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Ohio Special Election Down to the Wire; Children in New Mexico Found in Filthy Conditions; Charities Step Up to Reunite Families Separated at Border. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 6, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] JESSICA WEHRMAN, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: I mean, there are folks who are very motivated. This is a very interesting district because it has suburban and very rural areas. The rural areas are supportive of Trump. Closer into Columbus, the feelings are a little more skeptical. And that's a place where Governor Kasich, who is more moderate, pulls better. So it's kind of a divided Republican populist. And it really sort of depends hopefully for Republicans -- Republicans are hoping, at least, they'll be able to motivate the base, those folks from the rural areas who are very, very solid for President Trump out. And that was sort of the point of the rally.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: David, you look at the poll again, they're essentially tied. Where Balderson, the Republican, had a 10-point lead in June. Is this looking to be, you know, elections are all local type of a race? Or in the end, is this a referendum on the president and the current kind of political climate, do you think?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The current political climate is about President Trump. There's no denying that. Obviously, you see that is not the subject of all what the candidates are talking about or the ads. There's a lot more talk about Social Security and Medicare than there's necessarily about President Trump or Nancy Pelosi on the airwaves, Kate. But we can't deny the national political environment. Since January 2017, when President Trump took office, the story of politics in the Trump era at the ballot box has been this Democratic enthusiasm. Even in these red districts, when they have come up short, Democrats are outperforming what the candidate had done there previously, what Hillary Clinton did there in those districts. You saw in the Conor Lamb race in Pennsylvania, it actually emerged in a Democratic victory, flipping that seat that Donald Trump won by 20 points. Here we've got a seat that Donald Trump won by 11, as you said, a Republican has been holding it for 35 years or so. It shouldn't even be close, but it is close, because of the national political environment.

BOLDUAN: And it is, as you have already pointed out, Jessica, a fascinating -- I don't know, tension, if you will. Because Balderson gets the endorsement of both Ohio governor and chief Trump critic, John Kasich. And also the endorsement and big backing by the president himself. Though Kasich yesterday says that Balderson told him that he actually didn't ask the president to come for the visit. What's going on there? WEHRMAN: That made things a little bit awkward. I mean, you know,

originally Republicans were saying, oh, my goodness, this is the one thing where President Trump and Governor Kasich actually agree on something. By god, we've managed to unit these sort of divided parts of the party. The comments yesterday on CNN made some Republicans in Ohio kind of, you know, go, ooh, I'm not really, you know -- it made it a little more awkward, where things looked much more unified originally. We'll see. I don't know if it will have an impact on who votes tomorrow. I think probably voters are more interested in the issues that really sort of affect them. How is their pocketbook, how do they feel about their jobs?


WHERMAN: But, I mean, it's kind of -- it was I guess our October surprise.

BOLDUAN: It was just another awkward in this awkward political climate, David.

David, a win for the Democrat, Danny O'Connor, means what?

CHALIAN: It means a huge shot in the arm in advance of this home- stretch fall campaign season at the November midterm elections, Kate. This is, you know, the last special election of the cycle. Both parties are looking very closely for signals about what it means for November. And if Democrats can win this kind of Republican district, first and foremost, their magic number goes from 23 to 22. They need 22 then net gain seats to take over the House of Representatives. But it also means that they may have chances, because of the enthusiasm on their side in some of these very Republican districts.

BOLDUAN: And just a note, everybody. When they finish this tomorrow, they continue campaigning, because this seat is back up in November. So --


WEHRMAN: Yes, they're back at it in November. And not only that, there's a guy named O'Connor, a libertarian who will be on the ballot in November. So two O'Connors in November.

BOLDUAN: Talk about awkward.

Great to see you, guys. Thanks very much.

Great to see you, David.


Thanks, Jessica.

WEHRMAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be covering that tomorrow as they head to the polls. [11:33:58] Ahead for us, we have this story out of New Mexico.

Police were searching for a missing child. They made a shocking discovery in the New Mexico desert. Eleven children held captive in a filthy trailer, starving, wearing nothing but rags. That is from the sheriff. We're going to get the very latest on their conditions, their future, and the investigation into who is responsible. That's next.


BOLDUAN: A shocking and horrible scene was uncovered in New Mexico. Police raided -- we'll show you -- a make3shift compound outside Santa Fe looking for a 3 year old who had been missing since late last year. Instead, they found 11 malnourished children, who the sheriff said looked in his view like, quote, third-world country refugees. The children's ages range from 1 to 15. They had no food, no running water, wore dirty rags for clothing.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung is following this for us.

Kaylee, at this point, police have charged five people with child abuse, including what they believe is the mother of these children. There were so many unanswered questions about all of this. What more are you learning?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, the sheriff saying these are the saddest living conditions in poverty he's ever seen. Authorities are still in the process of determining what these 11 children endured in these conditions. But the information they have to this point has led them to charge all five adults with 11 counts of child abuse each. The two men, they're facing criminal charges, as well. One of those men is believed to be the father of that child, the missing 3-year-old, who is still missing. That child not among the 11 children found here. Though that's what authorities expected to find.

[11:40:10] You mentioned the three women believed to be the mothers of those 11 children. All of these adults in custody. Though it doesn't sound like they're answering many of the authorities' questions, none are forthcoming with any information as to the missing 3-year-old, his current whereabouts. Today that child's 4th birthday. The sheriff does have reason to believe that child was there in recent weeks.

Kate, those two men were found heavily armed when authorities raided the compound. We're talking about A.R.-15s, loaded pistols, loaded 30-round magazines. You said it. So many more questions than answers, as we learn more and see these truly shocking pictures.

BOLDUAN: Kaylee, let me make sure I heard you right. Today is the child's birthday?


BOLDUAN: That's -- tears you up.

Thanks so much, Kaylee.

That child still missing. But what happens with the children they have in custody? What happens with these children now?

Joining me now is cabinet secretary for New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department, Monique Jacobson.

Thank you so much for being here.


BOLDUAN: So the sheriff says he's been working his job for 30 years, and he's never seen anything like this. What can you tell us about these children and how they're doing?

JACOBSON: I can tell you that we have a full team of people right now that are really focused on making sure that we are looking out for the safety and well-being of these children. We have people that are doing different types of assessments and working with the children. Our first goal, of course, is just to minimize any sort of additional trauma that any of these children would be experiencing. Make sure we're getting their basic needs met and surrounding them with caring people.

BOLDUAN: The sheriff said that the 11 children looked like they were third-world country refugees. Not only with no water, no food, but with no shoes or personal hygiene. What is -- with all of that in mind, what's the first priority, if these are the conditions that they were found in or living in?

JACOBSON: You know, the first thing we always want to do is make sure we're getting their most basic needs met. So getting them fed, of course hydration is really important and essential. And then making sure we can get them cleaned up and comfortable clothing. Like, we really want to make these kids as comfortable as possible before we have to ask them any questions or try to learn more about what was occurring in their environment.

BOLDUAN: And I know it's a difficult position of what you can discuss and can't, because we were talking about minors, of course, who have been through unbelievable horror already. Do you have any idea how long they've been in these living conditions?

JACOBSON: Yes, I can't really speak to any of the specifics, as it's part of both an ongoing investigation for us, as well as for law enforcement. But, of course, those are all the things that we're looking into. While also making sure just that their immediate needs are being met and we're making them as comfortable as possible.

BOLDUAN: And are they talking?

JACOBSON: I'm sorry. Are they what?

BOLDUAN: Are they talking? Like, is that part of where you are in the process of -- I mean, like, talking to you about what they've been dealing with?

JACOBSON: So one thing that typically in a situation like this, of course, we work to get their basic needs met, and then we do usually do what are called forensic interviews. So we have experts who will interview the children to, again, try to get as much information as possible, in terms of what they know, what they have experienced, what was going on, where in the environment they have been removed from. So that's definitely a part of the process.

I will tell you, just from other similar situations that we've had, it can take children some time before they feel comfortable in terms of talking and really letting us know things that were occurring. So it's important that we not do anything to rush that. But that we really kind of respect where they are and what they're comfortable with disclosing at this time.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And unfortunately, you see a lot of horrible cases, of horrible things that happen to children. How do you make sense of something like this?

JACOBSON: There's -- you know, any time a child's basic needs are not being met, it's heart breaking. It's horrific. And I think -- I don't think there's truly a way to make sense of it. What I can tell you is that we really focus on doing all we can again to minimize that trauma and to get them in a place, in a position where they can recover from what's happened to them. You know, some people tell me, you can never truly recover from it. But I will tell you, I have met some amazing, remarkable young people who went through horrific things in their past. And they're incredible. And just to get to see the lives they've gone on to live, I think it gives us hope. It gives us a belief that as long as we do the community, our staff -- everyone that kind of -- they end up interacting with. As long as we come together to support them, I have gotten to see, I guess, the -- there can be incredible futures for children that have experienced really horrific pasts.

[11:45:23] BOLDUAN: It is amazing how resilient young children are, but a long road ahead for them, no matter what.

Monique Jacobson, thank you so much for speaking to us about where they are in the process going forward. We'll stay close to this. I really appreciate it.

JACOBSON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

And, again, a 3-year-old, now 4-year-old today on his birthday is still missing. And that is what sparked all of this, this search for a now 4-year-old missing little boy. We'll continue to follow this.

Still to come for us, another important story about children that we will continue to follow, as well. Hundreds of immigrant children still separated from their parents. Who is taking the lead to reunite these families? The federal government says, don't look at us. So now what? We'll be right back.


[11:50:38] BOLDUAN: Deadline passed. Hundreds of kids still separated from their parents, and now the federal government says it shouldn't be its job to reunite these families at all. That's the latest in the ongoing saga of the president's zero-tolerance policy at the border, which forced thousands of kids to be taken from their parents. At least 400 of them are still in U.S. custody while their parents have been deported.

This week, eight children are expected to leave New York and make the long journey home to Central America. They're among some of the first to be reunited with their deported parents.

But here's the key. These reunions are not happening because the federal government is getting its act together. They're happening because charities are stepping in to fill the void, organizations like the Catholic Charities of New York.

Here with me is the director of Immigrant and Refugee Services for Catholic Charities, Mario Russell.

Mario, thank you for being here. Really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: So the lead attorney for the ACLU has been on the show a few times. He told me last week that the federal government says essentially this should be up to -- it shouldn't be up to them. It should be up to the ACLU and other NGOs and organizations to reunite these families. How have you stepped in to fill the void to try to reunite the families?

RUSSELL: Sure, Kate. Thank you. And thank you for having me on your show.

From the beginning, the government has shown absolute neglect, indifference, and frankly, to an extent, a sense of abuse of children and families in the sense that it's absolutely walked away from any sense of responsibility, both at the moment of separation and now at the moment of reunification, which is just a moment of trying to heal a deep wound and a deep scar that has been created among families. Our work -- and we have gone to the government, asked them, petitioned them, forced them, pushed them, to do something, to move things forward, to do it more quickly, to do it in a more timely way. As you've reported, they've essentially said, no, that's really not our job. There's a process for this. We're going to get to this in time.

Talking about the 400 or more families that have been separated with a parent, who basically accepted return to their home country, thinking -- this is almost six weeks ago -- thinking this would reunify them with their children more quickly. BOLDUAN: That's actually a point of contention with the government.

The government attorneys say parents knew they chose to be deported, chose to be deported without their child.

RUSSELL: Look, knowing and fully understanding what they're signing are two completely different things.


RUSSELL: The parents were under the impression and believed and understood that this would facilitate and expedite reunification. In fact, it had the absolute opposite effect.

BOLDUAN: So now you have --

RUSSELL: It has slowed down that reunification.

BOLDUAN: Now you have eight children heading home. What are these parents telling you? What are the children telling you?

RUSSELL: Sure, the parents have been -- it's, you know, it's been hard connecting with them. We've had to work with our private resources and with friends at the embassies and consulate offices to engage ways of finding where the parents are. You know, they might be from small villages up in the mountains or in the large city. It really varies. But the government has taken no initiative and no responsibility essentially for what would be a safe or sustainable repatriation of these children. Basically, they say, our job is to deliver them across the border. And that's it. So working with partners, we have sought to do what we can to engage those sources on the ground. But again, this is just a small piece of the problem. There are many, many kids who still have to appear in court, who still have to make a request for voluntary departure.

BOLDUAN: How many more children are you working with?

RUSSELL: It's a significant number. The work we do really is engage with the shelters and, to an extent, you know, the numbers are changing.

BOLDUAN: So you don't even -- is it not a firm number?

RUSSELL: We don't have a full accounting from the government of kids who are still, you know, in that custody and for whom we need to work this through.

BOLDUAN: Really?

RUSSELL: So this is a shifting, continually shifting problem because we don't have absolute direct access to all of the children who are in custody. We only receive notice and information depending on what the government is willing to share. Some of these kids are very young.

BOLDUAN: Right. Right.

RUSSELL: Under a year old or 1 or 2 years old. They don't necessarily -- they're not necessarily brought to us on first --


BOLDUAN: Are you hopeful you'll be able to, no matter what the number ends up being, be able to reunite all the children?

RUSSELL: Absolutely. We're going to do two things. One, we're hopeful. We'll keep pressing. Our lawyers will keep presenting to the courts and to the government.

[11:55:06] BOLDUAN: You still think you can get more information from the government.

RUSSELL: We do. We're hopeful. This is something we don't give up on.

BOLDUAN: You do? Do you think they're holding information from you?

RUSSELL: I don't think so. I think it's a process that's been mismanaged. It's been characterized by indifference. This is simply not a priority for the government. As has been the reunification of families in the United States. So beginning this week, Catholic Charities will develop a program to receive those families and give them transitional support as they relocate internally in New York City or other cities in the United States.

BOLDUAN: This is one step in a very long process, but today, eight children going to be heading home to their families from New York.

Thank you for your time.

RUSSELL: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: We'll continue to follow it.

Next, coming up, President Trump says outright that his son's meeting with Russians at the Trump Tower during the campaign was, indeed, about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Why is the president speaking out about this now, honestly? And does this help or hurt his son?