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DOJ Drafting Executive Order To Address Family Separations; Trump: Will Sign Executive Order To Keep Families Together. Aired 12:30-1pm ET

Aired June 20, 2018 - 12:30   ET


[12:30:05] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- to the Supreme Court. Yes, John?

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Thanks for inviting us up on these important issues, and for having this important discussion certainly on immigration, but also on trade. And the context that I want to make sure we talk about is, we've made incredible progress on tax relief, we've made tremendous progress on regulatory relief, and it's reflected in our economy. Now, if we can do the same thing on trade, think what that means for our country in terms of economic growth, in terms of jobs, in terms of getting wages moving higher, and the impact that has for all Americans.

So we have to look at in that context. When we talk about trade, it's on top of tax relief, regulatory relief. And now, if we can get the right policies in place on trade, think what that means for our country.

TRUMP: Well, we're doing very well on trade, I will say. We've been really hurt as a country on trade, for many years. Despite bad trade deals, we're doing very well. And now we're making very good trade deals. Well, you'll be seeing that. They'll be announced pretty rapidly. We already have a couple that are made. But we're making great trade deals.

And honestly, we need people coming into our country. You know, we have a lot of companies coming into our country, Chrysler just announced. We have Foxconn is going up to Wisconsin, as you know, and a great company. They make the Apple iPhones and laptops and -- unbelievable company. We need people. We need people that work for these companies because they're coming in at a number that nobody ever thought possible.

So we want people to come into our country, but I think I can speak for everybody at the table. We want them to come in based on merit. We want great people that will be great for our country. And we want them to come in based on merit. We're going to need those people because we have so many companies coming to the country.

John, you were going to say something?

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: To your point, America is the most generous country in the world when it comes to legal immigration. And I think we ought to draw a very clear line between legal immigration that benefits our country --

TRUMP: Right, absolutely.

CORNYN: -- and illegal immigration, which is a threat to public safety. I just wanted to make the one point. I agree with what Tom Cotton and others have said, what you've said, about being able to enforce the law and keep families together. It's not a mutually exclusive choice. We can do both. And I'm confident we will achieve that goal.

But I just want to point out that, coming from a border state, like Mac and I do, the border -- the illegality along the border is a complex problem because it is -- as somebody pointed out, it's commodity agnostic. In other words, they said it's people, it's drugs, it's weapons. And you talk about an opioid crisis in the United States, it's not just prescription drugs; it's heroin that comes from Mexico.

TRUMP: Right.

CORNYN: So this is a very complex situation. We need law and order along the border. Everybody agrees with that. We need to be compassionate in the way we handle these families. But it's important to remember that larger context, because the cartels and the criminal organizations that benefit from this, they're just making a lot of money and keeping this situation very dangerous for everybody involved.

TRUMP: And, John, in many ways, they're using the children and always -- they're using the children as a ticket --

CORNYN: Absolutely.

TRUMP: -- to getting into the country. And we have to remember that. You know, there's a number of the 12,000 children; 2,000 are with the parents, and 10,000 came up with some really horrible people, in some cases. You have the coyotes, you have the traffickers -- the human traffickers -- not only drug traffickers, but you have the human traffickers. And they use these children as passports to get into the country. So we have to work on that, too. It's a very complex issue.

It has been going on -- you shouldn't feel guilty, because it's been going on for many, many years. Many, many decades. But we're going to solve that, along with a lot of other problems that we've already solved. We're doing well at solving problems.

You know, when I became President, we had North Korea; we had the Iran deal, which was no good. We had lots of problems with trade and bad trade deals. There are a lot of things that we've solved and we're solving that, in theory, I shouldn't have had to solve. These are things that should have been solved for a long time. Even on trade.

We should have never allowed our past leaders -- should have never allowed China to get to a point where there's a $500 billion trade deficit with the United States. When they went up, we should have gone up. We should have gone up together -- not where you allowed one to get so far ahead. And that includes the European Union and it includes many others. Shouldn't have happened.

So, we came at a time where there were plenty of problems to solve, and one of the big problems is immigration. And I hope that within not too long, you know, a distance -- and I mean beyond just one problem of immigration. You can mention the word comprehensive, or you don't have to use it. A lot of politicians don't like the word comprehensive immigration reform.

[12:35:08] But I really think we have an opportunity to redo the whole immigration picture, and that's what I'm looking to do, ultimately. But right now, we want to fix this problem and I think we'll be able to do that.

Does anybody else -- David, do you want to say something?

SEN. DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: Well, Mr. President, you know, the last year and a half has shown an absolute turnaround in this economy. I mean, we were faced with eight years of 1.9 percent economic growth. We focused on, as John said, regulation, energy, taxes. This year, we've put a Dodd-Frank bill, a bipartisan bill, and we freed up a couple trillion dollars.

And what this administration has done is freed up $6 trillion to go back into the economy. This is real jobs, 3.5 million new jobs, 870 regulations reversed. This economy is moving. The rest of world is paying attention.

NATO has doubled their investment in terms of their military spending. We have a new free trade agreement with Korea. We're heading in the right direction. I just hope that we can focus on the priorities right now, within this trade equation, to get equal access. It's not right and Alibaba can do cloud computing in the U.S., and Google can't do cloud computing in China. And that's what this is all about.

We've reduced global poverty by two-thirds in the last 40 years, while poverty in the United States has remained flat. That's not right. And this is moving to change that.

TRUMP: Yes. Jim?

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: I appreciate the fact that you call attention to what's really happening now with the economy, due to two things, the tax bill and the regulations. You know, we're killing people with the regulations. But what hasn't been said around this table, and I'm surprised, the biggest accomplishment from your administration is what you've done with the military.

You know, you succeeded a President who had a policy that said you can't do anything with sequestration, with the military, unless you do it with the non-defense. And we changed that. We had to vote for a lousy budget bill to do it, but nonetheless, it is changed. We've broken parity, and we're now rebuilding our military.

TRUMP: It's true. The military is really incredible. We're ordering new planes, new ships -- all jobs too. You know, jobs, I would say, in this case is a far second. But we're going to have a military like we've never had before, and it's great. $700 billion approved and $716 billion. And in that budget, $6 billion for opioid. That's an important thing, too.

So a lot of progress is being made.

Mike, did you have something to say? Mike Pence?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. Thank you, Mr. President. And I just -- I know I speak for the President when I express the gratitude of -- the members of the Senate and the House that are gathered -- delivered for the American people on national security and rebuilding our military; on tax cuts and regulatory reform, restoring our economy.

But what the President reiterated again yesterday, and he has said every day from when he sought this office, is we have a crisis of illegal immigration. And as the President made clear, we don't want families to be separated. We don't want children taken away from parents. But right now, under the law -- and we sit with these lawmakers -- we only have two choices before us. Number one is, don't prosecute people who come into our country illegally, or prosecute them and then, under court cases and the law, they have to be separated from their children.

What I want to be clear about is we're calling on these lawmakers, Mr. President, not just to solve this problem in a way that affirms our commitment to law and order and compassion, which we can do. And there are proposals in the Senate and proposals in the House to do that. But the President's vision, articulated in his State of the Union address, was let's solve the whole problem. Let's build a wall, let's close the loopholes, let's solve the problem for 1.8 million people that were brought into this country through no fault of their own, and let's deal with law and order and compassion with this issue of family separation at our borders.

And I would say, with great respect to the members of Congress, as the House considers legislation tomorrow and the Senate is considering legislation, the President has postponed the Congressional Picnic -- we're calling on Congress to act. Let's roll our sleeves up, let's work the whole problem. Let's end this crisis of illegal immigration.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Does anybody else have anything to say? Because I think we're pretty much -- yes, Adam.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Mr. President, thank you. And just from the House perspective, I want to say -- and as a still- currently serving Guard member -- you're my Commander-in-Chief -- there has been a marked difference in the security and the good feelings in the military. They understand that we're investing in them again, even though we're asking them to do a lot.

And secondly, security plays a big role. So that includes border security. And the bill that we're going to bring up, and hopefully pass in the House this week, fully funds the border and takes care of all these issues. And I hope the House can pass it. And I wish Democrats would join us, because frankly, it's a lot of stuff in there that they like, too. It's an 80 percent issue. Unfortunately, I think they like the politics of this a little better.

And I also want to say, we really wish you didn't take Secretary Pompeo from the House, because he did a great job. He's doing a great job.

[12:40:10] TRUMP: He's doing a great job. He is doing a great job. Thank you, Adam, very much. Appreciate it.

Anybody over here? Yes.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R), WYOMING: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to echo particularly what Chairman Thornberry and Senator Inhofe said in terms of the change that we've seen -- and Adam as well -- the change we've seen in terms of resources for the military. We got to make sure we don't have another C.R. for the military.

TRUMP: Right.

CHENEY: And we are working hard in the House. We're hopeful we're going to pass defense appropriations bill next week in the House. And we need to make sure that that gets taken up and passed in the Senate, and that we don't give you another omnibus-type bill that we get a straight defense appropriations bill passed and taken up. And that will be critically important to continue the work you've done to rebuild the military.

TRUMP: Thank you, Liz. And say hello to your father, please.

REP. CHENEY: Thank you.

TRUMP: Great guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell Adam to shave.

TRUMP: He looks good. Handsome guy.

So thank you all very much. We appreciate it.


TRUMP: We are. We're looking to keep families together. It's very important.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you signing an executive order?

TRUMP: We're going to be signing an executive order. We're going to also count on Congress, obviously. But we are signing an executive order in a little while. We're going to keep families together, but we still have to maintain toughness, or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don't stand for, that we don't want.

So I'm going to be signing an executive order in a little while before I go to Minnesota. But at the same time, I think you have to understand, we're keeping families together, but we have to keep our borders strong. We will be overrun with crime and with people that should not be in our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you accept a standalone bill addressing the family separation issue?

TRUMP: We're going to see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, did the images of those young children at the border change your mind on this?

TRUMP: Yes. They affect everybody. Those images affect everybody. But I have to say that you have double standards. You have people that want absolute security and safety, and you have people that do look at the children. And then you have people like me, and I think most of the people in this room, that want both. We want the heart, but we also want strong borders, and we want no crime.

We don't want crime in this country. We don't want people coming in. We don't want people coming in from the Middle East through our border, using children to get through the lines. We don't want that. We're doing too good a job to allow that to happen. So we're not going to allow that to happen.

Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Nothing. This has been going on for -- when you say what took long -- this has been going on for 50 years, longer. This has been going on under President Obama, under President Bush. This has been going on for many, many years. We're going to see if we can solve it. This is not something that happened just now.

You look at the images from 2014. I was watching this morning, and they were showing images from 2014. They blow away what we're looking at today. And that was not during this; that was during the Obama administration. I saw images that were horrible. And you know the ones I'm talking about because I'm sure you all saw them too.

We are going to see if we can solve the immigration problem like we've solved so many other problems. And I think we'll get it done.

Thank you very much.


TRUMP: Thank you all very much.


JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: You've been watching a remarkable 24 minutes, the President of the United States in the cabinet room at the White House with Republican members of Congress, almost all men as he went around the table. Going around the table to talk about other subjects, because the President frankly didn't want all of the attention on what is a major administration about face. The President saying he will sign an executive order, reversing a policy implemented during his presidency to separate families at the border. The President saying he wants to keep families together, that he will act on this, the very same President who implemented this policy.

A lot to discuss there. Is the President again to run a lot ways (ph) to the fact check machine. You will break it.

But let's go first to our Abby Phillip at the White House. Abby, you were in this room. The President clearly did not want all of the attention, at least when the tape played, on his reversal. But the central defining story in Washington today will be the President's remarkable about face. After just last night telling members of Congress he wasn't going to act that way.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And the White House has been saying all week that they can't do anything about this problem. They've been saying that Congress has to deal with it. This is now the White House changing their tune and deciding that the President is, in fact, going to do something. But what's interesting about this potential move, and again, we don't know exactly what the President is going to sign, but it's likely going to mean that the President is going to allow families to stay together, but perhaps stay together in detention.

Now, there is a court case, the Flores decision, that prevents children from being held for long periods of time in any kind of detention or prison like setting.

[12:45:06] So the real question is, is this really triggering a legal fight? Is this triggering a legal battle down the road? Is this creating a whole new set of problems that the administration will then have to deal with?

At the same time, the Congress is deliberating on ways to act. But this is ultimately about the White House looking for a way out of a series of big problems for them. These images had been politically toxic, not only for the President, but also for Republicans. He was getting a lot of heat from his members of his own arty. And the problem is really difficult. You heard him say it there.

He doesn't want to look weak in this environment. And so this is what they are doing in order to look strong in some way. But I think that it raises a lot of questions about what this actually means for families at the border. And whether this will actually be a solution, a long-term solution or even a near-term solution given that there is already -- there are already court decisions out there dictating what can happen with these children and whether or not they can really be held in these kinds of environments.

KING: And to Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill on that very point. Phil, it sounds very much like Abby's reporting there, what the President said, the administration, the President will sign something, the executive action giving him the justification, but it even sounds like that they are worried about losing on legal grounds. And it's a stop gap measure hoping Congress will step and then give the President legislative authority. When we talked before we heard from the President, you said that the top members on Capitol Hill knew little or nothing about this. Have they been briefed during the last 25 minutes or so?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still waiting to hear specific details, at least according to the ones I'm talking to. An interesting development just sort of last couple of minutes, though, John, a group of House Republicans, including House Republican leaders, are actually headed over to the White House right now, that's according to two aides, who have been failed in on this.

What I'm told is they're going over to talk about the immigration proposals that they will be voting on tomorrow. Obviously, as we all know at this point, House Republican leaders are pushing for that broad immigration overhaul bill that they helped negotiate to pass. We know from their whipping effort last night and their conversations this morning that they're well short of the votes to actually pass that bill. It appears that they'll be some conversations related to trying to kick members across the finish line on that at the White House in short order.

I think the interesting element is, one, that bill deals with family separation. But it didn't have a clear path forward in the Senate. So I think there's a lot of questions right now what the incentive is for members to actually vote for that bill. It will be interesting to see if a lobbying effort, particularly in the wake of the president's kind of unclear support of the bill last night in his closed door meeting will actually help that process going forward.

Look, we talked about this earlier. I think the biggest deal right now when it comes to Republicans in both the House and the Senate as it relates to the executive order the President says he's going to sign, it's a pressure release valve. There was no clear way out here. There was no clear legislative path forward here and there was just clear frustration concern and just kind of general unease about everything that was going on up here.

The President looks like he's about to relieve Republicans of that. The big question now is, does this take any incentive to do anything legislatively off the table? And the answer to that is probably yes, but the counter to that is not totally sure the incentive was actually there to get something done in the first place.

KING: All right. All the more so to button it up if the President asks, as we now expect, even though he said yesterday he did not want this, for stand alone legislation to give him the authority to detain families together at the border. If you pass that stand alone bill, then the President -- then can you then come back to a second bill and can you pass that stand alone bill? Will the Democrats go along because they think they have some political gains right now? And then the idea that you're going to pass sweeping immigration reform, I'm sorry, we've been having that conversation for more than a decade in Washington.

MATTINGLY: Yes. The latter just isn't on the table right now. You add in whether it's a midterm year or not, just the dynamics of this issue, the emotion that surrounds it, the repeated failures we've seen over the course of the last decade. Plus, that's not really there, despite what House Republicans are going to try and do tomorrow.

I think on the former, it's really interesting, because the small board tailored proposals all kind of attack the same issues the President is trying to do unilaterally right now, in terms of the Flores consent decree, it's worth noting that that was actually put in place as an idea or a way to protect children that were in federal custody, and to limit how long they can actually be held. I haven't talked to a lot of Democrats that want to see that done away with or preemptive in any way.

So the idea that a small board tailored proposal could actually work that does anything other than just require the Justice Department to reverse its zero tolerance policy, which I think would also be complicated on legal grounds, you're not going to see a lot of Democrats come on board. You mentioned the politics in this as well, you saw Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer say explicitly yesterday, legislation is not the answer, the President can do this himself. They don't want to start down the path of a legislative debate when the President can do it unilaterally.

All of those things being on the table, I don't think there's a path forward at least not based on anybody that I've talked to over the course of the last 24 hours for even a tailored fix right now, which just underscores the reason why the President acting on his own to basically turn back or change his own policy was so necessary at this moment.

[12:50:08] KING: Phil Mattingly on the complicated case on the Hill, thanks.

Let's bring it back into the room. To that point, the President could pick up the phone, call the Department of Homeland Security, say stop. Just stop doing this. Go back to the way it was a couple of weeks ago, stop separating families. He didn't. But he said he's going to sign something, which I take as a way to politically to deflect and blame the Flores decision and say now we're going to act this way and not looking in the mirror and say we screwed this up.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is what it is. And we've heard a little bit more over the past 24 hours what it is going on in the President's mind as these images were playing out, he was noting how bad they were it will politically for him. Even though he is still maintaining that he believes the media was only showing the worst pictures from down the border. But the media is showing the pictures and the government was handing out to him, because in a lot of cases they weren't allowing cameras into those facilities.

But back to this indicative order, the President does not have to sign an executive order to end this policy of separating the families on the border. That is the result of Jeff Sessions announcing they are going to pursue a zero tolerance immigration policy. So they don't have to do this. He could just call Jeff Sessions and end to this without signing an executive order. So that is what he is doing here. So it seems like he is being decisive. He told aides he didn't want this to be some kind of quiet reversal of this policy where he didn't sign anything. Then if he signed something, it looks like he is putting a stop to this. He is finishing it even though this is a problem he created.

KING: A retreat is retreat is retreat, I'm sorry.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I was going to say -- just as -- because this is a fast-moving story as you're talking, it looks as though there is movement to send key administration officials to Capitol Hill. The Capitol police according Ted Barrett are preparing for Mike Pence to arrive on the Senate side, and maybe talk to them about what -- maybe get their ideas on what they're going to do or talk to them about what the President is going to do.

But on the question of what the President is signing, it's an important point to say that it's narrow and that he's just changing the separation of families, which is obviously a huge issue. But he's not changing the overall policy. This is a way to keep the zero tolerance policy going. They want to apprehend -- catch and release is over, which is what he promised, and that's what the base wants. This is a way to keep the aggressive policy, zero tolerance policy on the border going, without the horrible reality, the inhumane reality of what they say the law requires them to do, which is separating families that are apprehended.

KING: And on that, if that's the case, and they can cleanly, ultimately, eventually cleanly get out of this very messy mess that they made for themselves. The President is on much stronger ground politically in the country with zero tolerance. Especially if you think about the Senate map, the context of where the Democrats going to defense on the Senate, you know, I don't think you're going to see the Democratic senator from North Dakota standing up and screaming about zero tolerance.

She will standup and scream about separating families and having street children. So the idea might have politically been strong. Their implementation of it was a disaster, which it's interesting. Our Kate Bennett is reporting that Melania Trump, the First Lady, among those who pushed the President in recent days. We saw criticism from the pope today, criticism from international leaders today. Criticism from fellow Republicans today.

Kate's reporting Melania Trump in recent days has had several private conversations with her husband saying, move on this, you're wrong. This looks bad. You are wrong which did makes this all the more interesting. Here's the President saying he faced a very difficult dilemma.


TRUMP: If you're weak, if you're weak, which some people would like you to be, if you're really, really pathetically weak, the country is going to be overrun with millions of people. And if you're strong, then you don't have any heart. That's a tough dilemma. Perhaps I'd rather be strong, but that's a tough dilemma. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It is a dilemma of his own making.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes. First of all, I think that this meeting here goes in the pantheon of amazing Trump moments in the White House. This is up there with that NRA meeting when they spitballed the gun policy. The meeting with auto execs where he basically announced new tariffs in China.

This shows two things. One, this is Trump on the fly, making policy. This is a Trump White House -- this is the process in the Trump White House. Two, that clip you just showed and the entirety of that 25- minute display was that so much of this is about him, whether -- you know, he talks about immigration in terms of how it affects him. You know, they're talking about, you know, what's more devastating, the pictures from 2014 during the Obama administration or the pictures -- no, no, which is just immaterial.

And, you know, and they're talking about canceling the congressional picnic as an act of leadership in this situation. You know, and so I just wonder how much of this is going to resonate, especially when you're talking about North Korea in the past tense, you're talking about the trade issue in the past tense. He may have a credibility problem at some point.

[12:55:09] KING: He has a credibility problem, but has he solved the Republican short-term midterm problem?

PERRY BACON, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Yes. I think this immediate issue is over for now, I think. Although, people will remember this in November. This is an issue that has galvanized people in a way that I think the issues have beyond on the Charlottesville, the travel ban.

BASH: Two seconds, the idea of optics, we're talking a lot about it, the fact that he had one woman at that table for any conversation is kind of crazy about this issue, about families, at the end of the table.

KING: They rushed this. He wasn't ready to say exactly what he was going to sign. They rushed this. And the fact that you're right, it's a statement about the leadership, those different statements we'd make about the leadership. The Democratic Party has men and women, it's just older. And the Republican Party, you got to see it right there, around the table right there. So the big question now is the details of the executive order.

BACON: And it matters what the actual order says. And now that people are looking carefully on how are the children going to be treated now. Are they going to be detained for indefinitely for long periods of time? It's not a great policy solution the people will be sharing for. So what happens next, separation is bad. Maybe that's the ending. But where the children are in the future and where the girls are being, you know, being held is a big question on the questions to right now. KING: We don't have questions but the biggest thing we do know is a remarkable retreat from a president who does not like to retreat, who will not say he is wrong. But a 180 from the President of the United States.

Thanks for joining us on "INSIDE POLITICS." A lot of breaking news today. Wolf picks up our coverage. More on this after a quick break. Have a great afternoon.