they've also witnessed is these children, quote, hysterical crying and acting out with no idea where their parents are.

Is that something that although lawful should be occurring in this country?

GONZALES: I don't believe so. And I think many people have spoken out expressing, if not outrage, certainly concern about -- about this policy. And so I'm hopeful that the administration will take action on its own, which I think they do have the discretion to do something about this. But short of that, certainly long-term, I think -- I'd like to see Congress take action to deal with this. And this is a way that should be dealt with on a permanent basis is through legislation.

HARLOW: So, I mean, so here's what the administration is saying. You've got the current acting director of ICE talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN just yesterday. Here's this exchange.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Is this new zero- tolerance policy that the president has supported, that the attorney general announced, is it humane?

THOMAS HOMAN, ACTING IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT DIRECTOR: I think -- look, I -- I think it's the law. As a law enforcement -- it may be the law --

BLITZER: It -- it -- no, look, it's the policy, but is it humane?

HOMAN: I think it's the law and I'm a law enforcement officer and I must follow the law.


HARLOW: Isn't there a way to enforce the law, General Gonzalez, that's also humane?

GONZALES: Oh, I -- again, I think in this area, in this arena, I think there's a great deal of discretion within the executive branch in terms of how they -- how we secure our borders, how we -- how we vet and process people trying to get into this country. And I think most Americans would agree that, yes, we need to have control of our borders, but surely we can do so in a way that doesn't penalize these kids, which is what we're doing.

You know, I can understand punishing the parents, the adults who are coming into this country unlawfully, but let's not do -- let's not do that by punishing the children. And I think their -- I think most Americans have a serious issue with that.

HARLOW: You were attorney general for President George W. Bush until 2007. You know what the 2008 law that was signed, you know what that is and how that was supposed to work and be implemented. Is this how it was all supposed to play out?

GONZALES: Well, again, it's all a question of discretion. And I do believe there is discretion here to allow the administration to do its job in processing individuals, to do so in a way that protects children who may be accompanying these adults. And I think this is, quite frankly, a policy that represents sort of the self-inflicted wound in the administration, but it's one that they can correct and it's certainly one that Congress can correct.

HARLOW: Right.

[09:45:20] GONZALES: And let's just hope that that will happen very soon.

HARLOW: There is a new lawsuit that is going to be filed in a matter of weeks according to the governor of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo. And in it, his assertion is that this separation that we're seeing happen violates the constitutional rights held by these undocumented immigrant children and their parents.

With your legal cap on, do you believe there is merit to that lawsuit given what the courts have ruled about the fact that some, even undocumented immigrants, do hold certain constitutional rights once they step foot in this country?

GONZALES: Well, I suspect the governor will be able to find a federal judge that may agrees with him. But I do believe that the government can make an argument that certainly for a short period of time it would be appropriate perhaps to separate the children from an adult for the safety of the children or in order to ease the processing, the valuation, the investigation as to the merits of the claim of the parents and the family. But, you know, as to what ultimately might happen, you know, it's just hard for me to predict.

HARLOW: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, thank you for being here with me today. Appreciate it.

GONZALES: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Of course.

As outrage continues to grow over the separations, one big tech company is taking a stand, going as far as providing legal aid to families affected. We'll have details on that ahead.


[09:51:07] HARLOW: Despite families being separated, many are still taking the risk of crossing the border illegally, undocumented.

Ed Lavandera is in the border town of Reynosa, Mexico. Ed, can you just tell us what you're seeing there, what families are

telling you on the ground?


Well, this is a migrant shelter. A couple of them are open here in the town of Reynosa, which is just across the border and south of McCallum, Texas. This is a shelter called Hacienda de Vida (ph). It's been here 18 years.

And we were just talking to the pastor who runs this particular shelter and he says, you know, things have changed quite dramatically here over the last few days.

This is basically breakfast being served to many of the migrants who are here this morning.

I had a chance to talk to them. There were these three women over here to your left of the screen who are from Central America, one from Honduras, one from El Salvador, one from Mexico and we were talking to them. They told us that they have been trying a number of times to cross the bridge, the port of entry here in Reynosa, to get into south Texas, but they have been turned away by border agents there standing in the middle of the bridge.

But what is interesting, and as the administration has said off and on for the last couple of weeks is that they hope that this zero tolerance policy is a deterrent. And that's the very question I posed to them, Poppy, about that they have been turned away. One of their husbands is -- he's been detained by border patrol and is still in custody on the other side of the border despite all of that, despite the news that they're hearing about the possibility of being separated from their children. They say that they're here. They have been here for weeks and that they'll continue trying to figure out a way to get north of the river.

And what is really interesting, a kind of perspective here, Poppy, when you look out the window of this shelter, literally just beyond this tree line is the Rio Grande. So just to kind of give you a sense of scope of just how close all of this is unfolding here along the southern border between Mexico and Texas.


HARLOW: Ed, thank you for the reporting. Thank you for being there on the ground to show us that side of it. We appreciate it.

Tech CEOs, big company tech CEOs condemning this publicly. Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with more.

You're talking about Uber. Some huge names.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, even more names than that. Goldman Sachs on the list, Apple, the Chamber of Commerce coming out and saying this is not who we are as a country. This should stop immediately. Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, saying it's heartbreaking to see the images and hear the sounds of these kids. I think that's what's happening is inhumane. It needs to stop.

Jamie Dimon, who runs the business roundtable, that's the big business lobby, these are influential voices. He calls it cruel -- cruel to do this to parents and it's contrary to American values. So one after another, you're seeing tech companies, some of them offering money for legal advice for some of these immigrants at the border. You have others who are saying -- Lift, for example, saying it will give free rides to any of the groups that are providing relief to these folks at the border.

HARLOW: Microsoft.

ROMANS: Microsoft, about a hundred employees at Microsoft wrote this impassioned letter saying they wanted Microsoft to end a contract it has with ICE, a cloud computing contract, because they say they don't want any of their talents to be used for wrong. And those tech professionals, some of them at Microsoft, said that they felt that that technology should not be used for wrong and that what is happening at the border is wrong.

It's corporate America taking a stand again.

And, Poppy, I know that in the beginning of our business reporting careers, companies just cared about shareholder value.

HARLOW: They would never speak out about this.

ROMANS: They would never speak out about this kind of stuff because they didn't want to alienate anybody. But now they really have been speaking out on issues like gay marriage. I think that really opened the door for companies to say that they can have capitalism with conscience, climate change, gun control and now on immigration, one after another. So many companies are now coming out against the president's policy here to separate families at the border that I can't even put them all on one screen.

HARLOW: Does it move the needle for the president? I mean this is the CEO businessman president.

ROMANS: I don't know.

HARLOW: Have we seen from history that he's taken this into account when they speak up?

[09:55:01] ROMANS: It didn't on the Paris Climate Accords and climate change, remember?

HARLOW: Right. Yes.

ROMANS: And, you know, there's an there's an internal debate with many of these CEOs because they want to be able to have an open line of communication with the president, to tell him what they're thinking. But at the same time, they don't want their employees to be upset --

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: By being seen as too close to the president --

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: On some of these issues that their employees may be against.

HARLOW: Romans, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: Good to have you. Appreciate it.

Still ahead, in just moments, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will take questions after the president's meeting with Republican lawmakers last night. Stay with us.


[09:59:59] HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

This morning we start on Capitol Hill, where at any moment we do expect to hear from Republican leadership as they scramble to find votes on an immigration compromise.