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Major Legal Battle Looms after Judge Strikes Down Obamacare; Trump Loses Another Cabinet Member; 7-Year-Old Guatemalan Girl Dies in U.S. Custody; Safety Commission Recommends Gun Training for Teachers. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 15, 2018 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:44] ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Alex Marquardt, in for Fredricka Whitfield this Saturday. Thanks for joining us.

We are following a number of breaking stories this morning.

First, the Trump administration losing yet another cabinet member. Just moments ago, the President announced on Twitter that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resigned and will leave the administration at the end of the year. Zinke departs amid growing scrutiny over a number of ethics investigations during his time heading up the Interior Department. We will have much more on Zinke's resignation in a few moments.

But right now we move on to our other breaking story of the morning -- the future of health care for millions of Americans is once again up in the air.

A federal judge in Texas striking down Obamacare, a controversial ruling that is setting the scene for a major legal battle ahead. This could once again leave the fate of President Obama's landmark health care law in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Now the Texas judge's decision centers round the individual coverage mandate which requires all Americans to get health insurance or pay a penalty. Congress effectively eliminated that penalty as part of the 2017 tax cut bill. Now the judge is saying that mandate is unconstitutional. So the entire law, he says, is invalid.

Many states in reaction are vowing to fight back and appeal that calling the ruling an assault while President Trump who campaigned vociferously against Obamacare is taking a victory lap on Twitter touting that new ruling.

So for more, we are joined by our Supreme Court reporter, Ariane de Vogue.

Ariane -- break this down for us. Obamacare, signing up for that ends at midnight. Millions have signed up for Obamacare for 2019. But this really will not affect -- will not immediately affect them? ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORT: Right, it won't. But this

is a really broad ruling. This judge said not only is the individual mandate unconstitutional. He said the entire law must go.

Now it's just one judge right, Reed O'Connor --

MARQUARDT: Right.

DE VOGUE: It can be appealed on this. But boy, it sends into doubt the future of a lot of people thinking about health care. He said it can remain in effect pending appeal.

But let me walk you through just a bit the history of it --

MARQUARDT: Yes.

DE VOGUE: -- so we understand how we got to today. Remember back in 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Remember it was Chief Justice John Roberts, he said it was ok under the taxing power.

Flash forward to 2017, Congress acts to get rid of the tax penalty. So this judge last night says, look, you got rid of the tax penalty. That's the legal underpinning of this Supreme Court opinion. So now, not only is the individual mandate unconstitutional, but everything else must fall. That is a huge win for critics of Obamacare.

MARQUARDT: And as you and I were discussing right before the show this goes well beyond what the Trump administration had even wanted.

So game this out for us. It will go through an appeals process but it could make its way to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court has now shifted dramatically since the last ruling. So how does this all play out?

DE VOGUE: Well, first of all, remember, the Trump administration they've declined to defend this law. So California and a group of other states, they stepped in and last night they said we are going to the Fifth Circuit. That's a very conservative federal appeals court in Texas.

So the Fifth Circuit will look at it. And if it upholds exactly what O'Connor did then this thing will shoot right to the Supreme Court because that's so broad. The Fifth Circuit could scale back a little bit and so maybe it wouldn't go to the court. But the court likes to hear things when they are big. national laws like this.

We do have this new, solidified, conservative majority but we also might have a concern about what is called severability, really kind of jibes by knocking down one provision, take the whole thing. That might be at issue at the court, too. So they will have to look at it if it gets to them.

MARQUARDT: A lot of moving parts. But the important part to remember is nothing changes immediately --

DE VOGUE: Right.

MARQUARDT: -- but it is once again in jeopardy.

DE VOGUE: Yes.

MARQUARDT: So a lot of drama ahead probably.

Ariane de Vogue -- thanks so much for joining us and explaining that.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, the Affordable Care Act was, as we mentioned, one President Obama's biggest achievement while in office. This latest ruling threatens to wipe away the protection for people with pre-existing conditions, as you just heard from Ariane

[11:04:59] That is a major staple of the law which was widely featured in the 2018 midterm campaign on both sides among Democrats and Republicans.

So joining me now is one of the architects of Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber. Jonathan -- thanks so much for joining us this morning.

First of all, what is your reaction to this ruling out of Texas?

JONATHAN GRUBER, ARCHITECT OF OBAMACARE: Well, I think it's really disappointing. I mean essentially a perversion of representative democracy.

Republicans controlled the Congress. They had a chance to strike down Obamacare. They said no, we are going to leave Obamacare and strike down the tax penalty. So they have literally said it is severable. Republicans have spoken. They said it's severable.

Yet, this judge is saying, no, I don't believe what the representative democracy delivered. I'm going to declare it unseverable.

So that's why legal experts, even legal experts who were opposed to the Affordable Care Act in previous cases are saying this is just ridiculous.

MARQUARDT: And the judge did say that because the individual mandate is unconstitutional, the whole law is as well. That mandate as we know is what they called as central and inseverable, as you were just discussing, from the remainder of Obamacare. So do you agree?

GRUBER: Well look, I think when the law passed we all thought the mandate was a very important part of the law. We have now basically been proven that it's important but not as important as we thought because look, we now have experience of the law without it, they removed the mandate. And we are seeing it weakens the law, it raises premiums, but the law still remains quite strong, albeit not as strong as it would have been.

So we have seen empirically that the law -- that it is severable. The law still works without it. Congress in its wisdom has declared that it's severable, has said, look, we're going to keep the law but remove the mandate penalty.

So really there is just no basis for a judge in Texas to just say despite what the body that represents the American people have said, I'm going to decide this is not severable. There's just no reason to do it.

MARQUARDT: Are you confident in the appeals process that this won't go any farther?

GRUBER: No, I'm not confident. Previous cases on the Affordable Care Act have all been clearly, by an objective standard, easy wins for the Affordable Care Act, and yet they've all passed by the skin of their teeth.

The Supreme Court clearly does not represent the constitutional expertise of the broad Senate constitutional experts, who for example in 2012 by about an 80 percent to 90 percent margin said the mandate was constitutional. Yet the Supreme Court found it wasn't.

So I'm nervous. What's fortunate is the Supreme Court I think does care about the opinion of the American people. The American people have spoken. They believe that protecting people with pre-existing conditions against insurance market discrimination is a key contribution of this law. And indeed it is.

And I think hopefully the Supreme Court will see that that's something that matters to people. And that because of some obscure severability clause --

MARQUARDT: Right.

GRUBER: -- Or lack of severability --

MARQUARDT: Right.

GRUBER: -- they will not go against the will of the Congress.

MARQUARDT: You say you are nervous. At the same time you say that the Supreme Court listens to the will of the American people. But now we have a Supreme Court that has two new conservative justices in Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on it. So if this makes its way to the Supreme Court, do you have any sense of how you think they might rule or how the whole court would rule?

GRUBER: I honestly don't. I just hope that they will look and realize that even without the individual mandate, we are talking about a law that provided insurance to 17 million people, and for the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, it's saying don't worry, if you lose health insurance you can go buy it on the exchange.

If this law goes away, we return to a day where people who are sick can't get health insurance, which defeats the whole purpose of the product.

MARQUARDT: All right. Jonathan Gruber -- thanks so much for joining us this morning. GRUBER: You bet. >

MARQUARDT: All right. Joining me now is NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell, and assistant editor at the "Washington Post" and CNN political commentator David Swerdlick.

David -- let's start with you. Protecting those with pre-existing conditions was a focal point of the midterm campaigns and did help Democrats take back the House. What do you think are the political consequences of this ruling?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, good morning -- Alex.

I think the political consequences are that Republicans have now basically done the equivalent of playing Jenga. They pulled the bottom block out of something hoping it will collapse. It's not going to go away yet because as your previous guest has said it's going to have to go up to the Supreme Court probably to resolve this.

But if the Affordable Care Act eventually does fall apart, then you have a divided Congress that's not going to be able to agree on how to proceed with health care and that will leave millions of Americans who depended on the Affordable Care Act sort of in the lurch.

Democrats are moving left toward Medicare for all. Republicans have been unable to pass their plans, which are a version of, you know, market-based health care where states can choose what kind of plans they have. The two sides are far apart.

[11:10:02] I don't think Democrats in the immediate future are going to be able to deliver on this because they don't have the Senate. And I think Republicans are going to have to answer in the coming months why they want to take this apart if they don't have a plan in place that can replace it that's clearly better.

MARQUARDT: And Kelsey -- picking up on that, the soon-to-be House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has slammed this ruling. Is there anything that she can do?

KELSEY SNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Well, she is very capable for bringing up bills to vote on her Congress at this point so that the House could potentially take a vote and uphold portions of the law or even bring back the penalty for the individual mandate that was zeroed out by Republicans last year.

But I think it's very important that this is a big political issue for Pelosi. She firmly believes and has strong evidence for the fact that Republicans lost many, many congressional races in states like New Jersey and in Florida and California based on messaging on the Affordable Care Act because voters really started to like this law.

MARQUARDT: Right.

SNELL: They may not like it being branded as Obamacare but they really do like the protections that are in the law.

MARQUARDT: Right.

David -- a point that I have been trying to get at with some of our guests is --

SWERDLICK: -- if we play this -- if we game this out and it gets to the Supreme Court and now you have the Supreme Court that is firmly conservative with the nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh -- how does that impact things? Because the Chief Justice John Roberts was the key vote, the key voice last time and now you've got solid five to four conservative majority. So how is that going to affect things?

SWERDLICK: Yes. No -- I think we're going to -- it's a little bit of a wait and see. I mean this Texas federal judge has a reasonable if not ultimately winning point that if the Supreme Court in 2012, you know, premised its upholding of the Affordable Care Act on the idea that this was part of Congress's taxing power but now the law does not include the penalty or the tax then that premise is gone.

On the other hand, the idea I think Ariane was talking about the severability problem earlier in your program -- the problem is does this make the entire law fail. And you know, I can't get into the minds of the Supreme Court justices, including Justice Roberts who is a conservative Bush appointee who's the chief justice, but who I think in 2012 clearly saw what would happen if the Supreme Court intervened to essentially undo the will of Congress. So I have to go with wait and see right now -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Wait and see it is.

All right. Well, he have a lot more to discuss. David and Kelsey -- please stay with us.

We're going to take a quick break.

Still ahead, turmoil inside the White House. Just after President Trump names Mick Mulvaney as his acting chief of staff, his Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke steps down amid several ethics investigations.

We will be live from the White House, next.

[11:12:45] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: President Trump has lost yet another cabinet member after naming an acting chief of staff. In a tweet this morning the President announcing the resignation of his embattled Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Trump tweeting that Zinke is stepping down and will leave his administration at the end of the year. Zinke was under growing pressure over a number of ethics enquiries.

The President has also announced on Twitter that Mick Mulvaney will become the acting chief of staff at the end of the year. Mulvaney will also somehow continue in his job as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the OMB.

So for more let's bring in CNN's Sarah Westwood at the White House. Sarah -- Zinke was in trouble because of all these investigations but his departure didn't seem imminent, did it? Why did all this happen today?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Alex -- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is someone whose fate within the administration had been was unclear for several months now given some of the headlines that he's generated in the White House responding to those by saying they'd look into the problems facing Zinke but the timing of his departure comes amid a massive staff shake-up across the West Wing in the cabinet.

Now Zinke had been embattled for weeks now. He was facing a number of probes from the Department of Interiors inspector general over allegations that he used his post to enrich himself, that he perhaps had a relationship with the chairman of Haliburton that was under investigation. His dealing in a casino project in Connecticut also being looked at by the agency's inspector general. Abuse potentially of agency resources.

And CNN reported in October, that the Department of Justice was looking into some of the Zinke's conduct after the inspector general referred some of its work to the Justice Department.

Now, Zinke's departure does perhaps prevent some headaches for this White House because now he won't really be in a position to be dragged before Congress. Democrats had been vowing to bring him in to ask him questions about some of these scandals -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Sarah -- switching over to Mulvaney for a second, he has been named acting chief of staff, emphasis on the acting. And somehow he is going to do that incredibly difficult and time-consuming job while also holding on to his job as the head of OMB?

WESTWOOD: That's right. That's what this administration says, although the day-to-day work will be taken over by a deputy. It won't even be the first time Mulvaney is pulling double duty. He also took over as head of the CFPB earlier in the Trump president -- something that was a little controversial at the time.

But the President is accepting Mulvaney in this position, in an acting capacity is a remarkable shift from just a couple of weeks ago when the President ultimately wasn't able to come to an agreement with his first choice for the position, Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, because Ayers wanted to hold it on a temporary basis as well. But the President is suddenly ok with having an acting chief of staff to fill this vacancy -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Sarah Westwood at the White House. Thanks for breaking that all down.

So back with me to discuss more are David Swerdlick and Kelsey Snell.

Kelsey -- Sarah was just hitting on the point that I wanted to start with you, the fact that the first choice for chief of staff, Nick Ayers, who is Vice President's Pence's chief of staff. [11:20:05] The reason those talks broke down is because he wanted the acting title and Trump didn't. So why do you think he's accepted it with Mulvaney? Is it just to sort of quash any perception that no one wants the job?

SNELL: It may just be that because, as you know, there have been other candidates who have said no or who have been turned down since Ayers decided that this wasn't the job for him. Like Mark Meadows --

MARQUARDT: Right.

SNELL: -- the Freedom Caucus chairman. And you know, it may also be to put a little bit of ease with people in Congress because Mulvaney has an odd relationship with folks up there, particularly with Democrats.

MARQUARDT: Congressman for six years.

SNELL: He was. And there are Democrats who are already out there saying that Trump is picking Mulvaney because he wants to have a bigger shutdown fight and that's something that Mulvaney has always been a kind of a critic of government spending and he was one of the Republicans who always fought to keep spending limited. So it's entirely possible that he is trying to calm the waters.

MARQUARDT: And he's a true partisan and true supporter of the President so it's unlikely that he's going to be that middle ground, that moderating diplomat with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

SNELL: That is not the expectation that people have for the type of chief of staff that we would see from Mick Mulvaney.

MARQUARDT: David, to you -- like many Republicans the President's new acting chief of staff has not had kind words for the President in the past, specifically before the 2016 election.

And overnight there's new video that we found of Mulvaney before election Day and in it Mulvaney actually explains why he is reluctantly supporting Trump. Let's take a quick listen to that and we'll talk on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, OMB DIRECTOR: Yes, I'm supporting Donald Trump. I'm doing so as enthusiastically as I can, given the fact that he's a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: He's a terrible human being. I wonder if the President has actually seen that piece of video. Assuming he does at some point, do you think that Mulvaney will actually become the permanent chief of staff?

SWERDLICK: No idea. But -- and I haven't seen that video yet -- Alex. But I have two reactions to it. One is that even though it's a little more blunt than most would put it, in some ways I think that is an articulation of the bargain that a lot of Republicans in Congress and a lot of Republican voters made with President Trump in 2016.

That they didn't think he was great on issues of personal character or comportment but they preferred him to Secretary Clinton. They liked his agenda and they wanted a Republican in the White House with a Republican Congress so they made that deal and they went with them and now here they are.

And now here Congressman Mulvaney or rather Director Mulvaney is now. He's a loyal Trump soldier now, served as OMB director, CFPB as Sarah just reported.

He's got the right resume but I agree with what Kelsey said to you a minute ago. The fact that you have to take him on an interim basis just shows how much people don't want this job.

MARQUARDT: Kelsey -- when you hear -- to David's point -- that people don't want this job and yet you see the President saying that many people wanted this job, which is true? Are people actually lining up to try to be the chief of staff in this White House at this time?

SNELL: Not as far as we have seen. There are some people who enjoyed having their names out there or were, you know, were not discouraging that conversation --

MARQUARDT: Right.

SNELL: -- about their candidacy. We haven't seen a lot of people come forward. It would be a very difficult job. We have seen that through the number of people who have gone through it already.

MARQUARDT: Very difficult because we have the Democrats coming in to taking over the House, and we're at possibly the end of the Mueller investigation. So this is a White House that's under fire.

SNELL: Yes, this is a time when things are about to get a little bit stickier.

MARQUARDT: All right. David, back to you -- how could Mulvaney help Trump navigate this Russia investigation. We've seen a number of events this week with regards to Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. So there is a sense that Robert Mueller might be wrapping things up in the early months of next year. How do you think Mulvaney is going to help with that?

SWEDLICK: You know, I think at a minimum, he knows Congress as a former member of Congress so he can at least help the President with the ins and outs of the committee process even if he, as Kelsey said earlier, is not on the best of terms with all the Democrats in Congress. That's the book on Mulvaney.

He has a fresh start here, right. With some bad blood brewing between the President and General Kelly. The President didn't have confidence in Reince Priebus, his first chief of staff. So at a minimum, he's able to turn the page and say ok, where do we go from here, fresh start?

But the President is looking at the Mueller investigation coming to a conclusion perhaps sometime in the next few months. The President is looking at a situation where he's already done a tax cut into a full employment environment. So if there's a recession, let's say, what stimulative things can he approach Congress with at this point? It is going to be a tough sled for any chief of staff for any White House in this next Congress, I think.

[11:24:54] MARQUARDT: And Kelsey -- with Mulvaney coming in as acting, that is kind of plugging one hole in the boat but at the same time, you've got John Kelly widely respected, leaving. You now have Ryan Zinke leaving under this cloud of ethics investigations. That, of course, follows Scott Pruitt and Tom Price.

I mean how battered does the White House become with these two high- profile departures after this long string of other departures?

SNELL: Well, this is not necessarily something that's going to calm critics down. It's also not a situation that makes it any easier on the Senate because they are going to have to confirm replacements for Zinke --

MARQUARDT: Right.

SNELL: -- and for another attorney general.

MARQUARDT: Right.

SNELL: This has been very difficult for them to get through controversial nominees. We've seen a lot of nominees get through on very narrow votes. We've seen the Vice President have to break more ties his than several of his predecessors combined.

MARQUARDT: Right.

SNELL: So this is creating a serious backlog and a serious issue for the White House in the very beginning of next year.

MARQUARDT: So much to discuss, we could spend hours on it but unfortunately we have to go.

Kelsey, David Swerdlick in New York -- thank you so much.

Coming up, interview showdown. Sources telling CNN that the special counsel's team continues to be interested in sitting down with the President, but will the President give in?

[11:26:03] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: The special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation still wants a face-to-face meeting with President Trump, but the President's lawyers are saying a sit-down interview is not going to happen. The development follows a new slam by Robert Mueller involving General Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor. The special counsel is dismissing suggestions by Flynn's lawyers that

he lied to the FBI because he was set up. The memo caps a head- spinning week of revelations that shows the legal walls are closing in on Trump and the people around him.

These are the current active investigations in and around Trump's orbit. Take a look at this. The Trump campaign, the Trump transition team, the Trump inaugural committee, the Trump Foundation, and the Trump Organization and, of course, the Trump administration itself.

CNN's Erica Orden is following all of this. Erica -- let's start with Michael Flynn. This was a fascinating moment because both sides, the Flynn legal team and the Mueller legal team had said that Michael Flynn deserves no jail time because of his extensive cooperation. Now we see the Mueller coming out swinging saying that Michael Flynn's version of the facts is untrue and he should have known that lying to federal investigators is against the law.

ERICA ORDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So, as you pointed out, one of the important things to keep in mind is that both sides have asked for little to no prison time for Michael Flynn. However the prosecutors had been pushing back against some of Flynn's claims.

And one effect that all of this may have in terms of the sentencing is that the judge has brought up in his court filings and, you know, you've seen the judge order prosecutors and lawyers and from the special counsel's office to file additional material in response to some of those claims.

So what you may see during sentencing is the judge seek to elicit more information on some of these issues from both sides -- from Flynn's attorneys and from the special counsel team.

And you may see the judge enquire with Flynn and with his attorneys about why Flynn is bringing up some of these -- some of these claims right now just before -- just prior to his sentencing.

MARQUARDT: So how do you think that actually plays into the sentencing which is on Tuesday? Flynn could face up to six months. I understand his legal team has asked for probation. They've offered 200 hours of community service. But given that Flynn has now clearly irked the Mueller folks, does that make it more likely that he could face some prison time?

ORDEN: He does seem to have irked them but given again that both sides have asked for little to no prison time, and that the Mueller team has gone into detail about -- although some of it has been redacted in court filings -- has gone into detail about Flynn's level of cooperation and his willingness to assist the special counsel investigation. It doesn't seem likely that these kinds of claims will substantively change the ultimate sentence for him.

MARQUARDT: And of course, the major question, what did Michael Flynn actually tell the prosecutors in more than 62 hours of conversations about President Trump.

Eric Orden -- thanks so much for breaking that down for us.

ORDEN: Thanks .

MARQUARDT: So for more, let's bring in Elie Honig who is a former federal prosecutor and state prosecutor.

Mueller says that this won't change his recommendation, that Flynn will receive no jail time. So Elie -- what does this tell us about Mueller's process and what were Flynn's lawyers doing calling out the FBI in the first place in that sentencing memo?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. I do not think this will change Mueller's recommendation of no jail time. I think -- but I do think Flynn's lawyers overstepped here. They went down a road that they didn't need to.

Their guy was perfectly situated to get a no jail time sentence.

MARQUARDT: Right. That was the defense recommendation. That was Mueller's recommendation. It was a done deal.

I don't know why they poked this bear. They did not need to. And the arguments they're making are silly. They are not correct as a matter of law. They're not correct as a matter of common sense.

The FBI has no obligation to tell someone in this situation that they ought to get a lawyer because the interrogation was not in FBI custody. So that's different from like a Miranda setting. The FBI did not have to warn Michael Flynn, hey if you lie to us, that's a crime.

And by the way of all people who should know that it should be the incoming national security adviser. So I don't know why the lawyers went down this path. I don't see any benefit to it for Flynn.

[11:35:01] Now the judge has shown some interest, as you said before -- Alex. And I don't -- that could mean either thing. That could meant the judge is thinking about throwing the case out. I don't think that's likely. It could mean that the judge on the opposite side is ticked off and think that Flynn has not truly accepted responsibility now which could result in a slightly higher sentence.

MARQUARDT: Right. Let's just remind our viewers what happened is that Flynn was questioned by FBI agents, that those FBI agents did not tell him explicitly that lying to the FBI is illegal.

HONIG: Right.

MARQUARDT: And the Mueller's team response was someone who spent this much time heading up an intelligence agency in the military at this highest level of U.S. government should know that.

So Elie -- Flynn was one of the first people in Trump's inner circle to cooperate extensively as both his team and the Mueller have said at the highest level. He was cooperating. He was part of the campaign. He's part of the transition. He's part of the administration. Does it looks like this is a test case for other potential cooperators?

HONIG: It could be. Look, I always approach cooperators from the point of view that the other potential cooperators are watching. And that's why I think Mueller has been smart.

The cooperators who have come through, who've been honest, who've been truthful, who've given him good information he's gone to bat for. Michael Flynn being one of them.

The cooperators who have messed around and played games and stretched the truth he's thrown out. Papadopoulos, right, Mueller put in a very negative sentencing memo on Papadopoulos. And of course, Paul Manafort who Mueller threw out of the prop room altogether. And now Manafort is looking at an extremely high sentence.

So I think there is important messages to be sent which is if you cooperate and you do it right and you do it fully and you do it truthfully you will get a benefit. But if you come in here and play games it's going to back fire.

MARQUARDT: And Elie, now this news that the special counsel says he still wants to interview President Trump on the Russia investigation. Of course, his lawyers have pushed back and say they are opposed. They don't want to do that.

Here is what President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, said about the President's truthfulness. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: The special counsel did say that you were doing your best to tell the truth about everything related to their investigation, everything related to Russia. Do you think President Trump is telling the truth about that?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: So very simply, is it in President Trump's interest to sit down with Robert Mueller?

HONIG: No, if I was representing the President I would fight that at all costs. But there's two ways this can go. They can agree to terms of an interview between Mueller and Trump's team. I don't think that will happen because I don't believe Trump lawyers are willing to walk him into a room with Mueller and let him answer questions.

And if not then the ball moves over to Mueller's court, is he going to issue a subpoena? And if he does, we're going to end up in the courts and we're going to have I think a very close contest up to the Supreme Court.

MARQUARDT: And if he issues a subpoena, of course, that is to be approved by Mueller's bosses -- Rod Rosenstein, the acting attorney general Matt Whitaker until there's actually a new attorney general. So it's unclear whether that subpoena would actually come into effect.

But Elie -- the last question to you. The Trump entities as we highlighted at the top there are under investigation across the board. It does feel like to some extent that the walls are closing in on the President. What does it mean for Trump legally, personally himself? Should he be scared at this moment more so than in the past?

HONIG: He should. He's got exposure on various levels. Let's start with I DO think it's unlikely that the Department of Justice indicts the sitting president. There is existing DOJ guidance saying that DOJ will not do that.

That said there are plenty of people very close to the President, including potentially relatives of his who could be in criminal legal jeopardy. And he's going to have all manner of civil problems. The Trump Org is going to have to deal with all sort of civil lawsuits as well. So yes, I wouldn't be resting easy by any means.

MARQUARDT: All right. Elie Honig, always appreciate your expertise.

HONIG: Thanks -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Thanks for joining us. >

All right. Up next, we're going to hear from the family of a 7-year- old migrant girl who died in U.S. custody. And what U.S. officials are saying about how exactly this tragedy happened.

[11:38:59] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: A protest is planned this afternoon in El Paso, Texas after a 7-year-old migrant girl from Guatemala died in U.S. custody. She was detained with her father in a remote part of New Mexico on December 6th. Officials say she was medically cleared to be taken to a detention facility with the rest of her group which included another 50 unaccompanied children.

The next day she got seriously ill and was airlifted to a hospital where she went into cardiac arrest and died a short time later. An autopsy is being performed, but an initial hospital report says that the girl died of septic shock.

For more let's bring in CNN's Ed Lavandera who is in El Paso. Ed -- what are we now hearing from the girl's family?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are simply devastated. We've been able to reach the family in Guatemala, the extended family and mother and grandfather who spoke about how devastated and horrified they are by the news of what has happened to this young girl.

The grandfather of Jacqueline spoke with us -- our CNN colleagues from CNN Espanol who were down in Guatemala speaking with them. And this is what they had to share. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINGO CAAL, GRANDFATHER OF GIRL WHO DIED IN U.S. CUSTODY: I'm not going to speak that much because I can barely take it. It's difficult for us. This happened because we are very much in need. The girl would jump in happiness that she would get to go to the United States, very happy and content. But she didn't know. For us it's very difficult.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:45:02] LAVANDERA: The family talked about how it was desperation that drove them to make that long journey. And of course, there has been a great deal of debate about the very trek that they made.

Trump administration officials have been very critical of the father in particular for, quote, "choosing to cross illegally into the United States". That has been pushed back on very intensely from immigrant rights activist, especially here in El Paso who say it's the Trump administration's policies and immigration stance that is driving many of these people to cross into the country illegally.

This father and daughter were part of a large group of migrants who had crossed into a border checkpoint in the far remote areas of western New Mexico. This was hundreds of miles from many things where they would have been able to provide quick medical care in this situation.

So a great deal of debate and a lot of finger-pointing as to how all of this could have happened -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: One of the disturbing things, Ed, in this whole story is that this happened more than a week ago so why did it take so long for this to come to light?

LAVANDERA: That's a big question, you know. And there has been a number of critics who really kind of fault the transparency or the lack of transparency on the part of the Trump administration.

El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke basically faulted the Department of Homeland Security for not being transparent enough. The leader of the Customs and Border Protection testified before Congress on Tuesday several days after this young girl had passed away and made no mention of this particular case.

So there is a great number of criticism of the administration for essentially having to count on a news report to break thins story and bring it to light.

MARQUARDT: All right. Ed Lavandera in El Paso, Texas -- thanks so much.

Now, remember the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland Florida back in February? The panel investigating the attacks now wants a new law allowing teachers to carry guns. Details and reactions coming up next. [11:47:09] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARQUARDT: This week we saw a new controversial push to put guns in classrooms to try to avoid tragedies like the Parkland massacre. It's been ten months since 17 people, 14 of them children, were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Now the school safety committee formed after that shooting has voted to recommend a state law be passed that allows teachers to be armed with guns. Those teachers would have to volunteer and undergo a background check.

Now, this comes as a new report from the CDC shows that nearly 40,000 people were killed by guns last year. That's the highest number since at least 1979 when firearm deaths were first recorded -- 40,000.

Joining me now is CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval. Polo -- what can you tell us about this recommendation to arm teachers?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, first off, Alex -- that commission is certainly still remembering those 17 people whose lives were cut short, their families continue to grieve today and they likely will the rest of their lives.

But for the last eight months, members of the commission that was appointed to try to come up with a solution has been meeting trying to figure out a way of preventing something like this from happening again.

And what's interesting here is that is a majority of them, about 14 of the 15 members of that panel all came to an agreement in the last few days. And all of them believe that perhaps the solution is to allow more teachers to carry weapons in the classroom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB GUALTIERI, PINELLAS COUNTY SHERIFF: Such as participating on the threat assessment teams.

SANDOVAL: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission is recommending teachers be allowed to carry guns on school campuses. The controversial proposal part of a 407-page preliminary report. It addresses failures by Broward County law enforcement during the massacre as well as recommendations on how to counter future school violence.

Chairing the commission, Pinellas County sheriff Bob Gualtieri who supports the measure.

GUALTIERI: We have to give people a fighting chance so we've got to give them an opportunity to protect themselves in my view. We don't have enough to put cops in every school or multiple cops in every school and we're not maximizing the use of the guardian program. and one person, one good guy with a gun on every campus is not adequate.

SANDOVAL: The proposal has yet to go before the governor or state lawmakers. If approved, teachers who want to carry would be required to go through training and background checks before arming themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's the issue -- districts and schools need to act now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to act now. They need to act now.

SANDOVAL: Currently only some teachers and school staff are allowed to carry firearms. Since the Parkland shooting, at least 14 other states have introduced similar measures. The changes have been met with some support in states where rural communities lack funding and resources to respond to a school shooter.

Max Schachter is the only person on the advisory commission opposing the arming of Florida teachers.

MAX SCHACHTER, PARENT: I don't think teachers should be carrying guns. I think they have enough on their plate. I think their priority is teaching. It just creates a lot of host of problems.

SANDOVAL: With the recommendation still tentative, more debate is likely about how to face a school's worst nightmare.

GUALTIERI: What we got right now isn't working. So we need to do something differently.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[11:54:54] SANDOVAL: And though this measure has large support within that public safety commission, there is a plenty of opposition outside of it, particularly some of these pro-gun reform groups, including Every Town for Gun Safety, a volunteer with that group strongly condemning it.

Alex -- I want to read you a small portion of the statement that he published the week following the release of this draft report. Gay Valemont (ph) a volunteer with this group, writing "There is no evidence that arming teachers makes kids safer." He went on to write "Our children deserve real solutions to keep them safe from gun violence, like a criminal background check on every gun sale."

So even though this is still a draft report, still has to go to the governor, Alex, still also has to go to legislators, this obviously is still making for quite a bit of debate there in Florida to try to keep something like this from happening again.

MARQUARDT: And of course this is the kind of policy that the President has trumpeted numerous times --

SANDOVAL: Right.

MARQUARDT: -- after this horrific massacres that we've seen.

Polo Sandoval, thanks so much for that report. All right. Still ahead, a federal judge has struck down the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare marking a win for President Trump but potentially putting the health care of millions of Americans in jeopardy.

[11:55:59] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)