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CNN NEWSROOM

Fate of Separated Families Unclear After Trump Reversal; Trump's Executive Order on Family Separation Raises More Questions; House to Vote on Two Immigration Bills Today; Interview with Representative Dave Brat; Executive Order Ending Family Separations Creates New Chaos; CNN: Cohen Decision On Cooperating With Prosecutors Is A "Moving Target". Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2018 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00] HILL: That's amazing. There you go. That's the power. That's the good power of social media right there.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

HILL: Pleasure being with you today.

BERMAN: Great to have you. I think Alisyn's back tomorrow. Time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York and the president has signed an executive order stopping his own policy of separating families at the southern border but the big question this morning, what is going to happen to the more than 2300 children already taken from their parents, already being held in these shelters without them.

We wish we could show you more inside these shelters. Shelters holding infants and toddlers, but we can't because the government has restricted access for journalists inside. All we have are these images released by the government.

Another big question, what happens on Capitol Hill today as Republican lawmakers battle over two broad immigration bills. Votes just hours away. And right now the path looking more and more ominous for any type of compromise. More on that in a moment.

First, though, let's go to the border. Our Nick Valencia is in Brownsville, Texas, again this morning.

And Nick, it was you yesterday on this show who brought us that extraordinary interview from that member of Congress who was inside seeing these children as young as eight months. What can you tell us today?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I want to start Poppy with this breaking news that we have, a statement released by U.S. border protection, a statement that is the third statement from the U.S. government in the last 24 hours each of which seems to contradict the last. Here's what part of that statement said. "For those children still in

Border Patrol country, we are reuniting them with parents' or legal guardians' return to Border Patrol custody following prosecution." That legs the question, what happens to those that are currently in ICE custody?

We talked to one of those migrants, a Honduran man, who said that even though he crossed a legal point of entry, even though he was asking for asylum, has no criminal history, he was still separated from his 3-year-old child. The Department of Homeland Security was saying that doesn't happen especially if someone doesn't have criminal history. That's clearly not the case.

I spoke to him by phone after being connected to him by the Southern Family Law Center. He's currently in detention in Georgia. His 3- year-old child he believes somewhere in Arizona. He's not sure. This is what he had to tell me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I fled my country to raise my son and help my family, but I didn't think I was going to be separated from him. I feel that I am in danger in my country but had I known, I wouldn't have left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: He says he is also very skeptical about being reunited. I asked him about the president's executive order. He says he'll believe it when he sees it. Right now he just wants to know where his son is.

Meanwhile, we're trying to get inside this facility, Poppy. We've reached out to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. They still have yet to return our calls -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And Nick, just to be clear, we don't know because what Customs and Border Protection is saying about reuniting the families that's contradictory to what HHS said overnight that they're still sort of trying to figure that out, right? And one does not negate the other.

VALENCIA: That's right.

HARLOW: OK.

VALENCIA: And what HHS said late last night contradicts what they had said earlier yesterday evening.

HARLOW: Right.

VALENCIA: So we're trying to get more clarification and you know we shouldn't be surprised if another statement comes out very soon from the U.S. government -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Nick Valencia, appreciate the reporting in Brownsville for us.

Soon President Trump will meet with his Cabinet amid this confusion over what exactly his executive order can do, what legal challenges it can stand up to. The meeting comes as sources tells CNN the president was frustrated that even his political allies were questioning his policies and his heart.

Let's go to the White House. Abby Phillip is there for us this morning. What can you tell us about what this executive order does and does not do?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. Well, President Trump made a complete about-face on this issue of family separation yesterday and the White House put together this pretty hastily written executive order just in the last 24 hours or so and part of it is -- the part of the problem that we're facing here as you just heard from Nick is that so many of these details haven't been worked out.

But here are some of the things that the executive order does do. It does change the administration's policy to say that family reunification is part of what they want to do here but it also says that it's -- they're only going to prosecute -- put prosecuted families together when appropriate. They're going to try to expedite family cases, but they're also seeking the indefinite detention of these families while the prosecution is ongoing and it sets up family detention facilities likely at military facilities, perhaps on military bases, and it doesn't explicitly reunite families.

Now they're trying to work out that last point, to figure out how to get the parents who have already been separated, some of them who have already been deported back together with their families. Children who may still be in the United States, but part of that process also involves adjudicating these cases more quickly.

It's also not clear how quickly that can happen and just this morning, President Trump seemed to indicate that he's actually opposed to the idea of having more judges which could help this process go much more quickly. Meanwhile, all of this is coming to a head on the Hill today.

[09:05:03] House Republicans expected to vote on two immigration bills that the president had been pushing. Both of those bills seem likely to fail.

HARLOW: Abby Phillip, thank you very much.

And let's find out more about both of those bills on Capitol Hill where they stand, what this vote could look like. Lauren Fox is there.

I mean, it goes without saying, little to no chance these aren't even going to pass in the Senate but what are the prospects and what's laid out today in the House.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the race is on to get the votes for that compromised Republican piece of immigration legislation. The conservative bill that Republicans are going to vote on, many lawmakers are identifying that that bill is not passing. So the focus now is on that compromise bill. That is the piece of legislation that the White House had an all-out lobbying blitz for on Capitol Hill yesterday.

The bill would give the president $25 billion in border security money and a path to citizenship for recipients of DACA. So that's the bill to focus on and the key issue for the president is that he has to depend on some of those conservatives, people who backed him early on in his race for the presidency to vote with him on immigration today.

It's not clear that that's going to happen. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, an ally of the president, went up to House Speaker Paul Ryan on the floor yesterday in a display where he seemed to be yelling at the speaker of the House, frustrated about what version of the conservative immigration bill was going to the House Rules Committee. That was one of those displays that reveals just how much tension there is in the House Republican conference right now.

We should also note that there's a little bit of scrambling about what they're going to be voting on because late last night the House Rules committee had to hold a special session to fix a drafting error in the conservative immigration bill. The bill would have given President Trump a $125 billion for border security and his wall rather than just $25 billion. These drafting errors happen but clearly just shows you how much scrambling is happening on Capitol Hill with just a few hours until the vote -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Lauren Fox, keep us posted. Thank you very much.

Let's talk about all of this with Republican congressman of Virginia, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, Dave Brett.

It's nice to have you. Thanks for joining me this morning.

REP. DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA: Thanks. You bet, Poppy. Thank you.

HARLOW: So let's talk about what is not addressed in this executive order and that's those 2300 plus children that have already been separated from their parents at the border that are in these shelters, some as young as eight months old as we heard yesterday. What should the president do about those kids right now, Congressman?

BRAT: Yes. Well, it's not just the president, it's Congress, and I just heard Elijah Cummings on your show. He says we've got to all sit down on the table and solve this. And that's correct. Six months ago the Senate Democrats shut down the government over 700,000 DACA, and so we compromised with the Democrats. We said sure, let's do that.

HARLOW: Well, let me just jump in there. And I promise we're going to get do that.

BRAT: Let me just --

HARLOW: I promise we're going to get to.

BRAT: Yes. Sure.

HARLOW: But I do want your take, sir, because you're such an important voice in this, on the president.

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: Right? So he issued this executive order.

BRAT: Right.

HARLOW: To reverse a policy that his actions made happen.

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: But he could have included something about what happens to the kids now and we have these conflicting statements from BP and HHS.

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: So I'm just thinking, I've got two kids. If these were my kids, I would want to know what's happening. What do you think the president should do about it today?

BRAT: Yes. Well, there's clear law on that. The head of all the Health and Human Services has been on already. I've heard clarifications on what's going to happen to everybody. There's huge paperwork that identifies where the kids are going so everyone get -- can get matched up again.

HARLOW: No.

BRAT: Obviously we want that.

HARLOW: No, Congressman. There's not. HHS came out last night and said we're still figuring this out. What do we do with these kids who are detained right now.

BRAT: Yes -- no, I've heard that but I've also heard they had a clarification statement in -- I don't know if you miss that one.

HARLOW: I didn't miss it.

BRAT: So they --

HARLOW: I didn't miss it. That was the clarification.

BRAT: Yes, they clarify --

HARLOW: No, no, no. They're still figuring it out. I guess, I'm just asking you.

BRAT: Right.

HARLOW: And I don't want to beleaguer the point, but it's important. BRAT: Right.

HARLOW: Is there something you think action the president should take, an executive order action to mandate what happened to these children?

BRAT: Yes. I just want to get to the central thesis. The Democrats haven't thought out and they are for open borders, and that's what's produced this. Right? But now we have --

HARLOW: I understand that you want to have this political fight.

BRAT: Well, let me lay that also.

HARLOW: But I also think that children are above politics, so I really like to know what you think should happen to these kids right now.

BRAT: Right. They should be reunited with their parents. That's clear. That's what we want to happen. But I want to show why did this end up getting here. We compromised with 700,000, the Democrats said no. Then Trump said 1.8 million on DACA. No. The Democrats want open borders with no border wall at all. No E-verify. Senator Obama ran on that. Then last night we had a unification with the parents two bills, two nights ago and the Senate, again, Senate Democrat Schumer came out and said no to that.

HARLOW: OK.

BRAT: And so they're obstructing every single piece along the way. So all you can conclude is that the Democrats want a talking point in November.

HARLOW: The issue -- so, Congressman.

BRAT: They don't want to help the kids.

HARLOW: OK. That's --

BRAT: Yes.

[10:10:02] HARLOW: You think all Democrats don't want to have kids, every single Democrat, I think a lot of Republicans would take issue with that statement but two points. One, Republicans can't even get on the same page on this. I mean, you oppose the compromise bill, the Ryan bill. You support the Goodlatte bill, the more conservative bill, and you bring up DACA.

BRAT: Right.

HARLOW: And you say, look, the president wanted a path for 1.8 million Dreamers. The Goodlatte bill which you support doesn't provide that.

BRAT: Right. I mean, are you debating me or -- I just want to be clear on this. I said -- HARLOW: I'm asking you to be clear because you're mad at the

Democrats like Schumer.

BRAT: Yes. Yes .

HARLOW: For not taking a deal you say would've provided this path for 1.8 million Dreamers.

BRAT: Yes. The unification. Right.

HARLOW: But the bill that you support doesn't do that either, so I'm confused.

BRAT: Yes. All the DACA kids that have been classified DACA are 700,000 and so -- and the Republican bill gives them all a pathway and that was what the Democrats asked for. They're shifting the goal --

HARLOW: Just to be clear, you do not support a pathway to citizenship.

BRAT: Well, hang on. Let me finish my --

HARLOW: Right, for those DACA?

BRAT: Let me finish one thought. Yes. Let me finish one thought. Senator Obama was in favor of what I'm talking about, so was President Clinton, so was Hillary Clinton before the Democrats pivoted to open borders and cheap labor and they no longer care about economics and I wish we would have more time to talk about the fundamental issues of open borders.

What's the Democrat position? They have no upper bound. We had 25 Republicans that went to work with 200 Democrats and Steny Hoyer and nothing. We have no Democrats now showing up for the compromise bill that moved toward the Democrat platform.

HARLOW: So you --

BRAT: I just want what's in the Republican platform and we won the House and the Senate and the White House.

HARLOW: And you're welcome on this show any day, please come back. Let's keep talking more and more about this.

BRAT: Will do.

HARLOW: Today before you go, I just want to go through a quick lightning round to get your take on this.

BRAT: Yes.

HARLOW: Because you're an important voice as I said in this. So quick yes or no on three questions and then we'll move on.

BRAT: Sure.

HARLOW: Yes or no, was separating families at the border humane?

BRAT: No. It's --

HARLOW: OK.

BRAT: We have to have better policy on that and the Democrats were in on that over the past 20 years. We got to fix that law. That's why we need Democrats at the table to fix that.

HARLOW: All right. Your answer on that was a no. Yes or no, did the Trump -- did President Trump need to issue an executive order to stop the separation of children at the border?

BRAT: Yes, yes. We needed to do something in the short run to patch that up but now we only have 20 days and now the Democrats are in a hard spot --

HARLOW: But couldn't he have just --

BRAT: -- with the courts because the courts are going to have to either decide --

HARLOW: Couldn't he have avoided it?

BRAT: The courts are going to have to decide now, do the kids stay with the parents in detention or does everybody get released back to the home country, or does everybody get released into the country with open borders? That's clearly what the Democrats want and that's the problem we have.

HARLOW: And yes or no --

BRAT: The American people did not vote for open borders.

HARLOW: On that point, yes or no.

BRAT: Sure.

HARLOW: Was the decision to separate parents from their children at the border the fault of the Democrats as the president says?

BRAT: Now that's been law and you guys need to cover that. I wish you would cover just the Flores decision so the American people know what we're talking about.

HARLOW: You should stick around for the next block.

BRAT: That's been --

HARLOW: The entire next block is with our legal analyst about the Flores decision.

BRAT: Good. Good.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: And we will keep following it, but that decision still doesn't --

BRAT: Well, then you know the answer to it.

HARLOW: The answer is that decision stood --

BRAT: You're asking the question when you know the answer --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAT: OK.

HARLOW: I want your opinion, the Flores --

BRAT: Yes. Yes. It's not an opinion. It's fact. It's a law. Right.

HARLOW: It stood -- that law stood during the Bush administration and during the Obama administration.

BRAT: Yes. Right. Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: It is the practice of the Trump administration that is separating these children at the border and I'm asking you, is that the fault of the Democrats like the president says?

BRAT: It's the fault of all of us up here for not having a rational immigration plan. Right? We've been working on this for decades. The American people, the polling is very clear. They want us to help the DACA kids but they also want border security. We had 60 million lethal doses of Fentanyl come across the border in the last six months. 60 million lethal doses.

There's human trafficking. We're treating people terribly. All the people coming across are children of God. I make that clear. I went to seminary. I worked at the World Bank. They're coming from countries where the rule of law is broken, Guatemala, Honduras, et cetera. We need to help them have a functioning economy and I wish the left would just help us work on those fundamental issues to solve this once and for all. And Mexico, our friends.

HARLOW: OK.

BRAT: But they need to fix their border situation.

HARLOW: Have you been to tour one of these detention centers, one of these shelters, I should say, holding the children?

BRAT: No, I haven't been down to one of the centers.

HARLOW: Do you plan to go?

BRAT: I'd love to go.

HARLOW: OK.

BRAT: I'm -- I've been on this issue for the last three and a half years and what's missing is Democrats at the table.

HARLOW: OK. Let --

BRAT: Obama and Hillary and Clintons were all for what I'm talking about, just so that people know. Obama ran on this stuff in '05. You can go Google it. Yes.

HARLOW: Please let us know what you see when you go there. Please come back and stick around for the next segment. We're going to dive into the Flores settlement and thank you for your time this morning.

BRAT: Thank you. You bet. Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Congressman Dave Brat of Virginia. All right.

A, quote, "moving target," that's how prosecutors are describing Michael Cohen's willingness to cooperate?

[09:15:00]

Will the president's so-called fixer talk?

Plus, the president touts denuclearization in North Korea, but that's not what his own defense secretary is saying. So, where's the divide here?

And questions mounting after a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed teen who was fleeing a traffic stop. What happened? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And this morning, President Trump says he's ending the practice of separating immigrant children from their undocumented parents at the border, but he didn't need to sign an executive order to do that.

He could have just picked up the phone and called the Justice Department to stop it. Instead, though, he did sign this order and that choice could lead to a host of legal challenges because of something called the Flores Settlement.

Our legal analyst Laura Coates is with me now. The congressman that just joined me said he wished that we would talk more about it. And I'm glad we were planning to and I'm glad that you're here. Explain to everyone what this settlement is and why it matters so much today.

[09:20:03] LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Certainly. The Flores v. Reno decision came out of a body of law and a body of ACLU and other libertarians who were trying to say we have to deal with how we are treating unaccompanied and often accompanied minors who come into the country illegally.

And the Flores decision was simply about whether or not you could detain children for a period of time indefinitely or a shorter period of time and not violate their basic human rights and dignity. It came out, ultimately, that the Supreme Court and the Janet Reno, Justice Department decided through a series of consent decrees that we would confine the amount of time a child could be detained due to immigration-related matters to about 20 days.

It didn't just relate to unaccompanied minors. It also related to accompanied minors as well. The theory has been tested even under the Obama administration when he attempted back in 2015 to then try to get the families to be back together and detain them.

And the courts - the Ninth Circuit, Judge Gee said no, 20 days is the limit and it shall be that way.

HARLOW: Right. And now, they're going to have to go - the Trump administration challenge has to go before that same judge to make their case.

If they can't overturn the settlement, is it clear to you what's going to happen to these kids that are currently detained, more than 2,300 of them?

COATES: The confusion is really deafening and so unfortunate. And I think it's the confusion not just of legal analysts talking across the country about this issue, but also ICE and border patrol agents trying to implement the policy when they're waiting for either Congress to act in a way that would preclude and make moot any decision by the judges to say we're going to allow for a permanent detention or an indefinite status, which is an option they could do, or the court could say, back in 2015 and then revisit the issue right now in 2018, and say definitively whether you could expand that 20-day period.

But the overwhelming issue here, and why it's confusing, is because what the administration is trying to do is essentially say, well, we tried to blame Democrats initially, now we'd like to punt the issue to the judiciary to talk about this particular thing and either way it won't be our fault.

But, ultimately, the very reasons why the court found that 20 days was an acceptable amount of time is because of the great backlog of cases that are facing and the average of about 1,000 days, Poppy, to resolve asylum cases.

HARLOW: And on that case, one of the things I was reading on that situation, Laura, this morning is that a lot of the cases for the adults move more quickly than for the children. And so, you've got this issue of the adults, the parents be deported before the kids' cases are heard.

And on top of that - I mean, these immigrants even when they step into this country have some constitutional right, but they're not guaranteed legal representation, right?

COATES: Right. That's correct. And it's very surprising to people because immigration courts are defined as civil courts, which means that the Sixth Amendment protections for somebody to have access to criminal representation, meaning if they can't afford it, one will be appointed to you, does not apply in the civil setting the same way.

Therefore, you have a right, an absolute right to have counsel in an immigration court, but you have no means or mechanism for the government to provide one to you.

And it is increasingly the case that anyone who has an attorney in a criminal court, let alone a civil matter, would be more successful in their endeavor and it is paralyzing and really harmful if you do not have an attorney because who are they going up against, as recently as last night, it'll be JAG prosecutors as well and other very trained and skilled prosecutors to resolve these issues.

HARLOW: Important note. Laura Coates, thank you for being here and for your expertise on all of this.

So, ahead for us, a new report that the president's so-called fixer needs some help of his own paying his legal bills. Who he would like to foot them? Ahead.

And we're just moments away from the opening bell. Stocks looking like, well, like they're going to drop again. Investor fears of a growing trade war between the US and China persists. This, as the European Union is prepared to hit the US with tariffs tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:28:40] HARLOW: President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen has privately indicated he could be willing to cooperate with federal prosecutors, but sources now say his approach is a moving target.

Those sources tell CNN his decision is based on what charges, if any, he would face and what prosecutors are really interested in learning from him.

Our national political reporter MJ Lee is with me now. You've been following this. So, what's the latest update?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it could be a while before we know what Michael Cohen decides to do and that's because it could be a while before Michael Cohen knows what he decides to do.

As we have been talking about, we know that he has privately told people that he's willing to consider cooperating with investigators and that a part of the calculation now is whether he has information that investigators might want about President Trump.

But now what we're learning is that whether to cooperate is a moving target for Michael Cohen and that a decision might actually be weeks away and that that decision will really depend on what investigators want and what Michael Cohen is actually charged with.

Of course, I should remind everyone that he has not been charged yet and we know that prosecutors have not yet met with Michael Cohen's attorneys. And what we don't know is whether either side is actually interested in a deal. HARLOW: As you went through on the show yesterday, he has hired new legal representation.

LEE: That's right.

HARLOW: Expensive legal representation. And now, he apparently wants someone very high up to cover those legal bills.

LEE: That's right. I mean, all of this is costing Michael Cohen a lot of money and it's not surprising, even if you just look at the breadth of the investigation, the fact that investigators have taken so much of his information and that lawyers have to contend with that.