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Immigrant Caravan Heads for U.S. as 245 Immigrant Children Still in U.S. Custody; Pompeo on Saudi Arabia: "We Should Give Them Space"; Biden: Age is Relevant in 2020 Presidential Race; Trump Holds a Press Briefing on Saudi Arabia. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired October 17, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:31:13] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, a caravan of more than a thousand people from Central America is heading towards the United States and heading straight for a show down with the president of the United States.

President Trump tweeting this, "We have today informed the countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that if they allow citizens or others to journey through the borders and up to the United States with the intention of entering our country illegally, all payments made to them will stop."

The president also warning that any of those migrants who enter the United States will be arrested and sent back.

This comes as a new court filing shows that 245 migrant children are still separated from their parents, still in U.S. custody. This is now three months after a federal court demanded that the government reunite those children with their parents. Three months later, 245 children are still in U.S. custody.

Joining me right now, the lead attorney suing the administration over family separations, Lee Gelernt with the ACLU.

Lee, thank you for coming in.

LEE GELERNT, ATTORNEY & DEPUTY DIRECTOR, IMMIGRANTS RIGHTS PROJECT, ACLU: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: As I saw the president tweet and we are looking at this caravan coming up from Central America, you have been in these countries talking to parents trying to reconnect children with their parents. To these migrants in the caravan, what would you say to them? Turn back? It is not worth it?

GELERNT: Ultimately, it has to be their decision. When I talked to parents who got here and they lost their children, I asked them point blank, would you have come anyway if you had known you were going to lose your children, and they shrugged and said, what choice do we have, the danger is too great for our children in these countries, we had to come. I think it is wrong for the administration to be prejudging these cases. People have a right to apply for asylum. If they are fleeing the country, we should not be turning them back. That's why we have refugee laws. They need to be allowed to come here and given fair process. If they don't have an asylum claim, they will be turned back. But if they have an asylum claim, they should be allowed to come in the country. That is what the laws say and what every country's laws say.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the children separated. The latest is 245 children are being separated. You all were in court yesterday about this. Can you -- three months later, where are we now? And 245 kids still separated, what would you say?

GELERNT: I would say this has taken far too long. But I would say --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That is the understatement of the century. The deadline that was set by the judge was the end of July to get the families back together.

GELERNT: I agree. So it is an understatement. It is really unfortunate. We just need to do what we can do. Remarkably, I think everyone is focusing on the parents who were deported. We have reached all but five of them without much help from the government. There are still parents in the U.S. who haven't been reunited and we haven't gotten an answer of why they haven't been reunited. That is extremely troubling. We have been asking the government. The parents are in the U.S. They are part of the case. Why are they not being reunited with the children? And we are not getting straight answers on that. The other remarkable --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: How many families would you say that is?

GELERNT: We are not exactly sure. Somewhere between 10 and 20. As you have said --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Even one --

(CROSSTALK)

GELERNT: As you said on the show, often, you can't talk just about numbers when you are talking about these children. The remarkable thing is these families haven't been reunited and the administration is talking about family separation 2.0. If that happens, I think there's outrage beyond what we saw from the initial family separation. People will go ballistic about that. We cannot have another situation where thousands of children are being taken.

BOLDUAN: A federal judge said this was not done right.

GELERNT: Right.

[11:35:01] BOLDUAN: Saying they need to be reunited with their parents.

So the president is talking about this. In an interview with the Associated Press, he was asked about the impact that this has had on those kids, the fact that there's a lot of trauma being seen, a lot of trauma in the children being reunited with the parents after the fact.

At first, when he was asked if he dodged the question, but when the Associated Press reporter asked again. Here is what the president said. "Do you have any regrets or remorse about how this has impacted children?" "I think we have done an incredible job with children. As I've just said, we have taken children who have no parents with them standing on the border. We have taken many children. I'm talking about a large percentage. I'm talking about a very large percentage where they have no people, no parents. In addition to that, we are separating children who are just met by people who are using them to come across --coming into the border that are not their parents."

What do you say to that?

GELERNT: You may accuse me of understatement again, but they have not done an incredible job. The federal judge said this policy was brutal and offensive. You were taking children away from their parents, not from traffickers, from parents. You didn't keep records, the same kind you would keep if taking property away. For the administration to call this an incredible job is beyond belief.

BOLDUAN: I ask you every time you are on, do you remain hopeful these children will be reunited?

GELERNT: I do. If we didn't remain hopeful, we couldn't do the work. I will be back here again and continue to be hopeful. I hope the next time I'm back here we can say there are very few or no kids left to be reunited. I do think you are right to point out the trauma because in some ways that part is just starting. These kids need help. They are so traumatized. They are sitting around --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Traumatized when separated for a matter of hours. These children have been separated for months.

GELERNT: Exactly. What we are talking about are our kids thinking in their heads and saying, will I be taken away again? They need real help, medical help.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Lee. Thank you for coming in.

GELERNT: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Check in again.

GELERNT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate your time.

Coming up for us, President Trump set to speak any moment from the White House. We will bring that to you. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:41:58] BOLDUAN: The message this morning from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, "We should give them space." He is talking about the Saudi investigation into the disappearance of "Washington Post" columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, whose disappearance happened in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE (voice-over): We will get to see the investigation and the results of it. But I think they understand the serious nature of the work that they are doing and the accusations that are being levelled against them as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That's what we're hearing from the U.S. government.

Let's go to the ground right now to Josh Campbell, CNN law enforcement analyst.

Josh, there's a lot of commotion going on around you. You are outside the residents of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul. What is going on?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: A flurry of activity started about two hours ago. This isn't the consulate, the scene of the alleged crime. This is the residence of a consul general, the person in charge of the Saudi consulate, who departed the country. He's no longer here. But the facility has become of great interest because CCTV from the scene of the alleged crime over at the consulate showed vehicles leaving that location on the day that the missing journalist disappeared. They came to this facility where we are now.

There has been a bit of a tussle between Saudi authorities and Turkish authorities regarding whether they could get access to this facility. Those discussions went overnight. Within about two hours ago, we saw a large caravan of police officers arrive here fully kitted out in the moon suits. These are the forensic suits. They will be looking for DNA evidence, any sign that the body of the missing journalist is in this location. That's going on behind us right now.

Within the last 10 minutes, investigators came out to clear out some of the journalists and set down the drone attempting to get the bird's eye view and collect information. A lot of activity going on right here. We are not sure how long this will be taking place. Turkish officials tell us it will be a comprehensive review of the scene behind us.

BOLDUAN: Having a little bit of trouble with the connection, Josh. We will try one more time. I want to stick with you. You mentioned that they look to be launching a -- tell me if you know -- they are launching a drone above the facility. Why is a drone important to this investigation? CAMPBELL: So we have been told that they are going to leave no stone

unturned, that this will be a comprehensive investigation. Part of it will be to look at the facility. This is a potential crime scene behind us because they saw vehicles come here on the day the journalist disappeared. The drone flying over would provide that bird's eye view in and out of the facility. They are liable to get a picture of the facility and what they are dealing with. There may be other areas based on what they see on the roof that they may need to look at. That will all be a part of the investigation that's going on right now. Again, we see a huge flurry of activity as forensic examiners are going forward into this building.

[11:45:05] BOLDUAN: Now, here is kind of an important part about all of this in terms of the Saudis saying they are doing a thorough investigation. Mike Pompeo says they promise to be transparent and complete and timely. From the U.S. side, though, do you see is that really what is going to happen if the Saudis are leading their own investigation? Or is this just Saudis coming up with a cover story?

CAMPBELL: It sounds like the latter. There have always been two aspects of this. There's the investigation on the ground, the nuts and bolts of what happened. Then there's this larger political implication. Secretary Pompeo was here and met with President Erdogan and was relaying a message from President Trump relaying information from the Saudis. A large question looms as far as how comprehensive the Saudi investigation will be, how transparent it will be. There have been a number of new pieces of information that have come to light from the audio-visual recordings allegedly taking place inside the consulate whenever the alleged killing took place. CNN has the photos of seven members of the hit team. Their passport photographs are linked back to Saudi Arabia. New reporting that we have this morning shows that one of the officials that apparently organized all of this was a Saudi official who is closely tied to the crown prince, an intelligence officer, a diplomat. All signs are pointing to Saudi Arabia. We do not know if it will be comprehensive enough that the Saudis turn over everything they know to Turkish officials. We are hearing from the White House that they are parroting the line from the Saudis that maybe this was a rogue faction or the Saudis weren't involved at all. Every new day that passes and we get new information, it points more and more to a Saudi connection. The international community is waiting to see how fulsome this will be, how transparent the Saudis will be.

BOLDUAN: Josh, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Appreciate it.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:36] BOLDUAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden is still mum on a possible 2020 presidential run, but he is weighing in on what should and shouldn't be an issue in the 2020 race -- age, fair game, he says. At an event in Michigan, Biden said this, "Every voter is entitled to know what kind of shape you're in. You owe it to them. It's a legitimate question. So I think age is relevant." Relevant to this discussion because Biden is 75. He would be 77 when

caucus and primary season get underway. The only person older than him currently being talked about in the current field is Bernie Sanders, both older than Donald Trump, who is 72.

Here with me to discuss is CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, who is just shy of 72.

Chris --

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Age 42.

BOLDUAN: Age 41. Age is just a number of maybe not.

What is Biden getting at here?

CILLIZZA: I think that, look, the context is important, Donald Trump is the oldest person elected to a first term, Reagan was 72 when he was elected to his second term. Age in running against Donald Trump does matter. And the top three, as we see them, three of the top four Democrats, that's Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Biden, will all be 70 or older. Sanders and Biden will be closer to 80 than 70 on election day. There's a real question going forward, do you go with Kamala Harris? Who's 53? Do you go with Castro, who's in his early 40s, who said he's likely to run to, to "Rolling Stone"? The context is what kind of car do you want to run against 20.

BOLDUAN: How much of a problem is it for Democrats when they've got somewhat of a cast of older folks that have potentials, when one of the things you're trying to do, bring about new leadership and inspire young voters.

CILLIZZA: It's not just a problem in their presidential candidates, look at their leadership in the House. Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn and Steny Hoyer, are all 75 or older and that's the top three in the House. There's no question, the young people we know, Barack Obama very much energized that group. If you look at polling 18 to 35, even 18 to 35, are very supportive of the Democratic Party and their issue positions. The question is, you're not going to nominate someone who's 18. Do you nominate someone who's in their early 40s? Do you nominate a person of color, or do you nominate Joe Biden, who's been in politics since 1979, been vice president, has a lot of water under the bridge in terms of legislative votes and things he's said? Like Kamala Harris, for example. She was the attorney general in California and she's been in the Senate, she got elected in 2016, not even two years yet. We're going to have that choice because the field is going to be massive. And it's going to include the Bidens and Sanders and Harris's of the world, as well as the Castros and Harris' and Bookers.

BOLDUAN: Does it make it look more or less likely to run when he weighs in on age?

[11:55:00] CILLIZZA: I think he's running, barring -- I would say this doesn't have a huge impact on what I think about Joe Biden's chances on whether he runs. I think he's going to run. He has to make a final call obviously, but I think if it was today, he's in.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: And 42 going on 15.

Great to see you.

CILLIZZA: That's true, actually. Ask my wife, she would tell you that.

BOLDUAN: We'll discuss in the break.

Coming up, President Trump set to speak at any moment from the White House. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Going to the White House right now. President Trump in the Oval Office talking about Saudi Arabia. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to find out what's happening. In fact, Secretary of State Pompeo is going to be back either late tonight or early tomorrow morning. He went to Turkey, he went all over. He spent a lot of time with the crown prince. And he's going to have a full report.

With that being said, Saudi Arabia has been a very important ally of ours in the Middle East. We are stopping Iran. We're not trying to stop, we're stopping Iran. We went a big step when we took away that ridiculous deal that was made by the previous administration, the Iran deal which was $150 billion and $1.8 billion in cash. What was that all about? They are an ally. We have other good allies in the Middle East. If you look at Saudi Arabia, they're an ally. And they're a purchaser of military equipment among other things. When I went there, they committed to purchase $450 billion worth of things, and $110 billion worth of military. Those are the biggest orders in history of this country, probably in the history of the world. I don't think there's ever been an order for $450 billion. And you'll remember that day in Saudi Arabia where that commitment was made. So they're an important ally.

But I want to find out what happened and where is the fault. And we will know that by the end of the week. And Mike Pompeo is coming back and we are going to have a long talk.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why not send the FBI to find out?

TRUMP: He wasn't a citizen of this country for one thing. And we're going to determine that. And you don't know whether or not we have, do you?

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: No, but do you know whether or not we have sent the FBI?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I'm not going to tell you.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Why would I tell you?

Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, you asked for this audio/video intelligence --

TRUMP: We have asked for if it exists.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you gotten it?

TRUMP: We asked for it if it exists.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have they turned it over?

TRUMP: No. I'm not sure yet. Probably does, possibly does. I'll have a full report on that from Mike when he comes back.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: That's one of the things -- it will be the first question I ask.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, there's been talk about spending being reined in on Capitol Hill. I'm curious, is there any programs that you would like to see curtailed?

TRUMP: I'll tell you, we're having a cabinet meeting in a little while and we're going to ask every secretary to cut 5 percent for next year. Last year, first year, I had to do something with the military, the military was falling apart, it was depleted, it was in very bad shape. So that's why we went for two years, $700 billion, $716 billion. That took place over a period of two years. We have repurchased and purchased jets, missiles, rockets, all forms --