Return to Transcripts main page


Civility in Trump's America; Does Trump Administration Know Where Migrant Children Are?; Trump And Mattis Take Different Sides On Defense Issues. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 25, 2018 - 16:30   ET



ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: I'm going to say one thing. (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would Mr. Rogers think about you?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it is not just Washington. The Florida attorney general was heckled at a movie about Mr. Rogers.

FRED ROGERS, TV HOST: Won't you be my neighbor?

PAM BONDI (R), FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: A woman approaches me in the ticket line inside and starts screaming that I was personally ripping babies out of the arms of mothers.

FOREMAN: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is trying to temper the rage, tweeting: "Trump's daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable, but unacceptable. We must conduct ourselves in a way that achieves unity."

Republicans are counterattacking anyway.

JASON CHAFFETZ (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It is about a scorched earth. It's about hatred. It is about harassment, and that is who the Democrats of today are, unfortunately.


FOREMAN: The owner of the restaurant, the Red Hen, told "The Washington Post" she doesn't like confrontation, but feels right now -- quote -- "People have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals."

And it seems like a lot of folks agree with her, which means likely we are going to see a lot more uncomfortable moments as this debate goes forward.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

Minutes ago, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders opened the White House briefing by addressing that incident where she was asked to leave a Lexington, Virginia, restaurant.

Let's bring back CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, you're learning more about how that came to be, that she started the press briefing with that. What can you tell us?


I'm told by a White House official that it was President Trump's idea for the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, to start her televised press briefing with that weekend incident.

Now, of course we know the president's views on this. He was talking about it online on social media. He was going after the restaurant in a personal way today, saying the awnings were dirty and the inside might be not clean as well.

And, of course, he was going after civility in other ways, going directly after Congresswoman Maxine Waters. But I'm told that it was the president's idea for Sanders to open the briefing like this.

She has a conversation with him every day that she has a briefing like this. It is one of the reasons that sometimes it is later than it is scheduled. And I'm told in that conversation that it was decided that this is what she should begin the briefing with.

There is no better way, perhaps, to shine a light on what the White House wants to talk about than to use the platform of the White House podium and the televised briefing there.

So the White House was, A., talking about people earlier today wondering if it would come up in the briefing. And, of course, if a reporter didn't ask about it, she couldn't talk about it. That problem was solved by Sanders opening the press briefing talking about the weekend incident, not immigration -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House for us.

And, Symone Sanders -- my panel is back with me.

Symone Sanders, it seems possible -- I'm just reading the tea leaves here -- that the White House would rather talk about Sarah Sanders being a victim, kicked out of this restaurant, asked to leave this restaurant, than the 2,500 children taken from their parents at the border.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. They are using the bully pulpit.

And I think Sarah Huckabee Sanders thinks she's Rosa Parks in this situation. And she's absolutely not. Look, I definitely don't want anybody coming up to me and putting me out the Shake Shack, OK? I just want to be clear.


SANDERS: I want to get my burger and my fries in peace.

But there is something to be said about that the folks calling for civility might need to check their privilege. And so where is the civility in the press Briefing Room, Jake? Where is the civility at the border for these children?

And so this conversation about civility is completely one-sided and skewed. I -- again, I want to eat my Shake Shack in peace, but I also believe that movements and people that are speaking up for things, whether we're talking about civil rights movement, whatever else, those movements should be nonviolent, but they should not be nonconfrontational.

If we waiting for nonconfrontational and civility, we still might be sitting at segregated lunch counters.

TAPPER: So, Kristen, one of the criticisms I hear from progressives about we in the media when we do pieces on civility is, hey, you just did a spot in which you showed a bunch of Democrats being rude or a bunch of progressives being rude and a bunch of Republicans being racist.

And there is really no moral equivalence. That is a criticism I hear. Fair, unfair? What do you think?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that you could report on a variety of different stories and that a lot of different things can all be bad things that we wish people would do less of.

I think when you are reporting on this story, which I think is obviously a story, it is OK to point out that this is a potential erosion of a political norm. And whether it is being driven by your side or the other side, that is a potentially very bad thing.

If it is putting us on a slippery slope, where people can't just go to Shake Stack anymore because of who they voted for, because people who own a restaurant think that by serving food to someone, they are somehow inherently endorsing their political views, I do think that means politics is creeping ever more into people's day-to-day lives, which I think is a bad thing.

TAPPER: And, obviously, we're all concerned about the slippery slope of it. All four would of us like to be able to go and get a meal in peace with our families.

But you were noting President Trump, in this day that Republicans are calling for civility, issued a tweet in which he referred to a congresswoman who has served for several decades as having an extraordinarily low I.Q. and saying be careful what you wish for, Max.



What the congresswoman said I think was very foolish. And I am -- if I see Secretary Mattis in a restaurant, I'm going to over and thank him for his service to the country prior to the Trump administration and during the Trump administration.

If I see a different Cabinet secretary, I might just steer clear. Obviously, it is lawful for an individual restaurant owner to ask someone to leave. And I do believe the restaurant in Lexington did so politely.

On the other hand, I think it is foolish and I think you go down a very slippery slope. But the president has his own -- and Congress -- and people -- member -- elected officials have a higher responsibility to try to uphold norms of civility.

And there is no question that President Trump, in my opinion, is the main offender here. Democrats shouldn't rise to the bait. It's both foolish for them politically. And I think it does lead to a cycle of sort of retribution, so to speak.

But that Trump tweet is pretty amazing. That is the president of the United States, right, a low I.Q. individual, and then what does he say at the end? In effect, sort of seems to threaten, if you want to play this game...


TAPPER: Yes, be careful what you wish for, Max, he says.

KRISTOL: Yes. Really? We're getting close to incitement of violence on both sides.

And this is how a constitutional republic degenerates. This is what happens when things start to fall apart and go from being a law- abiding, norm-respecting constitutional republic in which citizens bend over backwards a little bit to show forbearance, even when they are really outraged, as Symone is, and I am, I think we all are pretty much, by these recent policies.

Bend over backwards to show forbearance. And instead just take offense and thrilled and gleeful about showing up someone from the other side in any context in any way.

The civil rights movement, they didn't do that. It was the opposite. It was the opposite.


KRISTOL: To their credit, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, it was sort of -- they didn't see one Southern segregationist sitting somewhere and say, you are discriminate here and I'm not -- you deserve to be heckled. They actually showed by example what behaving decently would be.

SANDERS: I think we are giving a very Milquetoast rendition of Dr. King and the movement.

Many people would say that Dr. King was a troublemaker. They called him a terrorist. They didn't like that the Freedom Riders sat at the lunch counter. They said that they were being disrespectful, they were causing -- they were causing a ruckus.

And so while I don't agree anyone should be calling for violence, but Donald Trump is the only person that said, watch out, Max, they're trying to -- said that Maxine Waters was saying -- trying to inflict harm on Trump supporters.

And that is absolutely not true. Again, we hear lies from Donald Trump, just like he says the Democrats want open borders. There is no both sides to this. One side is saying we don't like that you all are locking up kids in cages and have a very non -- unhumane immigration policy.

And the other side are telling people they are out of their cotton- picking minds. They're calling individuals, human beings illegal aliens. And they're defending disastrous policies from the White House press secretary podium.

TAPPER: And you just referred to the cotton-picking mind thing. Let's play that sound.

This is the former Trump campaign -- deputy campaign manager David Bossie on FOX News yesterday.


DAVID BOSSIE, FORMER TRUMP DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Michael Hayden posted a picture of Auschwitz.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that liberal -- that liberal Michael Hayden.


BOSSIE: You're out of your cotton-picking mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cotton picking-mind? Brother, let me tell you something.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got some relatives who picked cotton. And I'm not going to sit here and allow you to attack me like that on TV.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not out of my cotton-picking mind.

BOSSIE: You're out of your mind.


TAPPER: Now, both Bossie and FOX News issued apologies. But, again, this is, I know, what I'm hearing from a lot of progressives, which is you can't compare somebody being rude -- and, again, this is not my argument -- you can't compare somebody being rude with somebody using a term like cotton-picking to an African- American man.

KRISTOL: That is a fair point, I think.

Also, what about Corey Lewandowski? For me as a Republican, Corey Lewandowski had this really appalling moment on television, wah-wah or womp-womp...


KRISTOL: ... when the question of a separation of a child with -- a 10-year-old with Down syndrome from -- I think it's from her parent is brought up.

And he just mocks that. And then President Trump invites him to go aboard Air Force One to Las Vegas on Saturday, and he's treated as a hero, according to the reporting, when he comes into this Republican dinner. They're taking selfies. He's signing autographs.

That really is terrible.


SANDERS: Donald Trump supports it.

KRISTOL: I'm not saying -- Corey Lewandowski doesn't have to be persecuted. I think he can go out to dinner, as far as I'm concerned. And people could just stay away from his table and stuff.

But for the president of the United States to reach out to someone who has just behaved terribly, in that respect, the president matters more than anyone else.


SOLTIS ANDERSON: But do you know what might be a good way for people who find these things appalling?

To take action and speak out for companies about what they should be doing with regards to someone like Corey Lewandowski and say, hey, next time you're having a conference, maybe don't book him for a five- or six-figure speaking gig. And if you do, you're not the kind of company that we want to patronize.

If people, as consumers or business owners, want to marshal their efforts to push back against this kind of behavior, I think, rather than telling someone don't eat in your restaurant, I think go after those sort of things, which is how these people who are all high up in Trump land, but who behave in this kind of a manner, and continue to get away with it, that is how you will stop it.

[16:40:20] SANDERS: One could argue that is what the owner at the Red Hen did.

One could argue that is what Maxine Waters was telling Democrats to do. And one could argue -- I just -- I think -- I just don't think people get it. I just don't.

TAPPER: Let's every -- let's take a quick break. We have a lot more to discuss.

Immigrant children remain scattered across the country, this -- more than 2,000 of them taken from their parents at the border. Does the Trump administration, the federal government, do they really know where all these the kids are and how their parents can contact them?

We're going to the border next. Stay with us.


TAPPER: The Trump administration claims it knows the location of every migrant child in custody, but matching those children with their parents, that might be a very different story.

Some parents are still in adult-only detention centers, being charged with a misdemeanor crime

[16:45:00] Some parents are still in adults-only detention centers being charged with the misdemeanor crime involved with being in the U.S. illegally, migrant advocacy groups also report issues with the government hotline number where operators may or may not have details about any given child at any given moment. Then there's the finding that children possibly move to shelters in another state. More than 2000 children of course sitting in facilities waiting for this process to play out with no end in sight. CNN's Ed Lavandera has been following some of these cases near the border.


AMERICAN CROWD: We care! We care! We care!

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As protests over the separation of children at the border continue today, there is still no clear reunification process for divided immigrant families.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't like the site or the feeling of families being separated.

LAVANDERA: Since President Trump's executive order last week, the federal government says over 500 children have been reunited with their families. But that leaves more than two thousand others still in limbo scattered around the country.

REP LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: There is no plan in place. There's a lot of confusion, there's a lot of contradictions.

LAVANDERA: Under the Trump Administration's plan, those children will keep waiting in Health and Human Services custody with unifications only happening once the parents' deportation proceedings are complete. The families will either be reunited before deportation or if the parent is released from detention and after the parent applies to serve as the child sponsor. The Washington Post spoke with a father who was just deported back to El Salvador without his daughter. He finally spoke with his six-year-old daughter Maybelline. And we spoke to a mother held in the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas on Friday. Today she is still separated from her nine-year-old son. It's a trauma we will never forget she says, every one of us, all of the mothers who are here as well as all of the kids. She hasn't been able to speak to her son or find out in which facility he's being held.

EILEEN BLESSINGER, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: One woman told me about her seven-year-old child finally being able to call and she couldn't actually hear anything because the child was crying so hard and the only thing the child could say that she could hear was mom you don't love me, why did you leave me.

LAVANDERA: ICE officials are working to set up phone calls between parents and their children today according to an attorney working with clients inside Port Isabel.

BLESSINGER: They're telling us it's the logistical process but in reality I mean the vast majority of the people we spoke with have not spoken with their children at all, no contact. They don't leave. They're not even told where their child is.

LAVANDERA: But Senator James Lankford of the Senate Homeland Security Committee insists the Trump Administration does know where every single child is located.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK), SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: These are not political appointees, these are career folks. They know where every child is to be able to connect them to their parent or the relative they came.

LAVANDERA: And today at the Tornillo tenth facility near El Paso, Texas, one of the temporary facilities where children are being held separated from their parents, CNN and other journalists were given a tour off-camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras, no recording devices of any kind on the tour.

LAVANDERA: Once again only allowing images provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.


LAVANDERA: And Jake, activists with the group called the Texas Civil Rights Project which has been highly involved in all of this for the last few weeks say that they have been able to confirm that two children have been deported without their parents and there's even a more sign here as well today, Jake, that the federal government preparing to house even more immigrants. The Secretary of Defense is saying earlier today that Fort Bliss in El Paso and Goodfellow Air Force Base will also be used to house undocumented immigrants in the coming weeks. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Mad dog in the doghouse? Is the President talking to Kim Jong-un without thoroughly talking it out with his Secretary of Defense James Mattis first? Stay with us.


TRUMP: -- Senate last night at his speech. Things can change.



[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "POLITICS LEAD" now, early in the Trump administration many Republicans found solace and comfort in the fact that the president had surrounded himself with three well-respected generals. Since then, National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster has been shown the door. The influence of Chief of Staff and former Marine General John Kelly is said to be waning and now there are questions about how much President Trump is listening to or even looping in his Secretary of Defense retired Marine General James Mattis. CNN's Barbara Starr reports on how this division might impact the nation's safety and security.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's become increasingly clear that President Trump and defense Secretary James Mattis have very different realities. President Trump says it's going just fine with North Korea's denuclearization.

TRUMP: They stopped everything if you want them to stop and they blew up sites where they test and do the testing.

STARR: But when Mattis is asked about denuclearization.

JAMES MATTIS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: -- at the very front end of the process, the detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn't expect that at this point.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Secretary Mattis looks at things either they are true or they are not true.

STARR: Leaving Mattis scrambling to manage the President's off-the- cuff ideas like forming the new military department.

TRUMP: I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces. That's a big statement.

MATTIS: This as you know is going to require legislation and a lot of detailed planning and we've not yet begun.

STARR: What has happened to the Trump who loved his generals.

TRUMP: That makes them very happy, General, you know that right?

STARR: During a recent cabinet meeting as Mr. Trump spoke on his political agenda, it did not escape the Pentagon's attention that Mattis kept his eyes down during much of the meeting leaving questions about his body language. Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster forced out as National Security Adviser and chief of staff retired four-star John Kelly has had his run-ins with the President including suggesting Mr. Trump's views on a border wall at one point may have changed. Is Mattis at risk of the President being tired of him?

[16:55:33] LEIGHTON: Secretary Mattis has to be very careful to read the signs as much as he can as to whether or not the President feels comfortable with Secretary of Mattis is going to have to watch and see I if the President expresses that even in a subtle way.


STARR: Now many congressional Republicans still very strongly support the Defense Secretary and they point out he has one major victory with President Trump. He got increased defense spending through Congress, something Mr. Trump wanted badly, Jake, so he could say that the U.S. military is more ready to fight today than it has ever been before, a big plus for Mattis on the record books with the President. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Let's bring back our political panel. And Bill Kristol, you're such a fan of Mattis. You already said you were a fan of Mattis earlier -- early Show without even knowing this was coming. Are you concerned?

KRISTOL: I am. You know, Charles Krauthammer died late last week is a good friend of mine, a friend of yours and his last column in The Washington Post is he went in for the operations which he never really came back ten months ago was on -- it was in praise of the guardrails. And the argument was President Trump is a bad president a dangerous president in certain ways but the guardrails are holding on, the institutions are holding. And thank God we have a constitutional republic with laws and processes and one of them he cited actually was the military which Trump had tweeted you know, fire the transgender troops and Secretary Mattis has said I'm sorry there's a process for separating troops, it has to be lawful though and he cited that as -- it's ironic they were watching looking at generals as guardians of our democracy against Trump but that's the fact. I think Mattis has done that in all kinds of ways and I worry about these reports that Trump is getting impatient with him and that would be -- McMasters departure was bad, Mattis' would also be bad.

TAPPER: One of the -- one of the theories going on I read in NBC earlier today is that President Trump according to sources that told to talk to that news network thinks that Mattis looks down on him and that's one of the reasons that they're -- that they're not -- that he's not looping that it's more into the process.

authority and of power and Donald Trump likes to be the ultimate authority. He only wants to seek counsel then he asked for your counsel but you need to be onboard when he says you want to be onboard. And we know from all reports that that is in fact not Secretary Mattis. I remember when everyone said that it was John Kelly and McMaster and Secretary Mattis that we're going to you know, keep everything together and the great pillars seem to be falling. And I think it's dangerous that we expect outside individuals to corral in a very just off the rails, unhinged president. And so when the guardrails are gone, then what happens. Who then will we wait to swoop in and save us? At some point, we can't rely on Secretary Mattis or John Kelly, I haven't been relying on John Kelly, he failed us a long time ago. But we have to hold Donald Trump himself accountable. And the coequal branch is the only thing that can do that, ding, ding, ding, Congress.

TAPPER: Well, Congress is could be more aggressive and its oversight responsibility, let's put it that way. What do you make of all this and Mattis not being part of big decisions, there was obviously the announcement President Trump made after meeting with Kim Jong-un that they were no longer going to do military exercises with South Korea, Mattis apparently had to be informed of that after the fact?

ANDERSON: Part of me takes all of this with a little bit of a grain of salt because how long have we been talking about how Jeff Sessions is just one day away from being out of the cabinet or that Scott Pruitt is embattled and maybe this is the story that will be the reason why he has to step down as EPA Administrator. How long have we been having stories about how John Kelly is on the outs in the Oval Office? I mean, that -- I feel like we've been having that talk for a long time and so in some ways, I mean, even when it came to the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, it was a long time of the Trump doesn't like Rex Tillerson. He's been out of the loop. It was months, and months, and months of that before finally the moment came where he was let go. So it wouldn't surprise me if this is really happening. If it's quite long time before Mattis actually does exit the White House.

KRISTOL: But the bigger picture question is I mean, the hope of people even who were great skeptics, reluctant Trump voters was he will grow at office. He's new. Remember the first month or two, he's businessman, he doesn't understand Washington, he doesn't understand, you can't (INAUDIBLE). here he is standing up last week after 18 months in office, I hereby order that there be a spaceport establish immediately. Congress legislates the structure of the armed services. I mean, he's learned nothing and if anything he's behaving a little bit more -- he's behaving a little bit worse.

TAPPER: I'll put you down for one trip to Mars on the spaceport? No. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER a tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD, I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.