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Ex-Trump Campaign Aide Papadopoulos to Begin Sentence Today; Harvard Law Professor Dershowitz Says Mueller's Report will Be Devastating to Trump; Democratic Representative Himes affirms support for Pelosi for Speaker; Lawmakers to Investigate Trump, Saudi Links in New Congress; Russia and Ukraine Trade Blame After Naval Incident; Russia Reopens Kerch Strait After Firing on 3 Ukrainian Navy Ships; Trump to Rally for Embattled Mississippi GOP Senator; Dow to Rebound After Last Week's Rough Ride. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 26, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:08] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're glad you're with us this morning after hundreds of Central American migrant tried to rush the U.S. border, we are learning that dozens did make it across but they didn't make it past tear gas-wielding U.S. Border Patrol agents.

For his part, the president this morning is calling on Mexico to deport all of them, quote, "We will close the border permanently if need be," the president warns. Again claiming with no evidence that, quote, "many of the asylum seekers are, and I quote again, "stone-cold criminals."

SCIUTTO: Of course the closing of the border happened in the midst of a busy holiday weekend. Yesterday the southwest border at Tijuana was closed for hours after a peaceful protest then grew into melee. It is open again now for the moment.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is there.

Tell us what's happening now, and was it your sense from your reporting on the ground that this rushing of the border was a one-off? A reaction, or part of a plan? Are more expected?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So several thousand members of that caravan I've been following the last couple of months are in this area. They may have just been emboldened by this demonstration that took place and that's what led to that melee.

This is one of the areas that got closed off yesterday. This is the area, the border crossing, the foot border crossing where many migrants come, especially those from Central America. They come up here to try to apply for their asylum status. It's also a place where thousands of residents of Tijuana use it every single day to go to work in the U.S., to go to school in the U.S. So it's upsetting the course of life on both sides of the border certainly. One thing that the chief of patrol for the San Diego sector is saying

is that when these 500 rushed the border, they went through areas like -- you can see this bridge over here. They went under this bridge and pushed on to several different parts of the border and the head of the San Diego patrol says that many of them tried to push through to the U.S. but they were stopped.


CHIEF RODNEY SCOTT, SAN DIEGO SECTOR BORDER PATROL: Forty-two crossed the border and were arrested. To be completely frank, there were numerous people that actually made it across the border. We're in the process of building a new border wall here. But we don't have it completed. There were some sections that have dilapidated border wall that was made out of scrap metal the military gave us.

The group breached a couple sections of that, actually tore down one small section, started to rush across. And that's another time that they started assaulting our agents. We were able to hold them back.


MARQUEZ: Now Border Patrol using pepper ball guns and CS canisters or tear gas at those groups in order to get -- hold them back, made several arrests. The Mexican government also now saying that if individuals try to cross illegally and engage in this sort of behavior, they, too, will deport them back to their home countries, most of them from Central America.

The Mexican government, for many months now, has been deporting thousands of Central Americans coming through Mexico if they break the rules here in Mexico.

Back to you, guys.

HARLOW: OK. Miguel Marquez, thank you for being there and for that important reporting. We'll get back to you soon.

SCIUTTO: Those are certainly troubling images we're seeing at the border now. For a better understanding, let's bring in Hipolito Acosta. He's a former senior executive with the Department of Homeland Security, the most highly decorated officer, I should note, in the history of the U.S. Immigration and Nationalization Service. He's also the author of "Deep in the Shadows: Undercover in the Ruthless World of Human Smuggling."

Mr. Acosta, thank you for taking the time this morning. It's certainly good to have you on and to take advantage of your expertise here.

First, I want to start with the big picture question here. Who, to your knowledge and with your experience, actually makes up the bulk of this caravan? Of course the president has portrayed it is containing a large portion of criminals. He's talked about unknown Middle Easterners, et cetera. Is that an accurate description of this group of people? HIPOLITO ACOSTA, FORMER SENIOR EXECUTIVE, DHS: Well, I think that

there's a large description of -- you know, we already know there is a large group of Central Americans coming to our country. In that group you have every particular segment that we're talking about. We -- I've spoken through an admiral sources there's criminals in the group, there's possibly hundreds of individuals who have lived in the United States before who were deported back to their home country and, of course, they're trying to take advantage of this organization, the organizers who are bringing this caravan south of the border.

So I think you have a wide segment of individuals trying to flee their country. You have a mix of criminals, you have people who have been deported from the United States. You know, for example, there was a recent interview of an individual who had been deported twice and had an extensive criminal record. He was interviewed on major outlets.

[09:05:07] So you have a wide section of individuals coming to the country. But I'd like to make one point. You know, we see the tactic of rushing the border by several hundred individuals, a tactic which was used in southern Mexico, but we didn't see the violence down there. And it's interesting. We have hundreds of people fleeing violence and they're using those same tactics here on the U.S. border, throwing projectiles, rocks against our Border Patrol agents.

So we have a very dangerous, volatile situation. And, obviously, you know, the caravan progress has stopped. It's frustrating for the hundreds of people that are in that group. They expected to be in the United States before then. They don't want to stay in Mexico which, by the way, they're safe from any violence or aggression in their home countries.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Because of course the president has deployed enormous security resources on the border. This include the rare deployment of active U.S. military on the border as well. Is that deployment of force -- one, is it necessary, in your view? And does it help the process, right, or is it possible in your view that these migrants can be handled in what is the existing asylum process at the border? Come, apply, tell your story, have that adjudicated, et cetera.

ACOSTA: Well, there's asylum processes throughout the world. Not just at the border. They can actually apply for asylum even in their home countries but the reality is that they have used a third country to traverse through, through Mexico, which by the way is several thousand miles away from their home. So I think that the security -- and I think that -- let me just add that I believe and it should the administration is going to be unbending. This is not the appropriate way to come into the country, seek an asylum, you know, with 4,000, 5,000 people along the southern border.

I think Mexico is feeling the brunt of having allowed several thousand people to travel through their country. The citizens of Tijuana are under a tremendous amount of pressure with 4,000, 5,000 people without the appropriate facilities or appropriate resources and, obviously, they're looking for some kind of relief in that particular manner. But I think in this sense, I want to say I spent three years as the

director at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Mexico needs to take responsibility for having allowed 5,000 people to come into the country. And they're realizing we're not going to allow them into the United States.

SCIUTTO: Hipolito Acosta, thanks very much. We appreciate certainly your expertise on this issue.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. With us now, CNN political analyst Julie Hirschfeld Davis and national security analyst Juliette Kayyem.

Good morning to you, both. Juliette, to you, the president's warning this morning, threat really, this morning that, you know, if this does not subside that the U.S. would be willing to permanently close the border.

I get, you know, the play to the base. I get the rhetoric. What I don't get is, you know, why he would do this when it would arguably just weaken his argument because you can't do that. He's not going to do that. The impact of trade, the economic impact to the U.S. of permanently closing an international border would be huge.

So does it weaken the argument he has here and take away from those images that we saw that may be helpful to his, you know, goal of a wall here to threaten to permanently close an international border?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. Let me be clear here. The border is not going to be permanently closed. It would hurt the United States as much as it hurts Mexico, or the immigrants. Our trade and economic viability relies on the millions of people that come between the border monthly, let alone the commercial activity between Mexico and the United States. So it's not going to happen.

So his tweet this morning is more of a ploy to say that, you know, we're going to be tough and harsh and close things and build a wall. None of it is sustainable. And none of it is effective. I mean, I thought it was interesting the San Diego Sector CBP guy said look, we had the military built some fence and they got around it. I don't think he meant to undermine the military but the wall is not a sustainable, long-term option.

This is all atmospherics. It's also violent atmospherics that put our CBP officials as well as the immigrants in harm's way. And all of it -- let's just put this in perspective -- for at most a couple of thousand of people in a country, you know, we're over 350 million. And in a country which has lawful immigration in the millions on a weekly basis. So this is elevating the temperature when actually this could be dealt with as a problem but just a public policy problem. No reason to get -- you know, to change our -- who we are as a nation for this.

SCIUTTO: Julie, so forgive me for imagining that politics are part of this discussion at this point. But those images this weekend certainly serve the president's interests as he focuses, particularly during the lame duck session, getting the money that he wants for his wall.

[09:10:04] I wonder how you see this changes the dynamics of that vote particularly with a December 7th deadline coming up on funding the government. Do Democrats have to cave at this point?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think the optics are two-pronged really. I mean, it's true that the images of migrants rushing the border, the violence that's occurred between them and law enforcement, both the Mexican authorities and our CBP officials certainly makes the case, strengthens the president's case that there is a crisis along the border. But as Juliette said, we're talking about a few thousand people here. A lot of this crisis is a crisis that's been manufactured by the president, by his decision to change asylum rules or try to change the asylum rules so that people who expect to be able to come to the border, as they have been able to for many, many years, and say I am in fear of my life, I'm fleeing my country, I am asking for asylum in the United States, he's trying to shut that down.

And so you have a lot of frustration. You have, as Miguel Marquez said earlier, you had what was supposed to be a peaceful protest that got violent and so certainly the optics build a case for the fact that you need security at the border. But it also shows that barriers are not effective. They're not the answer here.


HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: And I would also add that, you know, the images of women and small children being gassed at the United States border, I think, really undermines the president's case and it makes Democrats, I think, on Capitol Hill who are trying to, you know, hustle through the optics of this and the politics of this for the coming weeks and a potential shutdown fight makes them more determined to sort of stand against this and be very public about that because that is not what anyone wants to see projected as the American values on the world stage.

SCIUTTO: This is one of those classic issues where each side -- it's going to harden positions effectively on each side. Yes.

HARLOW: Julie, quickly, before we go, just remind us, we have 30 seconds left, where immigration falls in terms of importance, especially for Republican voters.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, I mean, what we've seen is the president really play up this issue because he knows that it really animates the Republican base, the conservative base. And he has, in talking about immigration in the way that he does and in taking the actions that he has taken, he's elevated the importance of the issue across the board. But I think when you look broadly, public opinion is much more on the side of a comprehensive solution that does include some border security but I wouldn't say that generally speaking you have a lot of support in the country broadly for the kinds of approaches that he's been taking here. And I think we're going to see that play out. SCIUTTO: Julie and Juliette, thanks so much as always.

HARLOW: Thanks, guys.


KAYYEM: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come, one of the first people charged in the Mueller probe is heading to prison today. Will he be the only one?

HARLOW: On paper or if history is any indicator, this really shouldn't be a close election. But on the eve of a run-off in the Mississippi Senate race, President Trump is looking to help the Republican in a state where, frankly, a Democrat hasn't held a Senate seat in a long, long time. Can he do it? Ahead.


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, welcome back, at any moment, ex-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos is expected to report to prison where he will serve a 14-day sentence for lying to the FBI about his contact with Russians.

You may recall he was the first person charged by special counsel Bob Mueller's team of prosecutors. Now, big question today remains will the Mueller report really see the light of day? Will the public get to read it? Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes; he serves on the Intel Committee, nice to have you, happy post-Thanksgiving sir, thanks for being here.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Poppy --

HARLOW: Jim and I both -- good morning, Jim and I both thought were struck by what Alan Dershowitz said yesterday on "Abc" when he said that he's -- you know, he's an attorney, he's a prominent supporter and defender of the president, but he said that the Mueller report will be, quote, "devastating for the president", and he said devastating politically for the president.

Do you share concerns that some are voicing that the Mueller report may not be made public and may not be made at least immediately public?

HIMES: Well, I sure do, Poppy. You know, this has been such a divisive episode in our history with the president on a daily basis claiming there's nothing there. Now, that's of course notwithstanding the many guilty pleas and people, including today who are off to jail, et cetera.

But it's been such a divisive episode in which the basic facts and basic truth have been litigated usually on social media. But the American people need to know the truth. And so look, as a member of Congress, I think Congress will need to sort of figure out -- we don't know what Bob Mueller intends to do.

I don't think anybody --

HARLOW: Right --

HIMES: Does. But we'll need to make sure that this is in some way the truth is out there, whatever that truth may be.

HARLOW: Right, so let me ask you this because you have warned about essentially overdoing it, come January when Democrats take control of the House and the Intel Committee which you sit on and you've said we need to make sure we don't get too carried away with investigations.

Are you concerned about that, frankly, that what you're hearing from your fellow Democrats is too much of a focus on investigating the president and his allies and not enough on bipartisanship and finding, for example, a solution to the immigration crisis in this country?

HIMES: Yes, actually, Poppy, the reverse is true. You know, we've only been back together for one week since the election, and I will tell you, everyone from Maxine Waters who held a meeting of the Democrats on the Financial Services Committee to the caucus meetings we've had, the ethic is one of making sure that, yes, of course, we're going to do the investigations.

And I want to be clear here, you know, this administration, every single day gives you, you know, reason to investigate, reason to do oversight. My point -- and I think that the leadership and the general environment within the Democratic caucus is, yes, of course, we have to do that, it's what the constitution says we should do.

[09:20:00] But we also need to make real progress for the American people. And look, there's only so many days in a year. So on transportation -- you said immigration, yes, but on transportation, infrastructure, on wages, on retirement, security. At the end of these two years, we better have some accomplishments for the American people to say, you trusted us and here is what we did for you.

HARLOW: That sounds like a message to your fellow Democrats and Republicans as well. Let me ask you about leadership. You chair the new Democrat coalition, and you've been asked over and over and over on this network and others, will you vote for Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker and you've consistently said, including last Wednesday to my colleague -- I'm not going to answer that until I'm done doing all the leadership interviews for the new Democrat coalition.

Well, now, you're done, so let me ask you, on Wednesday, will you vote for Nancy Pelosi?

HIMES: Breaking here on Cnn, Poppy, because you got me this morning, yes, you're right, our process is done and yes, I do intend to support --


HIMES: Leader Pelosi to be speaker. You know, the whole attack on leader Pelosi was that you can't win with Nancy Pelosi. Well, son of a gun, we won in Oklahoma, we won in Kansas, we won in South Carolina, places we never imagined we would win.

So this idea that you can't win with Nancy Pelosi is just plain wrong. Now, does that mean we don't need to be plotting a -- you know, a succession, a younger group of leaders who are taking over -- that will eventually take over --

HARLOW: Right --

HIMES: Of course we need to do that. But the --


HIMES: Whole attack on Nancy Pelosi is just not consistent with what happened on election night.

HARLOW: All right, there you go, some breaking news, you will vote for Nancy Pelosi. Now, you're not going to have to take that question anymore, Congressman. So I was reading in the "Connecticut Post" that you intend to tell Nancy Pelosi that you would like to chair the House Intelligence Committee instead of the Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff. Is that correct?

HIMES: No, that's not correct. No, not instead of -- look, Adam is one of my closest friends in the caucus, he's done a superb job. Ultimately, the decision as to who chairs that committee is up to the leader. I don't have any reason to believe that she'll make a change there. But obviously as the second ranking Democrat on that committee, where the opportunity to rise --


HIMES: I would like it, but no, of course, this is not something you campaign for and Adam has done a terrific job and he's a close friend. So no, this is not a -- this is not some sort of Machiavellian attempt to change the leadership of that committee.

HARLOW: All right, well, we've never seen anything Machiavellian in politics ever before, so I'm glad you cleared that up. Finally, before you go, as it pertains to Adam Schiff, as you know, he said on Cnn this week, making a lot of news that he has been briefed by the CIA on the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and quote, he says, "I think the president is being dishonest with the American people."

Have you seen the Intelligence that he has seen and do you also think the president is being dishonest with the American people about who is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi?

HIMES: So I probably haven't seen all the exact same Intelligence that Adam has seen, but I have seen some. And I will tell you, even before I saw that Intelligence, I mean, remember Saudi Arabia is a true monarchy, I mean, nothing happens without the leadership position there.

That, plus the Intelligence I've seen, plus of course, the conclusion of the CIA as reported. I don't think there's any doubt that the Crown Prince ordered this. The president, obviously, who is not necessarily a good friend of the truth, you know, has other reasons for trying to muddy the water here.

You know, he claims that Saudi Arabia is important to our economy. You know, I actually think the leverage is on the other side, I think that we've got the leverage here, so no, I completely disagree with the president on this.

HARLOW: OK, and you think he's being dishonest with the American people as Adam Schiff does -- yes?

HIMES: Is that breaking news, Poppy?

HARLOW: I'm asking you, Congressman, thank you for being here, we appreciate it, thanks for answering the questions.


HARLOW: See you soon.

HIMES: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Jim --

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Now to the escalating conflict, the violence between Russia and Ukraine. Over the last 24 hours, Russia opened fire on three Ukrainian Navy Vessels headed for Ukrainian port, they seized their crews there.

Dramatic escalation of that violence, the incident taking place in the Kerch Strait. That now reopened. But we want to be clear, this is part of a series of Russian acts of aggression in Ukraine on Ukrainian territory since 2014, it now occupies Crimea, occupies large portions of eastern Ukraine all within Ukraine's internationally recognized borders.

The UN set to hold an emergency meeting in just under two hours on this latest activity. Matthew Chance is in Moscow with more. Matthew, this is quite a remarkable escalation here of violence, perhaps a signal that the west's sanctions against Russia have not changed Russian behavior, Russian aggression against Ukraine.

[09:25:00] MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's certainly true that the very stringent sanctions that have been imposed against Russia by the United States, by its allies in the European Union and others as well may have had an impact on the Russian economy.

But they don't seem to have done much to change Russian policy, which was the stated intention of them. And so in that sense, I think the remaining experts out there that look at this very carefully and say they have not been a success. That doesn't mean there aren't going to be more sanctions that could have an impact, of course.

And it's exactly this kind of escalation, this kind of tension as it bubbles into actual violence that may provoke a much stronger reaction from the international community. What's taken place over the last 24 hours or so, Ukrainian Navy say at least six of its sailors were injured when Russia opened fire on three of its vessels in the Kerch Strait, which is very narrow stretch of water that exists between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed in 2014.

Russia now controls that Strait which gives access to the Sea of Azov which is important for Ukraine because it's got a couple of important commercial ports there. So basically, over the past several months, U.S. officials and, of course, the Ukrainians have been accusing Russia of interfering with international shipping, with preventing Ukrainian vessels, getting into ports and the Sea of Azov by disrupting them.

And this is the latest culmination of that, and it could escalate further, Jim.

SCIUTTO: And we'll see what the west response -- what the west response is, Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks very much. President Trump is back on the campaign trail today, this time for an embattled Republican senator in Mississippi on the eve of a run-off election, will the president's visit be enough to keep the seat red?

HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. The Dow set to rise this morning, rebounding after a pretty rough week last week. Investors are watching how Cyber Monday plays out. We'll have that next.