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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Detained Children Cry Out For Their Mom and Dad; Interview with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York; Interview with Dr. Colleen Kraft; Emails Suggest "Zero Tolerance" Effectively On Hold, Despite What Trump Administration Says; States to Sue Trump Administration Over Forced Family Separation Policy. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired June 21, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
We begin tonight with political and policy confusion and the children suffering as a result of it. Yesterday, President Trump signed that executive order to solve a problem that he himself created. Some 2,300 kids taken from their parents in the border now scattered to all corners of this country.
He promised it would end family separation. Then we were told it would not apply to the kids already in custody. The ones who had been separated and later that it would and today on Capitol Hill, more confusion from DHS secretary.
Asked about how families will actually be reunited, she said there was plan in place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have a plan to do that. As you know, we do it on the back end. So, a combination of DHS, DOJ, HHS reuniting as quickly as we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, keep them honest, though, her answer seemed to refer to current procedures, which required parents to call government hotlines to locate their kids. She also appeared to be referring to the thousands of unaccompanied minors in custody, not the recently separated 2,300 kids.
Now, as for them, we've got no clear plan nor apparently has the Department of Health and Human Services. A spokesperson telling CNN they are, quote, awaiting for their guidance on the implementation of the executive order.
So, mixed signals on the implementation and mixed signals as well on the meaning of the order itself, even from the man who signed it. Here is how the president described it yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's about keeping families together while at the same time being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border and border security will be equal, if not greater than previously. So, we're going to have strong, very strong borders, but we're going to keep families together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's about keeping families together. He said yesterday, unless, of course, it isn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I signed a very good executive order yesterday but that's only limited. No matter how you cut it. It leads to separation ultimately.
(END VIDE OCLIP)
COOPER: So, it leads to separation ultimately.
Just as a point of fact, the president appears to be referring to the court settlement requiring children accompanied by parents to be released from custody within 20 days. It's not entirely clear that he was, though. If he was, he seems to be ignoring the fact as a former acting ICE director told us last night that this does not have to lead to family separation.
Yet the president now calls it inevitable, this thing he started three months ago and yesterday claimed he was ending. And if you're head is not spinning already, listen to Attorney General Jeff Sessions today on the practice followed by his thoughts on it just last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It hasn't been good and the American people don't like the idea that we're separating families. We never really intended to do that.
If your smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you. And that child will be separated from you probably as required by law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, today he said we never intended to separate families. Previously, he indicated they did intend to do just that.
And if that isn't confusing enough, there was this -- the first lady leaving to visit migrant children down in Texas, making a compassionate visit wearing jacket with these words on the back. I really don't care. Do you?
Now, she did not wear it in Texas, but had it on when she landed back in Washington. And she kept it on at the White House as calls poured in to the White House about why the first lady might be wearing a coat with the rather large, seemingly insensitive sign on the back. Her press secretary said and I quote, it's just a jacket. There was
no hidden message. OK.
But then a couple hours later, late today, the president contradicted his wife spokesperson tweeting that oh no, there actually was a message intended in the sign. "I really don't care, do you?" written on the back of Melania's jacket refers to the fake news media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are and she truly no longer cares.
Really? That was the message? OK, but remember, this was the trip to unveil this? That message? Was this really the best trip to unveil that message?
I mean, who exactly came up with that idea? Because the first lady of the United States was making a trip to the border in the midst of a crisis in which kids had been ripped from their parents arms, a trip designed to show compassion and caring and she's wearing a giant sign that says I really don't care, do you?
Then the White House says there's no message to it. It was just the coat she happened to grab off the rack, and now, the president's claiming it was actually a meta statement about the media. I was going to say you can't make this stuff up, but you know what, every day, it seems like the White House sure does try.
It's worth remembering that at all the center of this noise, all this confusion, all the politics and posturing, the confusion and outright dishonesty are 2,300 kids -- 2,300 kids are now scattered across the border region and the entire country having endured the kind of trauma we first heard on that recording which had such an impact for so many people -- audio of a child at a detention center crying out for her parents.
[20:05:06] Today, we found the mother also incarcerated. You'll hear from her in a moment.
But first, some of that audio of her child obtained by "ProPublica".
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BORDER PATROL AGENT: Where are you from?
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: El Salvador.
BORDER PATROL AGENT: And you?
UNIDENTIFEID CHILD: Guatemala.
BORDER PATROL AGENT: Don't cry.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: I want to go with my aunt --
BORDER PATROL AGENT: You're going to get there. Look, she will explain it and help you.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: At least can I go with my aunt? I want here to come --
I want my aunt to come so she can take me to her house.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, joining us now is Rosa Flores from the facility where the mother of one of those children is being held.
So, you spoke to a Cindy Madrid for about 45 minutes today I understand. How was she doing?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, she's described -- she's in despair, she's depressed, she's paralyzed with pain because she says that she misses her daughter. Here's what she told me.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CINDY MADRID: Please help me reunite with my daughter soon. I'm desperate. I want to see her. I love her and that I miss her so much. And that I hope to see her very soon, God willing.
We've always been very close, her and I. We've shared everything, together.
She's very fun. She's very charismatic. She likes pets. She likes having fun.
She is very intelligent. She is very loving.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
FLORES: And, Anderson, Cindy also says that her daughter has never been apart from her mother. They've never separated since birth. This is very tough for this woman.
COOPER: Rosa, at the facility Melania Trump toured today, the manager there said that the children in his facility are able to talk to their parents by phone for 10 minutes twice a week. Is that across the board at all these facilities? Have Cindy been able to talk to her daughter?
FLORES: You know, that was one of the astounding things about this conversation with this woman because despite what the administration has said and the Cindy was describing how they were watching television when President Trump signed that executive order and all of these women in his facility started cheering and crying and thinking that things were going to change, that they're going to be able to talk to their children. But that was not the case.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MADRID: I have not once talked to her. I've been talking to the social worker, but she only took my information because she said my daughter was in an activity. She told me to call at 5:00 p.m.; but my call was not answered. To date, they haven't answered me. Not one time.
Imagine, all these days without knowing anything about my daughter, without talking to her, without seeing her. Without any information about anything.
It's maddening because at the every moment I ask myself, how is she? Has she eaten? Are they taking care of her? Do they shower her? It's maddening not knowing anything about her, you know?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
FLORES: Now, Cindy shared that phone number that immigration gave her with us. So, during our interview we tried that number twice and here's what we heard on the other end of the line. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, it's (AUDIO DELETED) worker at (AUDIO DELETED). I'm not in at the moment. Please leave a message with your name, number and the name of the child that you are calling for. Thanks.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
FLORES: And, Anderson, this woman said that she's not the only one. Most of the women that she knows in this massive facility are just like her. They have not been able to communicate with their children.
COOPER: Rosa, I understand that Cindy Madrid said she had a message for the first lady. What did she say?
FLORES: You know, I was actually doing the interview with her when the news broke about Melania Trump landing in the Rio Grande Valley, visiting a separate detention center. So, I asked her about the first lady's visit and here's what she said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MADRID: I would hope that she would help me. I think she understands what it's like to be a mom. Perhaps she has never been separated from her children; but she understands that one would give everything for one's children.
(END AUDO CLIP)
FLORES: And, Anderson, I was also able to talk to Cindy's sister, so this little girl's aunt and she says that she actually was able to talk to the little girl and the six-year-old she said that is very worried about her mother, asking her aunt if her mother had eaten, if she was still in detention, if her mother had had her detention hearings.
And then processed this with me -- this little girl, her wish about leaving detention is she hopes to take a shower at her aunt's house, according to her aunt.
[20:10:07] And she says that she wants to buy and eat as much cereal as she can -- Anderson.
COOPER: Rosa Flores, I appreciate the report. Thank you.
As we said, children taken from their parents are now spending their nights not just apart from them but sometimes several thousand miles apart, approximately here in New York state. Today, New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo visited one such facility in the New York City area. He joins us now from Albany.
So, Governor, the facility that you tour, what were you able to see and what were you actually able to find out about the kids there?
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Well, Anderson, the -- first, it's a hodgepodge to use a word. I think what happened is when they started the zero tolerance policy April 7th, that triggered -- once they decided to arrest the parents, that triggered the problem of whether you put the children because the current law says you can't detain the children. And HHS then has been in this scramble ever since sending children all over the country as we well know.
We have a very large force, the care system in the state of New York, so we wound up with many of the children.
Basically today, the young people we spoke to, they're basically traumatized. They're in limbo. They showed up at the border with their parent. They were all excited. They were going to America.
Salvadoran running from MS-14, Guatemalan running from a dangerous condition, they get to the border and they are separated from their parent immediately. They're shipped to a state they've never heard of. They can't speak the language.
Your point about contacting the parents is very different, it depends where the parent is and what detention center. We have one young person who's been there for several months only spoke to a parent once.
But they're traumatized. Many of them have psychological issues. They have anxiety. They have depression. Many of them are on psychotropic drugs and under the care of a psychiatrist.
And they don't know what's next. They don't know what's going on. Are they seeking asylum? Are they going to be sent back? And much of this started in April/May, as soon as the zero-tolerance policy went into effect.
And, look, this is either gross government incompetence, unparalleled, or it is the most disgusting political display we've ever seen, right? It's one or the other.
COOPER: What's --
CUOMO: This was either a debacle.
COOPER: What's --
CUOMO: In any event --
COOPER: Go ahead.
CUOMO: -- you have 2,300 children. I'm sorry. In any event, for me, you have 2,300, 2,500. Who even knows what the number is?
I tried to get HHS, Health and Human Services, to tell us how many children were in the state today so I can provide help. They won't even tell me. I don't know that they even know.
But in any event, you have 2,500, 2,700 young people being used as political pawns, traumatized and this is a trauma that can last them a lifetime.
COOPER: What --
CUOMO: It really is that kind of traumatic situation.
COOPER: What I don't understand is, you know, when General Kelly was head of Homeland Security, he was publicly raising this idea of separating families, you know, when he was running it.
They -- you would think if they were talking about it back then, at the very least, they would have had a lot of time to kind of figure out the -- where kids would go, to figure it out, and it wouldn't be, to use your words, such a hodgepodge. I mean, did the workers at the facility you were at, that they seemed have guidance as to what was actually going to happen next? Or how these kids would be reunited or what the next step was?
CUOMO: No, they had no idea.
But, Anderson, it's what you said. April 7th, they put in the zero tolerance policy. We're arresting everyone. We're tough. We're strong, strong borders.
The law says you can't detain children. That triggers the children having to be sent somewhere else. The president does the executive order yesterday.
The headline is president reverses himself. He didn't reverse himself. The executive order is a sham. A reversal is a 180. This was a 360, this was a political pirouette. He wound up just where he started.
The executive order says the attorney general must go renegotiate the Flores decision, which is the decision that guides the fact that you can't detain juveniles. The attorney general hasn't even started that, and good luck. The Obama administration tried to renegotiate Flores and they couldn't.
[20:15:02] Today, they say, we're going to set up camps for 20,000 family detention -- you can't do that either under the Flores decision. So, none of it makes sense. None of it follows the law.
And I think what this is really about is making a robust political statement. We're strong on the border. We have an infestation, and that the children are the pawns in this national debacle.
COOPER: And it's not going away anytime soon.
Governor Cuomo, appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
More now on the trauma the governor just spoke of because there really is no overestimating how wrenching it is for these kids. We all remember the fear as young kids of being separated, even momentarily from a parent.
Joining us now is Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Kraft, I mean, the governor was talking about the trauma these kids are going through in detention centers. There's also the trauma, I imagine in the many unknowns of when and how they'll actually be able to be reunited with their parents. It's one thing to be separated. It's another thing to not really know what the future holds.
DR. COLLEEN KRAFT, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: Absolutely. And so, the kids who can tell you that they're traumatized are telling you this and acting out and we're seeing anxiety and depression and all kinds of other problems. The kids that I've seen were the really little ones who some of them are pre-verbal and all they know is that that one foundational relationship in their life has been taken away from them.
And they either externalize their behaviors. They become aggressive, crying, screaming, or they internalize them and they become withdrawn.
COOPER: It's also, I mean, Doctor, talk about the first two to three years of life and a child's development has pretty much the most important, you know, immediate span of time. If you have kids who are pre-verbal, you have little children of that age being separated from their parents there's no telling what that does to a kid for the rest of their life, just in terms of their own development.
KRAFT: Absolutely. So, the brain develops most rapidly between birth and three years of age and that's when we want positive experiences and positive relationships to build that brain architecture correctly. And what's happening with these kids is that the trauma is causing something we refer to as toxic stress where their fight-or-flight hormones are staying high in their system and that actually keeps them on red alert all the time and disrupts their brain development, disrupts their ability to speak to gross motor/fine motor movements to develop relationships from here on out.
COOPER: The fact that the president's executive order is allowing for these families to be reunited, but that they may be held together possibly indefinitely or even if they don't pass -- if they don't alter this, the Flores settlement, within 20 days, they could be separated again.
KRAFT: So, after the president's executive order, the question we have is now what? So, when are these families going to be reunited? When are these children going to be reunited with that foundational relationship, that parent who loves them?
And where are they going to be kept? Are we going to have them in a place where they'll be retraumatized again? You know, where is the action now that this executive order has been has been declared?
COOPER: You visited one of these detention centers. Can just described a little bit about what you saw, what you heard? I mean, are caregivers there able to touch them, to console them?
KRAFT: So, what I saw was in one of the tender care shelters, and it was a very homey environment. There were appropriate books and toys and blankets and things there for the children to keep them clean and fed.
But when you walked into the toddler room which should be a den of activity and noise and a rambunctiousness, you had several very quiet little toddlers who were just looking at you frightened. And one little girl who was just sobbing in the middle of the floor and couldn't be consoled, the workers who are in the room were trying to help this little girl out they were giving her a book and a toy, but they couldn't distract her and they weren't allowed to hold her or touch her.
So, this child was really in a great deal of pain and the rest of us felt so helpless because we knew she needed her mother and we couldn't give that to her. And I mean, I guess you know the reason they're not allowed to touch a toddler or an infant is for, you know, the preventing kind of abuse, at the same time, the idea of a child not being -- getting any kind of affection is -- I mean, it just -- it's kind of stunning.
KRAFT: It's sad and I don't know what or where or why this policy exists.
[20:20:00] But I saw this in action happening on the day that I visited.
COOPER: Dr. Colleen Kraft, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
Just ahead, the message that wasn't a message until it was. New reporting on how the White House is handling the outcry over the first lady's sign on the back of her jacket today.
Also later, breaking news, something you'll only see here. Exclusive new evidence at the confusion and chaos surrounding the president's executive order.
COOPER: The first lady today visited a child detention facility in McAllen, Texas, by all accounts, it went well. However, those headlines were eclipsed by this -- the words on her jacket, "I really don't care. Do you?" which we showed you at the top of the broadcast.
She wore it going up the stairs on her way to Texas, then was wearing again when she landed. Now, keep in mind, it was 81 degrees today in Washington, and she's
wearing a full-length jacket. As we mentioned at the top, her spokesperson's claim that she wasn't sending a message was actually then contradicted late today when the president himself tweeted about it.
Just remind you, here it is: "I really don't care, do you?" written on the back of Melania's jacket refers the fake news media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are and she truly no longer cares.
CNN's Dana Bash on the other hand truly does care about the story behind all this. She joins us now, along with CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers.
So, Dana, first of all, you hear the president's explanation which obviously contradicts the first lady's own spokeswoman. Let's just stick through the other possible ways of interpreting this jacket -- either tone-deaf or trolling directed not at the news media but rather somewhere else or a staff who either couldn't or wouldn't raise a red flag beforehand or perhaps a combination of all three.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a combination of all three is the more likely of those scenarios, and then there's just what we don't know, which is obviously a lot.
What we do know, Anderson, as you very eloquently pointed out, that this was no question intended to send a message. And the irony of this is that the message was -- had a code that has been so hard to crack that even the staff in the West Wing and I guess the East Wing, the first lady's staff, have had mixed messages about what the coded message on his jacket could be.
I mean, it would actually be comical if it weren't about the first lady completely stepping on the message that was supposed to be the one of the day, her going down and being the only person at this senior level from the Trump administration to see firsthand what is happening with some of the children.
[20:25:13] No, it wasn't one of the most, you know, one of the tender- age facilities, but it certainly was and is one where there are children who are in need, illegal immigrants who were brought over, many of them came -- most of them came over unaccompanied, but some of them -- about a handful of them were separated from their parents.
BASH: The one other point I want to make is that just by way of knowing that this was a big deal inside the West Wing among people the president and his staff, Melania Trump when she came back wearing that jacket again knowing on the plane full well that this was a big thing came back and walked to the president's office, to the Oval Office, along the colonnade which by all accounts does not happen. She doesn't go and visit the Oval Office when she got when she gets back.
And Jeff Zeleny, our White House correspondent reports, that she heard from a source who saw her in the Oval Office right upon arrival with Kellyanne Conway and Mercedes Schlapp and she was still wearing the jacket having a discussion.
COOPER: Kirsten, I mean, it's crisis management 101 to not distract from your core mission. I mean, if you're on a journey of care, a visit to show you care, to wear a giant sign that says "I don't care", it's -- I do not -- I literally thought it was a joke, I thought someone had, you know, put that up on Twitter and sort of you know doctored it or photoshopped it.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, but I think this is their core message that they don't care, that she would go down there and do this it tells us everything that we need to know. I mean, she's officially the Marie Antoinette of this administration that should just say, let them eat cake. That is literally the message he is sending, that they just don't care about what's happening there.
And again, it was -- it was -- I was in Washington this morning. Nobody's wearing jackets, first of all. Second of all, this is a woman who spends a lot of time very carefully picking out what she's going to wear. She's very fashionable. This was not an accident. This was intentional.
So I think -- then the president tweets out, well, it was all about the fake news, which also just again shows that they don't care if that's what it was about because -- I'm sorry, but it's a much bigger deal what's happening there on the border with people who really haven't broken the law contrary to what we're being told. They're seeking asylum, that's not illegal. There's no reason to be locking them up without their children, this is not how it was handled in the past.
So, I'm just going to take it at face value and just say Melania doesn't care. I mean, I don't think we need to overanalyze it.
BASH: Well --
COOPER: Dana, what's interesting about this though is in the -- her spokesperson's initial statement in which is said, look, there was no message to it, the last line in the statement was something along the lines of -- you know, I hope you don't make this is a story about what she's wearing implying how stupid it would be for the media to be focused on what she's wearing.
But I mean, again, she's wearing a giant sign that says "I don't care, do you?" going on a mission that's supposed to show how she cares, and then the president takes the time -- the most important person on the planet -- takes the time to craft some sort of a tweet coming up with some belabored explanation, that's what he's spent time doing today.
BASH: Right. Well, exactly and it's the basic notion that her spokeswoman initially said, it's just a jacket. There's no message. And then her husband, the president sends a tweet which is -- you know, just absolutely not believable in the least, saying that she was trying to say that to the -- to the fake news media.
I'm not so sure that if this is a Marie Antoinette moment, I think that you're right, Kirsten, to sort of try to take it at face value and maybe we are overanalyzing it. But with Melania Trump, because she does use her wardrobe so often to send messages, not as blatant as this that were actually scrub -- you know, written in paint on the back of a jacket, but things like the pussy bow after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out, or the big white hat or the white outfit around the Me Too Movement, she was sending a message, and she was wearing it in Washington with her back turned towards Washington.
So, my sense is that she was trying to send a message to somebody in Washington and it backfired.
POWERS: But grow up. I mean, I'm sorry, how old is she? This is like high school stuff. We're talking about -- we were just listening earlier to children crying and stopping for their parents --
BASH: You're absolutely right.
POWERS: And she's like a teenager literally, like this is something a teenager would do, although honestly, a teenager that was a child of a president would not do this typically. So, she needs to grow up if that's what she's doing and she needs to talk to her husband and work things out, because people are going to see this around the world. I mean, how does this feel to people who are watching this and, you know, seeing this and they've been separated from their children and this is what she thinks is the most important thing?
COOPER: I also think -- I know, we're going to -- we're going to stop this first. But I also think if you do the experiment of had another former -- another first lady done this in the past, had Michelle Obama gone to a disaster or crisis wearing I don't care, do you, or Laura Bush, I mean, people's head would explode, or Hillary Clinton, the idea that, you know, people are probably on the Republican side, the President reporters are going to, you know, bash the media for reporting on this even though the President devoted crucial time today that -- to talk about this make up an explanation.
Dana, Kirsten, thanks.
Up next, there's breaking news why the President's zero tolerance for those across the border illegally, may not actually be the case. Government e-mails obtained by CNN now suggest.
Also ahead, reaction to the confusion over the separated children from a Democratic senator who is seeing some of this crisis up close.
COOPER: We have breaking news. We have more evidence of confusion and disarray over President Trump's executive order on immigration. The administration is saying loudly that the zero tolerance border policy continues, whoever e-mails exclusively obtained by CNN seem to say otherwise.
CNN Justice Correspondent Evan Perez joins us now with more. So what exactly do these e-mails reveal? Where are they from? What they say?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, confusion is really the picture that emerges. Ty Copeland (ph) our colleague here in Washington obtained these from inside customs and Border Protection Agency and it really shows that there was some instructions are being sent from headquarters to the field officer of CDP telling them that they were to suspend referring adults, people who showed up, parents who showed up with their kids and were caught crossing the border. And they were supposed to suspend sending those people to the Justice Department for prosecution. Essentially neutering the policy of no -- the policy that the administration says was still enforced. However, we are now learning that there were additional e-mails going around saying perhaps one parent and then there were no parents that would be sent. So it looks like inside the customs and Border Protection Agency, yesterday and today, there's been some confusion over whether or not one parent or two parents or no parents were to be sent over to the Justice Department for prosecution. Anderson.
[20:35:17] COOPER: I mean, that's counter to what the Justice Department told reporters just today, right?
PEREZ: Right, exactly. They said that no tolerance policy is still in force. The Justice Department issued a statement saying that there's been no change that the department's zero tolerance policy to prosecute adults who cross our border illegally instead of claiming asylum at any port of entry at the border. And The Customs and Border Protection Agency also said "The border patrol will continue to refer for prosecution adults who cross the border illegally."
Now, in practice, Anderson it looks like for now at least the guidance that's being put out to field offices is don't refer people to the Justice Department for prosecution if they are caught crossing the border with their children.
COOPER: All right, Evan Perez, thanks very much.
All this is adding up to outrage from some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Earlier I spoke with Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley who toured a detention center in Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Senator, are you clear to what's happening right now with regards to family reunifications and the current policy on the rest of the border?
SENATOR JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, I have fear like they are sensitive (ph). And that is that the President has not laid out a strategy for reuniting the more than 2300 kids who have been separated from their parents and he is replacing one policy for future families. That is the family separation policy that afflicts kids with another policy that afflicts kids, which is handcuffs for all. Don't just put the parents in jail. Put them all in jail.
COOPER: Is there any evidence at this point though that the White House, the Justice Department helping human services and Homeland Security that they are all on the same page, they're communicating well? MERKLEY: Well, there's a lot of evidence that they are not communicating well because after we heard the administrator of children and family come out last night and say that no one is grandfathered then we heard a bit of a walk back of that. There's chaos right now. But what I'm looking for is a clear strategy to quit hurting children and quit using them, the pain of children as a strategy of deterrence. That's immoral and so far the President doesn't get that.
COOPER: It also seems to me based on the Florida Settlement that if the Trump administration doesn't get favorable ruling in federal court that allows them to detain families together for more than 20 day, which is the current limit that kids can be in custody that they could go back to separating families again, 20 days from now.
MERKLEY: Well, that's right. And here's the thing. What the President is proposing is equivalent of internment camps during World War II we locked up Japanese, American families together. That was a dark spot in our history. And creating internment camps for those seeking asylums, the escaping persecution would be another horrific dark spots. So I don't -- I hope the court doesn't grant it. They shouldn't grant it because the original decision was about doing what's right for the health of the children and here is a President wanting to overturn a strategy that supposed to be good for children with one that isn't good for children.
COOPER: As we mentioned before, I mean the Attorney General Sessions said today that the administration never really intended to separate families. That contradicts what he said just the last month when he publicly warmed migrants that they would be separated from their children if they cross illegally and that others in the administration talked about frankly as a deterrent as part of the policy. Do you understand the contradiction? I mean?
MERKLEY: Absolutely. When -- everything we've read about the discussions that were held with the chief of staff, with the secretary of homeland security, with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, it was all about how do we deter people from coming to America and how do we inflict this chaos on the families, this injury on the family, to deter families from coming here. And for him to come out now and say that wasn't the intention at all is absolutely absurd because it's the argument that he made and he made it publicly.
COOPER: On Twitter, the President questioned whether Republican led House should even bother to pass an immigration bill because it would need some democratic support to overcome a potential filibuster in the Senate. But doesn't says that Republicans in the House aren't even in agreement on the immigration bill which is presumably why they postponed their vote until tomorrow. Is there any bill you can see passing the House and the Senate at this point?
MERKLEY: Well, it's hard for me to imagine. But let's turn the clock back to 2013, the Democrats and Republicans got together. Four and four, a group of eight and they've forged the bill that was security at the border which is what the President wants now, with security for people overstaying, their visa which is another important pieces of puzzles, it address visas for high-tech community and for the agricultural community.
They said, let's use security to borders and visas and restore a structure of law and treat people with dignity and decency. And so that passed overwhelmingly in the Senate. It had a super majority.
[20:40:12] And the only reason it didn't become law is that the Speaker of the House wouldn't put it on the floor of the House. So there is a foundation there that we could turn to for an immigration bill. But then we have to undo the harm that the President has done to the DREAMers and their families and the harm that he is inflicting on those pursuing asylum in the United States.
COOPER: Senator Merkley, I appreciate your time. Thanks.
MERKLEY: You're welcome, Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Since I had conservation with the senator, word came postponing a vote on immigration until next week.
Coming up next, how the man in charge of this during the last administration responds to chaos today.
COOPER: Well, tonight's breaking news speaks to confusion within the administration about the President's executive order. He said yesterday the zero tolerance policy remains. Government e-mails now seem to indicate otherwise yet amid all the confusion President Trump as you've heard likes to blame his predecessors for the immigration crisis today. Earlier, I spoke with Judge Johnson who served as President Obama's Homeland Security Secretary during the second term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Secretary Johnson, someone who has dealt with this issue under President Obama, what's your reaction to the administration's zero tolerance policy as well as this executive order the President signed yesterday?
JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECURITY SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Anderson, thanks for having me on. Experience shows -- my own experience shows, that perceived changes in immigration enforcement policy do have a reaction. They have -- at best have a short term affect on illegal migration. But so long as the underlying conditions in the countries from which the migrants are coming continue to exist, illegal migration going to continue to exist, and so that's what the 2014 experience, my three years as secretary showed and so we looked at doing a number of different things. We embraced a number of different things. Some of which I freely admit were controversial. But the one thing we would not do is separate children from their parents when they got to the border.
COOPER: Attorney General Sessions now saying that they never intended to separate kids. It's the opposite of what he said last month. I mean, this administration did talk about this as a deterrent. It doesn't seem like this administration can get their story straight much less this policy?
[20:45:02] JOHNSON: Well, Anderson, I have to say that a sure sign of the weakness of a policy, lack of confidence in a policy is when you can't simply get your story straight to explain what you are doing and why.
COOPER: President Trump has said that images in detention affect everyone. And he's also said the images of children in the Obama administration were worse saying that there was a double standard. Does he have a point, because I mean, there was criticism in the way that the kids were handled under the Obama administration?
JOHNSON: Well, very clearly, illegal migration is a fraction of what it used to be 18 years ago. You did in fact see images very plainly from 2014, 2015, 2016, women and children in border patrol facilities after their apprehension. There's no denying that. I saw them in person myself on the numerous trips I made to south Texas to address this problem.
COOPER: The President is also been critical of the legal process when releasing someone or releasing a family saying that it's not realistic to expect them to return to court for a date that could take many months or even longer. I'm wondering what your reaction to that is. Because yesterday, last night I spoke to John Sandweg, the former acting ICE Director who said that could be addressed by using things like ankle bracelets, monitoring like that. It's actually cheaper and has been effective in the past?
JOHNSON: Without a doubt this is a problem. Migrants not returning to court when they are released, a number of deportation orders are issued in absentia, which is why one of the things we try to do when we had the families coming in is to expand family detention. But even with the expanded detention, a number of migrants are still released. I think we need to do a better job of making informed decisions about who is a risk of flight and who is not. This is a real issue and we cannot have a system of catch and release. We are a sovereign nation. We have to secure or borders, and so we just simply cannot have a situation where people are apprehended, released, they don't return to court and they know they're able to do that. That's effectively undermining your own boarder security efforts.
COOPER: So what's the solution? I mean, you're saying detaining families together, more judges so this is processed quicker?
JOHNSON: Well, plainly, we need more immigration judges. And I hope that Congress will continue to fund more immigration judges. We're about 350 now. And the lack log among those 350 judges is enormous. It goes back years. But again, and this is something --
COOPER: It's the President who said that there were thousands of them and that's not the answer, clearly thousands of them?
JOHNSON: 350 is the number. I know we're trying to get up to somewhere in the fives. But I think that there are a lot more needed. But again, and this is something politicians in Washington don't do very well. We need to make the longer term investment in addressing the underlying push factors. It's basic human nature to flee a burning building and take your family with you. And that's ton amount to what we're dealing with in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The push factors there are enormous.
COOPER: Secretary Johnson, I appreciate you being with us. Thanks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There's a lot more news ahead tonight but first a quick check with Chris to see what's coming on Cuomo Prime Time. Chris.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, "CUOMO PRIME TIME: You know it's interesting to listen to Jeh Johnson there, Anderson, because what does that tell us? The legal problems and the practical problems have existed for some time. How to deal with them have always been a problem to hear former secretary Johnson say, you know, we can't do catch and release but that was a big part of the Obama policy, something that Trump campaigned against.
Now how he determines to show strength has got us in all this trouble. We're at the white board because we start with this executive order which was supposed to fix things. And we'll going to take you through how it created more and more open issues. Some of them may be intentional on the part of this administration betraying what they really want the policy to be and we'll take you through it and we have Corey Lewandowski, who's wound up in the middle of this mess, we'll take him on as well.
COOPER: All right, we had 11 minutes from now. Chris thanks very much.
Coming up, all the ways the current immigration chaos resembles another mess, another controversial policy.
[20:52:10] COOPER: Washington State Attorney General Ben Ferguson today, along with a number of other state attorney generals said he will file a lawsuit challenging the administration's policy of forced separation of kids and parents.
We should note that it was general Ferguson who filled the original lawsuit against the Trump administration's Muslim ban. He joins us now, along with CNN's Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
So Attorney General Ferguson, or Secretary Bob Ferguson, Attorney General Ferguson, I mean in announcing your intention to file a lawsuit, you call the policy separating kids and family is rogue and cruel. What makes it unconstitutional, though, in your opinion?
BOB FERGUSON, WASHINGTON STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sure. Thanks so much for having me on, Anderson. I appreciate it. There's two buckets of claims here, which we often have as we have challenged the administration 27 times in court. One, there is statutory claims. It's our view for example that the administration is violating federal law. When someone seeks asylum and comes to port of entry at the United States, what we want them to do, what we're getting reports on from our own investigation is that United States officials are saying to folks, no, we're full, and sending them away. That does not follow our asylum laws or federal laws.
We all have group claims or constitutional claims, due process, equal protection, those are important. The executive orders signed yesterday does not grandfather in the more than 2,000 kids that have already been separated from their parents. Federal law, constitutional law says there's a very strong desire to have families intact. The government cannot separate a family unless they have a compelling interest. We don't think that compelling interest is anywhere close to being shown in the situation here.
COOPER: You intended to file the suit before yesterday's executive order, correct?
FERGUSON: That's correct. We've been preparing for this now for some weeks, we are set to go for Thursday. Executive order came out yesterday. So we did stop to take a close look at that executive order, to re-evaluate our case, to make sure we still thought we had a strong case. And we do feel that way. But we'll adjust our complaint a little bit. That's why I'll be filled here in the next couple of business days.
COOPER: Jeff, I mean, do you agree, has the Trump administration violated due process of rights of parents and kids by separating them?
JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I should know better than to be skeptical of the attorney general who proved me wrong about the travel ban but I am skeptical of this case because the President has extremely broad powers when it comes to the issues of immigration. And also individuals -- especially individuals who are not legally in the country have fewer rights at the border.
I mean, all of us know that when you cross the border, you could be searched. You can have search and seizure, which people can't do within the United States. And I think the policy may be unwise. It may be cruel. It may be wrong. But is it unlawful for the President to approach -- to pursue this policy? I'm skeptical.
COOPER: Attorney General Ferguson, I mean, as Jeff mentioned you also challenge the administration on a different executive order, the travel ban, do you see any similarities between that executive order and this one, if only in how little preparation seems to have gone into them before they were kind of signed and rolled out?
[20:55:04] FERGUSON: Well, you both raised good points. Jeff is correct the President have a lot of authority in issuing executive orders and making decision from immigration. Jeff and I had this conversation as he mention for the first travel ban. The clear point here, though, is that authority is not unlimited. The President still has to follow the constitution. To your point, Anderson, yes, there are parallels to a hastily drawn-up executive order this one is reminiscent of that first travel ban.
We think there are holes in it and lastly think I'll say yes, I filed 27 lawsuits against this administration. Nine courts have reached decisions in those cases, or 9-0. We haven't had one federal judge in any of those cases ruled against the state of Washington on the merits yet. And I do not plan for this case to be the first.
COOPER: Jeff, I mean, the Justice Department is now seeking to modify the federal court order that limits the ability to detain kids for 20 days or longer than 20 days. What are the chances of that actually happening, Jeff, in your opinion, because they're essentially asking the judge in California to get the Trump administration maximum flexibility to detain families?
TOOBIN: Well, I think one of the many problems with the executive order is that it's based on the premise that they will succeed in overturning this consent decree which is known is Flores which says that parents and children or children, even if they're with their parents, can't be held longer than 20 days. I don't see why the federal judge would say what reason do I have to allow you to hold children for longer than 20 days? That was the whole point of this lawsuit. I have ruled. You have agreed that you will keep it to 20 days. What good reason is there to extend it? So I think the administration is going to be back in a lot of trouble when they lose their effort to overturn this.
COOPER: Yes, Jeff Toobin, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, it's good to have you on, thank you very much.
Up next, some sad news to report tonight on a writer and thinker who made us all think harder.
COOPER: Some sad news tonight, Charles Krauthammer leading conservative intellectual, who'd been a columnist for the Washington Post for 30 years if died. He was 68.
Krauthammer won Pulitzer Prize for commentary 1987 and National Magazine award in 1984, earlier this month he told readers that he only had few weeks to live because of an aggressive form of cancer. I leave this life with no regrets, he wrote. It was a wonderful life.
Thanks for watching 360, time to hand it over to Chris. "Cuomo Prime Time" starts now. Chris.