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President Donald Trump Is Threatening A Government Shutdown; Hundreds Of Separated Children Are Still Apart From Their Parents Despite The Court Order Deadline For Reunions; Vice President Mike Pence Weighing In On The White House Banning A Reporter From An Open Event; Heartbreak In California As A Fast-Moving Wildfire Claims The Lives Of Three More People. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 29, 2018 - 04:30   ET



[16:00:13] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me on this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

A first, the final sprint to the Midterms in just 100 days, voters will send a strong message on President Trump's first two years in office. Trump seeking to what fires up his base, teeing the issue of immigration. He is now threatening a government shutdown if Congress does not fund his long-promised border wall. And he is already putting the blame on the Democrats.

Trump's hardline immigration stance is what helped him to win the White House and has promised to build the wall was a key rallying cry of his campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are going to build a great border wall.

We will build a great, great wall.

We are going to build a wall. Don't worry about it. We are building it.

I promise that we will build the wall.

And who is going to pay for the wall?

CROWD: Mexico.


WHITFIELD: This new shutdown threat happening as the government's deadline to reunite separate children with their families has come and gone. More than 700 children has still not been reunited.

CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is joining us live from New Jersey near where the President is spending the weekend on his golf resort there in Bedminster.

So tell us more about Trump's point of view and strategy here.


Some say that the time is a flat circle, and we are right back to where we were a few months ago and really starting a year ago around September when Congress had to begin passing these continuing resolutions, because they could not agree on a budget.

The government was actually shutdown for a brief period earlier in the year, almost took a second shutdown before. They finally agree to something that President Trump would sign. Even as wound up signing that funding agreement from the government, he was complaining about funding for his border wall. And it appears that he is ready to do the whole thing again.

On twitter earlier today writing quote "I would be willing to shutdown the government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for the border security which includes the wall."

The President then going a step further calling on Congress writing quote "Congress must act on fixing the dumbest and the worst immigration laws anywhere in the world."

This is a separate tweet. He writes, vote R, R, of course, for Republican. The President is trying to make immigration an issue in the midterm elections, but not all of the Republicans are on board with this threat to shutdown the government. I listened to senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a prominent Republican who is not on board with the President's plan. Listen to this.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Let's hope not. I think that hopefully most of the appropriations bills will be passed and a little bit prioritization of spending. So I certainly don't like playing shutdown politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And how damaging would that be for Republicans ahead of the November races?

JOHNSON: I don't think it would be helpful, so let's try and avoid it.


SANCHEZ: Now Fred, last week, members of the Republican leadership, house speaker Paul Ryan and senate majority leader Mitch McConnell met with the President and they made clear that appropriation bills were moving forward at a steady clip in a bipartisan fashion.

Sources close to the leadership have told some of my colleagues at CNN on Capitol Hill that they encourage the President to avoid a government shutdown to avoid any distractions from the confirmation process from Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's pick to replace justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. The President, according to sources, was receptive to their messages at least until this morning when he sent out these threats, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Boris Sanchez, thanks so much.

So hundreds of separated children are still apart from their parents despite the court order deadline for reunions. And there is no clear indication of when those children will be reunited with their families.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung join us now near the U.S. Mexican border in McAllen, Texas.

What are you hearing?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, over the past couple of days, the government has been patting itself on the back saying that they have reunited all families eligible for reunification by the court-ordered deadline. But as you mentioned, 711 children by the government's last tally remain separated from their families, because they are deemed ineligible for reunification.

Now, no two family stories are same, but in the bigger picture of reporting on this story, we have seen the common threads of confusion, frustration and intense challenges in communication. So where we are today is best encapsulated by the story of the woman we will call Alejandra.

Alejandra came to the U.S., crossed the border about a month-and-a- half ago with her 6-year-old daughter. They were fleeing gang violence in their native country of Honduras. They were detained, separated.

Ten days ago, Alejandra was told that she would be reunited with her daughter that day, given the paperwork for her release, but that did not happen. Today, she is still in the detention facility here in Texas. Her daughter, Balese (ph) is still be in a facility in New York. And when she is goes looking for answers, here is what she is told.


[16:05:25] ALEJANDRA, IMMIGRANT (through translator): The first thing they ask is always, do you know when it will be? When my girl will be brought here so she can be reunified with me? And they tell me, no, I don't know anything. They say to me.


HARTUNG: Through this 10-day period of limbo that Alejandra has been in, she has been told by her daughter's attorney that HSS has raised a red flag in her daughter's case holding up the process. HSS is telling CNN that they will not comment on the specific cases, but a spokesperson telling us this.

Quote "parents in I.C.E. custody that have not yet been reunited with their child or result of concerns over safety or parentage, ORR, that is the office of Refugee Resettlement is working with DHS to evaluate if a parent is eligible for reunification on a case by case basis and will continue to put the safety of children first during this process.

As I said, no two stories are the same for the families. And we are reminded that timing is everything. Just yesterday, I met another mother and daughter here in McAllen. They had crossed the border. They had spent a month fleeing El Salvador in the process of getting here, but when they crossed the border, they were detained only briefly and they were never separated. They were getting on a bus to go to Indianapolis to meet up with family members there, and there they are going to await together their first court date.

Fred, the confusion continues through this story as it has for months now, and many still looking for the answers and finding and it is very difficult to get.

WHITFIELD: Kaylee Hartung, thank you so much in McAllen, Texas.

All right. Let's talk about the politics of what is happening on the border. I am joined now by CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer.

Julian, good to see you. So, you know, for a while, you know, I guess at the start when people learn of this publicly, there were so much outrage and then there has been sort of a lull. One has to be wonder how this can be overlooked and how this circumstance really could benefit President Trump or anyone who has been OK with this.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, initially, there was with a really big backlash, There was a mobilization to do something and then the energy fade. And the problem is the still there. Really, a tragic moment for the country. And this is not good politically obviously for Republicans. And that is why many Republicans are uneasy hearing this story come back with this tweet which will remind us of the situation and many children still.

WHITFIELD: I also want to bring in CNN political commentator Peter Beinart.

So let's talk about this. You know, border wall now, issue the President bringing it back and threatening a government shutdown if he does not get that wall, the funding for the wall. House speaker Paul Ryan said that the President needs to be patient. Listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We walked the President through our strategy of appropriations before the fiscal can year. He agreed with our strategy. So we think we have a unified strategy to make sure that we get as many appropriations bills done as possible.

As far as the wall is concern, we have some wall funding already under way that is being funded, but I think it is not a question of if, it is a question of when, and in the President is going to be patient to make sure that we get what we need so that we can get that done.


WHITFIELD: So a couple of things. Is this patience? And then why is it OK that there might be funding for this when the President on the campaign trail was saying that the U.S. taxpayers will never pay for this? Is Congress saying it is OK now?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it is almost hard to keep up with these things. First of all, I don't think that anyone believed the President's threats any more.

I mean, one of the things about threats is it is not a good idea to make them unless you are willing to the back them up. And what we have seen with President Trump is both domestically and internationally, he makes all kind of threats and then basically forgets the next day that he ever made them, right. So these threats don't have a lot credibility.

Second of all, how politically effective is it going to be to shutdown the government when Republicans control every branch of the federal government, right. It doesn't seem to me like a great strategy going into the midterm election.

And just on the policies, also, what remember is that almost nobody who actually studies immigration thinks that a wall would actually solve anything anyway, right. There is virtually no immigration coming from Mexico anyway. And most of the people coming from Central America are seeking asylum which they have the right to do whether we have a wall or not.

WHITFIELD: So, Julian, how do you see this the? Is it the President, you know, who is looking or thinking about making these moves while thinking about the midterms or is he making these moves because he is thinking about what he promised on the campaign trail and delivering on that and that perhaps the message of delivering on that might benefit everyone who is running.

[16:10:09] ZELIZER: I think that part of it is a miscalculation on his part that he going to be able to excite the base through these kinds of issues, and therefore match the enthusiasm that a lot of Democrats have going into November. I do think that is miscalculation with these issues.

And the second is that the President is not that committed to the Republican party. He is thinking of 2020 and he is thinking of what will benefit him and this very well might, but that could be different than what is going to be happening in November, and that is why the Republicans, you know, defending over 40 seats might find themselves in a bind.

WHITFIELD: And so, Peter, But the party seems committed to him, the President.

BEINART: Yes. Donald Trump is exceptionally popular among the Republicans, and that is, you know, one of the big political strengths. The problem Republicans have is a lot of the key seats there defending in places like California, New York, New Jersey are not solidly Republican Trump seats. They are seats where people have a lot of ambivalence, even hostilities to Donald Trump. So for those embattled members of Congress, this kind of the focus by Donald Trump on, you know, kind of the rearing up his base may not be that valuable for them.

WHITFIELD: Peter Beinart and Julian Zelizer, thanks to you both. Appreciate it.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, vice president Mike Pence weighing in on the White House banning a reporter from an open event. Why he says this issue comes down to decorum, next.


[16:15:49] WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

President Trump revealed in a tweet today what was supposed to have been an off of the record meeting with "The New York Times" publisher A.G. Sulzberger earlier in the month saying quote "had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of "the New York Times." Spent much time talking about the vast amount of fake being put out by the media and how that fake news has morphed into phrase, enemy of the people. Sad."

That tweet prompted Sulzberger to release a statement that said in part, my main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the President's deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric. I told the President directly that I thought his language was not just divisive, but increasingly dangerous. I told him although the phrase "fake news" is untrue and harmful, I am far more concern about his labeling journalists the enemy of the people. I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence," end quote.

I want to bring in Hadas Gold, media and business report for CNN Politics.

Hadas, good to see you. So what do we think, you know, President Trump's intention was in revealing this information the way in which he did it via tweet?

HADAS GOLD, CNN POLITICS MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER: Right. Well listen, Fred. I mean, the President often takes out this fake news enemy of the American people line whenever he is frustrated with the media or often just to rally his base.

Now, you could look at some of "The New York Times's" recent coverage and wonder whether there is something there that has caused him to become frustrated at them in some way to, as you said, decide to reveal this more than a week after the meeting already happened in a sort of the random Sunday morning tweet, but clearly Sulzberger's warnings did not stick to President Trump. Because just in the past hour, we have seen the President tweeting once again about the media and a how he is upset about what he calls negative coverage from the failing "New York Times" and "The Washington Post," and even calling reports on the internal government deliberation unpatriotic.

Now, that is stunning to hear from the American President. What is probably more stunning is that we have become seemingly so desensitized to the American President calling the normal course of reporting somehow unpatriotic, because as we know that without the reporters we would not know everything from the Watergate scandal to Hillary Clinton's private email server. But that is clearly a tactic the President continues to use whenever he is frustrated or whenever he needs a little boost from his base.

WHITFIELD: Right. Well, reminder to people the press is an extension of the American people, and that kind of access to the President, reporting on is really all about transparency.

But it is interesting in the tweet of the President, it is almost as if he was taking the approach of, you know, getting the upper hand like letting people know, you know, like I gave "The New York Times" the what for, you know. But maybe he did not expect that Sulzberger would come back to s say, here is a more specific tick-tock, you know, of the conversation and I helped convey how dangerous this kind of the anti-press rhetoric is.

So this week, you know, just an extension of what the President has kind of threatened for a long time and not really liking the press, the White House banned CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins who was representing all networks as a pool reporter when she asked questions, and then later the White House telling her you are not going to be a part of the Rose Garden, you know, event.

The White House, you know, has said it was in retaliation, you know. But the same time this has been very problematic, because the press as a whole has corralled around by saying this is not good. So take a listen to t