Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Undermines House GOP; Warrants for Data; CNN Tours Immigration Facility. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 22, 2018 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:15] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Congress is wasting its time on immigration. That today from the president. The very same president who earlier this week said it was essential that Congress act on immigration.

Plus, the message in a jacket. Melania Trump stirs the $40 question.

And back together. The government says 500 children separated from parents at the border have now been reunited. Whatever your views on immigration, there is power in this.


KING: And we begin the hour with uncertainty, mixed messages and chaos. Words that can be used in places along the U.S.-Mexico border, where the shifting White House take on family separation plays out in the most personal of terms. Or, words that could be used right here in Washington, where the immigration impulses of the president are yet again causing policy and political turmoil.

Now, let's be clear. It is a broken record, hardly breaking news, to say Republicans can't get their act together on immigration. But it is breaking news when their latest effort in a midterm election year scramble is directly undermined by the president after Republican leaders ask him for help.

The House leadership wanted the president to say or tweet that he did not consider terms of a new compromise immigration framework to be amnesty. Instead, the president tweeted this morning that, quote, Republicans should stop wasting their time on immigration until after the midterm elections.

Now, members of the leadership say their negotiations continue despite that tweet. But that tweet yet again shifts the White House storyline, and it gives a green light to conservatives who don't want to protect the dreamers or vote to keep legal immigration at its current levels.

Abby Phillip live at the White House for us with more.

Abby, the president's shift from Congress must act to Congress is wasting its time. Why?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It seems very much, John, that the president is throwing in the towel on this issue of immigration on The Hill. And it could be that from the very beginning this president has never been sold on this particular strategy that's being carried out right now by House Republicans.

Remember, it was just a week ago that he caused his first wave of chaos on this issue by saying that he didn't support these compromised bills that were being deliberated on The Hill. And then earlier this week, he went to the meeting to offer support to shore up that support and left lawmakers incredibly confused about where he stood.

Now, this all possibly has to do with the fact that this White House has calculated from the beginning that immigration is a key issue for their voters. He wants to look strong on the border and is not convinced that these proposals will get him there. Instead, there is this crisis at the border with separating families, and the president is trying to navigate that.

But he has also shown on social media, on Twitter, that the strategy he would prefer to use is simply to blame Democrats. Blame Democrats for the stagnation on The Hill. Blame Democrats for the separations on the border.

Meanwhile, Republicans are left not sure exactly where he stands or whether he can -- they can take his word for it when he says he supports something.

Meanwhile, you know, I'm told Republicans still have plan b, which is doing the family separation issues separately in a separate bill. It remains to be seen, however, whether that is something President Trump, in fact, supports.

KING: Abby Phillip at the White House, where this story keeps shifting and shifting. I appreciate the reporting there, Abby.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Eliana Johnson of "Politico," CNN's Manu Raju, Matt Viser of "The Boston Globe," and Mary Katharine Ham with "The Federalists."

So, why is the question. Congress must act. That was the president of the United States 48 hours ago, maybe 72 hours ago, Congress must act. This morning, the same president, Congress is wasting its time. Is it he's just listening to the right, listening to those who say, Mr. President, you don't want to sign a Paul Ryan bill that we call amnesty. I think we can show you some Breitbart headlines. That's one of the places where this is being attacked.

Is that all this is or is the president just tweeting out of frustration? What is it?

ELIANA JOHNSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Well, there's been no real policy process throughout this. And I think you're seeing that. And it's sort of where the president's herky-jerky moves on this, going from saying that Congress has to act and that he can do nothing, to signing an executive order, to giving unclear signals in a meeting of Congress, to saying that Congress should do nothing at all. So we're seeing -- we're just getting the president's guttural responses. And, in turn, has thrown this entire issue into chaos where no one's clear right now what the administration's policy is or whether or how children are going to be reunited with their parents.

[12:05:15] KING: Right. And so you have the policy at the border, which we're going to talk about a bit later in the program. What do we know about the numbers? Are people being reunited? What happens to the children who have been previously separated? We'll get into that.

Here in Washington, you have a Republican leadership that says, sir, we'd like to keep our majority. To keep our majority, we're trying to thread this needle. Conservatives won't vote on certain things. Moderates would like a vote. Even if it's never going to become a law, they would like a vote to be able to say, I tried to protect the dreamers.

You -- you're up on Capitol Hill. This -- does this not -- I know the leadership says we're going to keep at it, we're going to ignore this tweet. Steve Scalise saying, oh, it's just the president being frustrated. If there are 10 or 15 or 20 conservatives who says, the president's with me, vote no, it's a waste of time, it's done, right?


The bill that's being considered in the House right now, that they're going to try to get a deal on to vote on next week, has no chance of becoming law. This will not get through the Senate. The Senate has no plans to even take it up.

Really what it is, they hope to get a bill out for -- as a messaging argument going forward in the midterms, particularly for those people in some vulnerable districts. They can -- and Latino voters say we tried to pass something, particularly dealing with DACA. And as a way to push back against what the Democrats are doing.

Now, there are a lot of conservatives who are not happy with this approach. And the president is saying this, saying, well, what's the point of even voting for this to begin with? I spent all morning on Capitol Hill talking to members, and they are doing the best they can to just completely ignore what the president -- the leadership in particular, because they just -- they believe everything the president is saying is completely unhelpful to the process. But the question is, will the rank and file members ignore the president? That's a different question.

KING: Right. Completely unhelpful to the process maybe, but doesn't the leadership then look like fools -- forgive me -- if they spend another 24, 48, 72 hours in rooms trying to negotiate a compromise when they know that 15 or 20 guys are just going to say no and then you don't have the votes.

This is Mark Sanford. Now, he's not a fan of the president. He just lost his primary. But he gets the conservatives in the House. He says, if the president tweets, stop, you're wasting your time, a lot of people are going to say, I agree.


REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Game over. It takes the wind out of the sails in what might have been a fairly productive weekend in terms of looking for a compromise. I don't know how it happens because if you look at how contentious this issue is, how much emotion there is, you know, without the president being out front, or without the president having legislature's backs, there's no way they're going to take the risk that would be inherent in a major reform bill.


KING: You could argue the president's out front. He doesn't have the legislators' backs. But you could argue he's out front saying, I've decided I don't want to do this. Isn't that a fair interpretation of his tweet this morning?

MATT VISER, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Yes, and I -- I mean I think the other thing here is whether the president actually wants to solve immigration. He has used it again and again as a rallying cry for his base. And whenever he has a choice of solving a problem or riling up the base, he riles up the base. And I think keeping immigration alive as an issue that he can continue to lead "build the wall" chants, helps him politically. And I -- so I think that that's part of his base political instinct, to derail any chance of something actually happening on a policy front.

KING: Absolutely right. That is his reflex, especially when he gets to a crossroads and there's a debate. The president trusts his instincts, trusts his reflexes, trusts that this is what got him here in his view, his stance during the 2016 campaign. But if that's the case, why, Mary Katharine, three days ago, again, the president this morning tweeting, you're wasting your time, then why three days ago, #changethelaws? Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration. Get it done. Always keeping in mind that we must have strong border security. Is this a game to him?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": Yes. I mean -- sort of, yes. It will -- my lawyer said, he's correct on that tweet, right? If you want -- if you want a durable solution that is not subject to the whims of say a President Trump or any other president, then you have to do it legislatively. I know this is very "School House Rock" and we're not involved in that world any more, doing that kind of business.

But, look, I think it's possible that both Trump and Schumer want an issue instead of a solution up until the midterms. Now, whether that's a good calculation or a bad for Trump or Schumer, I think likely to be more bad for Trump than for Schumer, but I think that that is part of this. And I think he also felt the heat for what many in the base said was a cave on the separation of families and then a cave on zero tolerance, which has become part of this as well, and a third one on something that they think of as amnesty was probably the line for him.

KING: The line for him. And it's a -- it's an interesting point because the -- a week ago some Republicans, the moderates, wanted a vote to protect the dreamers. They said that was absolutely essential. They could not go home to their districts unless they had showed that they had tried. At least tried, tried and jumped -- you know, done everything they could to at least try.

And to your point, maybe that's why the leadership will keep going forward. They'll have this vote. So they can say they voted for it, even though they know it's a show vote. It's simply a vote for a campaign ad.

HAM: I would note also the one time -- the one piece of legislation that has become law, it was something that all Republicans already fundamentally agreed on, tax reform, and that Trump stayed out of the process entirely. You lost both of those on this issue.

[12:10:09] KING: Right, because he's involved in the process. And so now you have -- you have families being separated, which, for a lot of Republicans who would have preferred no action at all this year, that blew it up for them because of the reaction, because of the polling data, because they see in the districts among them, Mike Coffman, suburban Denver, you spoke to him this morning, listen to him here. He says this now has reignited this issue in a way that he believes, Mike Coffman believes, hurts those more moderate, suburban Republicans, especially any places where Hillary Clinton either won your district or ran pretty strong. In his district he has a growing Latino population. He blames the White House adviser Steve Miller for pushing the president here and says --


REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: I believe Stephen Miller advised him on the border, on this recent problem, in terms of tearing families apart. I think that that lack of understanding of the significance of how that played out has Stephen Miller's fingerprints on it. And so, you know, I think that the president needs a different adviser.


KING: The president needs a different adviser. I'm sorry -- I'm sorry, Stephen Miller does have these views. Stephen Miller does have the president's ear.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: The president, I think, is the president, right?

RAJU: Yes, and the president's in line more with Stephen Miller than Mike Coffman. It really just underscores this debate within the party. Coffman represents a more moderate view, someone who has -- who represents a swing district with Latino voters, someone who's worried about the DACA problem, someone who supports that discharge petition to get that vote on dealing with DACA separately, which the White House and the speaker oppose.

And Stephen Miller, of course, resents that much more hard line view that's in line with the president. And that's why, you know, while the president may think this is a good political issue, perhaps it is to rile up the base, it could hurt Republicans like Mike Coffman who do not want to take this hard line view, particularly in a general election.

KING: And the president -- the lack of consistency, I guess, is what makes it hard to track from a, if you're Mike Coffman, even if you oppose the president, you kind of want to know where he is, right?

JOHNSON: Right. I think as -- as problematic as the policy itself may be, you can argue the merits and demerits of the policy. The lack of consistency and the lack of clarity about what the policy actually is after the president signed that executive order is equally problematic because people in the White House right now are not clear on what the policy is or whether that executive order, which contradicts a court decision of a few years ago, is legal. And that's thrown this entire issue into total chaos inside the White House and on Capitol Hill.

KING: And if you --

RAJU: And, remember, John, there's a separate, bipartisan effort in the Senate at least just starting to deal with the separation of families. What does the president's positioning, how does that impact that process going forward also? And that has such significance. But especially if we don't know what's going to happen to these kids.

KING: Right, more on that for us in just a few moments.

But, up next, the high court, hands down a big win, a very big win, for privacy defenders.


[12:16:59] KING: Welcome back.

Today, a string of eight-year-old robberies in Detroit now has new meaning nationwide. The Supreme Court ruling against the government this morning, holding that law enforcement agencies generally need warrants to collect location data from cell phone companies. Privacy advocates say it's a big win and, in their view, a big check on growing government surveillance.

Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority argued that the data enables the government to, quote, travel back in time and conduct, quote, near perfect surveillance of suspects.

Our senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin joins us now.

Jeff, 5-4. So a closely divided court. But a significant decision nonetheless. Walk us through it.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's really one of these great cases where the Constitution, which was written in the 18th century, has to be applied to the world of this. And, you know, it is not an easy thing to do. And this is -- it's not surprising that the courts split 5-4. Basically what Chief Justice Roberts said is, these phones are

essentially parts of our body now. And even though we know in some abstract way that we can be traced, our whereabouts can be traced, that is -- it's not fair for the government to do that without a warrant. And he joined with the four liberals. It was an unusual split in terms of the court. You had John Roberts with Ruth Ginsberg, Steven Breyer, Eliana Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor, against the four more conservative justices, saying, you know, we're not going to ban the government from tracing people's whereabouts with -- with their phones. But if they do it, they have to get a warrant first.

KING: They have to get a warrant first.

And, so, Jeff, this is going to be in the -- in the legal cases in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years. Privacy is going to be a huge issue, the tracking of surveillance. Does this apply just to the government and law enforcement, or are there any implications for business, which, of course, collects all of this as well?

TOOBIN: Well, it's not directly addressed in terms of applying it to the private sector, but certainly it's relevant. And it also -- you know, this is a moving target. I mean, remember, these cases only come up when the technology existed for, you know, trace -- it's not just -- you know, the law was mostly about phone calls. You know, when the government can trace phone calls.

But we've moved beyond phone calls because the mere fact of carrying a phone is evidence now. The government can track your whereabouts. That technology is only going to get more advanced. And people are -- so, yes, we know what the answer is for cell phones now, but none of us can predict how this will -- how exactly the technology will evolve and the court will have to address that.

[12:19:55] But this certainly is a stop sign, or at least a yield sign, when it comes to law enforcement saying, you don't get free access to absolutely everything about us. We are going to insist, that is, we, the Supreme Court, are going to insist you at least have to get a search warrant under these circumstances. That's not a big barrier for law enforcement. It's not difficult to get a search warrant. But it is a way of saying to law enforcement, you can't rummage around without at least involving a judge getting permission.

KING: A little bit -- at least a pause, if not a stop sign, to big brother. I'll take that.

Jeff Toobin, appreciate your insights today.

As we go to break here, a sad note. A powerful voice in the world of politics has gone silent. The Pulitzer Prize winning conservative columnist and commentator Charles Krauthammer died yesterday of cancer. He was 68. In addition to being a fixture in magazines, newspapers and on cable news, Charles also was a psychologist, a speechwriter, a best-selling author.


[12:25:08] KING: Welcome back.

Some hope today for hundreds of children detained and separated from their families after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The government now says some 500 children have been reunited with their parents or family members. However, the administration has not provided a current total number of children affected by the separation policy. So we don't know how many children the government still needs to unite or reunite with their families.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielson, says this will get done. But she's a little thin on the details.


QUESTION: Secretary, is there any plan for reuniting the children who have already been separated from their parents?

KIRSTJEN NIELSON, HHS 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.


KING: As quickly as we can, she says, but how are they doing it? A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department suggests, in some cases, caseworkers are going shelter to shelter looking for people to reunite families right there. Lawmakers and journalists slowly being allowed inside some of the facilities, trying to get a sense of the condition there and the process for reuniting. This after days of confusion and disarray surrounding the new marching orders, lack thereof some people would say.

Our Dianne Gallagher was allowed to go into a facility in Homestead, Florida, today.

Dianne, you were allowed in. You could not bring a camera. But describe what you saw and heard inside.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. So we should point out that any images you're seeing right now were all provided by the government. They were shot by them, given to us, because they would only let us bring a pen and pad inside.

It was also a pretty controlled and curated tour. It was very brisk. This is a massive facility behind me with several buildings. We weren't allowed to linger very long. I was not allowed to speak to anyone inside there except the immediate points of contact who were there. Children who smiled or said hello to us, we were pushed away from.

But I can tell you that I've been inside one of those processing centers as well where you see those -- the cages and everybody sees. That's not what's happening here. I mean this essentially looks like a run-down elementary school with dormitories. About 12 kids per room, two sinks inside there. All the kids walking around with these tags with QR codes on them. They buzz in and out of every single place they go into.

There are about 1,200 kids in here. Two-thirds of them are boys. About a quarter -- about a third of them are girls. All ages, 13 to 17. I know a lot of people out there are very concerned. They haven't seen pictures of teenage girls. I saw them in there today. There are plenty of them. They're in their pink and red shorts that they've been issued. The boys are in these light blue and dark blue shirts. Each kid gets about five outfits when they are a part of this intake process here.

As far as what they do here, most kids, we're told, are here about 25 days at this particular facility. That is less than the average HHS center. That's about 57 days.

There are -- of those 1,200 kids, according to their director, just under 70 are actually kids who have been separated from their parents because of the zero tolerance policy under the Trump administration. Now, we had no way to vet those numbers, John, but that's what we were told.

They have a really regimented schedule. They wake up at 6:00 a.m. They have six hours of school. They do counseling and group sessions every day, individual once a week, and they can do more if they want and they meet with their case workers to try and reunite them with either a sponsor or their family, we're told.

KING: All right, Dianne Gallagher, appreciate the insights from inside that facility in a live report there.

Let's bring it back to the studio.

On the one hand, you hear the term intake center and it sounds horrible. On the other hand, there are a lot of people in the United States are saying, these families came across the board illegally, therefore, they should be stopped. It is the separation issue that has turned this into a giant political controversy. And now the confusion after the president signed an executive order, there's some uncertainty about whether that will even hold up in court given prior decisions.

I guess my question is, how do we grade the administration on -- since the president decided to change his mind, do a 180, and say let's get these families back together, how are they doing?

VISER: Not good. I mean the Customs and Border Agency is referring to things one way, and the Justice Department another, Health and Human Services yet another and you get conflicting information from them. I was talking to one official earlier in the week and asking them about these kids who have been separated and they keep referring to them as unaccompanied child aliens.

And, of course, they're not unaccompanied. They were accompanied by their parent until we split them up. And -- but they don't have a term for these kids. And so they don't have a policy around this because we haven't done it in the past. So it makes it hard when you have different explanations from

different agencies over how to even refer to the groups of children that we're talking about.

[12:29:50] RAJU: Yes, and this has been such a bungled policy from the beginning. I mean the one of the things that I've heard from Republicans who are supporting this policy, who think that they actually -- there is a legal justification to separate the parents from their kids, they say, why didn't you actually have this fully thought out before you implemented. Why didn't you brief members of Congress about this was your plan ahead of time.