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Federal Judge Strikes Down Obamacare; Mick Mulveny to Become Acting Chief of Staff; North Carolina Congressional Candidate Mark Harris Campaign With Fraud Allegations; Popadopoulos Will Run for Congress; Arming Teachers Still a Debate; Seven Year Old Girl Dies After U.S. Border Patrol Take Custody. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 15, 2018 - 08:00   ET



(BEGIN VIDEO) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liberty, yes, Obamacare, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first order of business is to repeal and replace Obamacare.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People are hurting. Inaction is not an option.


ANNOUNCER: This is "New Day Weekend" with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Good Saturday morning to you. The future of health care coverage for millions of Americans is uncertain this morning after a federal judge in Texas has struck down Obamacare.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: He says key part of the law - the individual mandate specifically is unconstitutional and according to his ruling, because the mandate is essential, the entire Affordable Care Act has to end.

BLACKWELL: So attorneys general in several states are already preparing their appeals while those in red states are joining the White House in cheering this decision, at least some people in those red states. This is happening on the same day as the year's Obamacare signup deadline; it ends at midnight in most states.

PAUL: Now an important point we need to make here. The judge did not block the law. What that means is that you can still sign up. More than four million people have already done so this year alone and as of 11:59 tonight, that's when you hit your deadline to sign up for 2019 coverage. So we've got this from all angles this morning.

BLACKWELL: Yes, CNN's Supreme Court Reporter Aryan Devogue is live to tell us what happens next in this case and what could happen when it reaches the Supreme Court.

PAUL: And CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood live with us now with reactions from the president. We're going to start with you Sarah. What are you hearing from the president this morning?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Christi the White House is clearly thrilled with last night's ruling from a Federal judge with President Trump claiming credit for predicting the downfall of the Affordable Care Act and calling on Congress to start working on a replacement plan. The president tweeting last night, "As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an unconstitutional disaster. Now Congress must pass a strong law that provides great health care and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done." Of course referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and soon-to-be the likely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Now Pelosi responded with a statement of her own saying that House Democrats, come January, will get involved in the coming appeals process. Pelosi writing, "While the district court's absurd ruling will be immediately appealed, republicans are fully responsible for the fear they have struck into millions of families across America who are now in danger of losing their health coverage. When House democrats take the gavel the House of Representatives will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions." Now this was a case brought by 20 republican state attorneys general and governors. The Trump Administration was not directly involved in the case but it said June that it wouldn't be defending key parts of the law in court.

And the president had touted changes to the individual mandate that came in his 2017 tax bill, those changes of course formed the basis of this particular court challenge. You will recall that last year the president said he hoped Obamacare would fail, that the exchanges would collapse so democrats would be driven to the negotiating table to help republicans come up with a replacement plan for Obamacare. They were unable to do that legislatively last year although they got close in the Senate. Now as you mentioned Obamacare still the law of the land although now it's fate appears uncertain but Victor and Christi, this ruling is certainly the outcome that the White House was hoping for.

BLACKWELL: All right, Sarah Westwood there for us at the White House. Thank you.

PAUL: So I think we need an explainer here in terms of what happens next with this case.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let's go now to CNN Supreme Court reporter Aryan Devogue live from Washington. So that's the question, what's happening next?

ARYAN DEVOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Right, well this was a very broad ruling. This judge said that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and then he goes further and he says the entire law must fall. This is just one district court judge, right, so there will be appeals. But - and he did say that the law can remain in effect, but it really calls into question the healthcare for millions of people, and as you said, today is the day, the last day for the enrollment.

Let me give you just a little bit of a history to better understand the ruling. Keep in mind back in 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate, right? That was an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts and he upheld it under the taxing power. Flash forward to 2017 and Congress, they got rid of the tax penalty. So this judge last night, he said, look, you got rid of the tax penalty. That was the legal underpinning of the Supreme Court's decision so that individual mandate must fall. Then he takes it a step further and says the entire law must go.

So now you're looking at the fact that the Trump Administration didn't support -- didn't defend this law so California and other democratic- led states did. They're likely to take this to the Federal Appeals Court. If that appeals court upholds what Judge O'Connor did last night, this will go to the Supreme Court for sure. If it cuts back a little bit and says, okay, maybe the individual mandate is unconstitutional but not the whole law, maybe the Supreme Court wouldn't step in. But usually the Supreme Court, when it looks at a big law like this, it likes to take a look at it, it will likely end up back at the Supreme Court for another big fight.

PAUL: So with that said, how do you think this new court would receive it?

DEVOGUE: Well, you've got John Roberts, right, and he did rule before on the taxing power, but what the court really might look at, the whole ball game here is this legal question of severability. If you take apart the individual mandate, does that mean everything else has to fall? The challengers here said, look, it doesn't and it was not Congress' intent in 2017 to bring down the whole law. That will be one of their big arguments and that's what the Supreme Court, if it hears this, it will struggle with.

PAUL: All righty, Ariane Devogue, we appreciate it so much. Thank you. And listen, it's important to remember why the Affordable Care Act is such landmark legislation, why it launched a fight that's continuing this morning here. It's changed the game for insurance providers at the end of the day. They could no longer reject applicants who had prior health conditions or give them high-priced plans with limited coverage. It allowed millions of people with imperfect health records to get insurance.

It also pushed up premiums for the young people, for those who are healthy, and added that tax penalty she was talking about for not having health care, that was zeroed out again by Congress and that provided the opening for the ruling we're talking about now.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about with our panel now. CNN Contributor Wesley Lowrey, he's a national reporter for "The Washington Post" and Michael Moore, former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. Gentlemen, welcome back, and Michael, let me start with you with the legal question here. After Congress and the president signed that bill, zeroed out the penalty for not buying health care coverage, was this decision that we saw, this ruling that we saw from Judge O'Connor, more likely? MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF

GEORGIA: You know it was probably more likely. I don't think it's well founded or well grounded. It's always interesting to me that people who are chowing down at the public trough, getting public benefits, health insurance, federal health employee health insurance, judicial insurance, and congressional insurance. These state attorney generals who brought the case are eager to meddle with things that they're really not affected by.

You know I don't think the decision -- I think it was overbroad. I think when you look at it, typically a judge if there's a way to respect the intent of Congress -- and Congress did not strike down the whole law most recently -- then he should have followed through. It's way overbroad and I think likely to be quickly appealed.

BLACKWELL: And let me get back to you. Wesley, I want to get to you in a moment, but striking down the whole law, where do you stand on severability because the attorneys general for democratic states or at least democratic attorneys general, I should put it that way, who say that if you strike down or find the individual mandate to be unconstitutional, the rest of the law can be preserved. Judge O'Connor says they're unseverable and you have to invalidate the whole thing.

WESLEY LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER FOR "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's specifically how Congress looked at it most recently. They got rid of part of it. They tried numerous times to get rid of the whole of it, they could not. Elected officials got together in Washington, in Congress, they expressed their will and their intent by striking part of it. The rest of the law remains and that's about the most conservative side you can take and that is judges shouldn't be legislating from the bench and striking down entire things that Congress itself did not do.

BLACKWELL: Wesley, let's talk about politics here. The president tweeted out, "Mitch and Nancy, get it done" about passing a new health care law. Mitch and Paul couldn't get it done and that's when republicans had control of the House and they will have the Senate. Of course the White House going into next year. This is not where Mitch McConnell wanted to start 2020. What's the likelihood that they will get something done or will even try immediately at the start of the year?

LAWRIE: I certainly wouldn't expect them to try immediately at the start of the year. As we were talking about a little earlier, this is not resolved, right? This ruling from last night is not an injunction; it does not stop the affordable care act. Currently it's going to be appealed by the democratic attorneys general, to the circuit court and potentially the Supreme Court. So I would be very surprised to see any type of big bipartisan agreement to rewrite health law prior to that.

Beyond that though, the idea that as we approach a presidential election, a republican Senate and a House democrats are going to somehow come to some omnibus agreement about how to rewrite the previous president's chief domestic accomplishment, something that republicans have now spent a decade campaigning against, seems really unlikely. What this means that the Affordable Care Act will go into another

election cycle where it is the crucial battleground in our politics. Again, republicans who are governing and who have been governing were elected on promises to get rid of the Affordable Care Act which they have thus far failed to do.

And the democrats who took big gains this last midterm cycle did so on the backs of concerns of voters about the republican promises to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. So like I said it's unclear exactly what's going to happen in the court as this continues to play out and I'll always defer that to our legal experts but what's clear is that this is going to continue to be one of the biggest if not the largest domestic political battleground.

BLACKWELL: And you know Wesley, let me stay with you. The president tweeted out just before the election and has talked about it sense that republicans as he says, I think I have it here somewhere, republicans will totally protect people with preexisting conditions. Democrats will not. Vote republican. This is at the same time as his Department of Justice six months ago said that it would stop defending those protections. How does this reconcile with where the American people are, with how popular this - over time, it wasn't immediate, the ACA has become?

LOWREY: Well what's really interesting is that people historically have said that they did not like the ACA but then would say they individually liked all the individual parts of the ACA and over time I think as people have understood, that in fact the things they like are what is in the law. It's become more difficult to both campaign against and to legislate against the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans have been trying and have been attempting to do this for years. Again, this is one of the chief promises of the republican Congress that is now outgoing as well as President Trump who said he would get rid of it, repeal and replace. Again, what we saw, and remember one of the first special elections of this cycle, the Connor Lamb race in Pennsylvania, experts really turned on the question of healthcare, that many voters, Trump voters included, when it really came down to it did not want to see this type of health care be taken away.

So again, republicans have said one thing on this issue time and time again we're going to protect people with pre-existing conditions, and yet what the - legislative fix that they put forward, much less their proposals to repeal have when you look at them honestly, would do the exact things that they said they aren't going to do. And so republicans have a real issue here, especially again as we approach another election cycle of what their rhetoric has been versus what the American people actually want, much less fear might happen if the Affordable Care Act is actually struck down.

BLACKWELL: Michael, what do you expect will be the future of this law as it reaches this new court, this new makeup of the court?

MOORE: You know I think John Roberts is going to be more pivotal than we ever thought about him being, and that is the Chief Justice as he did in his prior ruling dealt with the ACA. I think you'll find him doing what he can to follow the will of Congress to remember that there's an important interest in maintaining the role of the Supreme Court and its historic position in the government and I think you'll likely see him say, look, the law stands, we've decided this, we move forward and Obamacare remains the law. I do think it poses a great political opportunity for the democrats and I think you'll see too, and the numbers show as you just heard from Wesley, that the American people have a concern about health care. That's been top of the list in the polling after the elections. That's something that's going to swing back around and probably halt the republicans should this ruling stand for any period of time in the 20wo election.

BLACKWELL: All right, Michael Moore, Wesley Lowrey, thank you both.

MOORE: Thank you.

PAUL: Other news, President Trump has named his Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, to be his Acting Chief of Staff. This decision came after the president reportedly grew frustrated with the perception that no one wanted the job. Last year Mulvaney spoke about how his predecessor, John Kelly, changed the West Wing when he became Chief of Staff. His remarks may offer some insight into how he'll approach the job.


MICK MULVANEY, BUDGET DIRECTOR: What I can tell you has changed is the flow of information to the president, the flow of information from different people, from different sources. It is a much more orderly and aligned West Wing than it was previously, and I think the president is extraordinarily well served by that, and more importantly, likes it.


PAUL: Meanwhile overnight, video surfaced of Mulvaney talking about his reluctance to support then candidate Trump ahead of the 2016 election.


MICK MULVANEY, BUDGET DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I'm supporting Donald Trump. I am doing so as enthusiastically as I can even though I think he's a terrible human being. But the choice on the other side is just as bad.


PAUL: The White House didn't respond to a request for a comment from "The Daily Beast" where that video was shown. We've reached out as well for a response. Mulveny will not resign from his current position as Director of the Office of Management and Budget but his focus will be on Chief of Staff so said Sarah Sanders.

BLACKWELL: A North Carolina republican is fighting to remain his party's nominee after accusations of election fraud throw the whole race into question. Coming up, what he's saying about this.



BLACKWELL: North Carolina Republican Congressional Candidate Mark Harris is now talking after authorities refused to certify election results after accusations of fraud surfaced in the state's Ninth Congressional District.

PAUL: Harris is accused of hiring an operative that may have illegally collected absentee ballots. CNN's Kristen Holmes is with us now. So Kristen, good to see you this morning. What is Mark Harris saying this morning?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christi and Victor. Well, essentially Harris is sitting down for an interview, actually answering these questions that we've all been wanting to know the answers to likely in response to his own party, the pressure they've been putting on him. Just hours before he spoke out, a memo was circulating among republican leaders calling for him to respond publicly to these accusations.

Now, Harris did confirm reports that he personally hired McCrae Dowless, something that we had assumed, we had heard from other operatives but now he's saying it himself but in addition to that he said he had no idea that anything Dowless was doing was illegal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At any time did you have any indication that McCrae Dowless was doing something that might be illegal?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And had you had that, would you still have continued to employ him?

HARRIS: No, I would not have. Again, we kept emphasizing again and again that when he was describing the ballot to us -- and in fact, when you get down to his description of the program, he was being vouched for by a number of other leaders down there.


Paul: And Harris went on to name a lot of those leaders, clearly not wanting to take the blame for the hiring of Dowless. But he was also asked about this lack of support from the Republican Party.

Now, in addition to the fact that these republican leaders were calling on him to respond to the accusations, we've also heard republican leaders implying that a new election would be necessary and in addition to that, state legislators which is led by the GOP passed a bill, a mandate, that any kind of new election would have to come with a primary election there, so not a big vote of confidence here for Harris. He acknowledged that. He said he didn't feel like the wagons were really circulating around him the way they were around the democratic candidate. Just to give you a little bit of perspective here, Dan McCready is getting a lot of national names and a lot of national attention, a lot of rallying behind him. Elizabeth Warren even sent out a fundraising e-mail on his behalf.

PAUL: All right, Kristen Holmes, appreciate it so much, thank you.

And let's talk about George Papadopoulos. President Trump's former campaign adviser says he will run for Congress. In a tweet posted yesterday he wrote, "It's true, I'll be running for Congress in 2020 and I will win, stay tuned." Listen, this isn't something new for him necessarily. He was thinking about running for office before he went to prison.


GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS: Don't want to give up my goals of staying in politics. I'm still a relatively young person; I'm 31 years old. I achieved working in politics at a very high level at a very relatively young age, and once I'm done supporting my wife's project in California, I certainly would love to entertain jumping back into politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running for office?



PAPADOPOULOS: Yes. I think I have something to give back.


PAUL: Earlier this month Papadopoulos was released from federal prison after serving a 12-day prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, the panel investigating the shooting at Florida's Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School has concluded that teachers need guns in school. We'll talk about that, plus the other measures they're proposing for school safety.



BLACKWELL: Teachers need guns and students need more security, those were the two conclusions coming from the state commission panel that's investigating the Parkland High School shooting. The panel voted to include a proposal to allow classroom teachers to carry guns in schools if they go through a selection process that includes training and background checks. The idea is already sparking concerns from Congressman Ted Deutsch whose district includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. With us now CNN Correspondent Polo Sandoval with more. So tell us more about this report and the reaction.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor for eight months this commission basically dissected what led to Florida's deadliest school shooting. Not only those recommendations that will be sent over to the governor but also some of the findings as well, but back to the recommendations. What is perhaps most controversial which would be to allow teachers to carry weapons if they want to.


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.


BOB GUALTIERI, PINELLAS COUNTY, FLORIDA SHERIFF: We've got to give people a fighting chance. 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. 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. 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, ADVIDORY COMMISSION MEMBER: 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 more problems. (END VIDEO)


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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we got right now ain't working. So we need to do something differently.


SANDOVAL: Just one member of that panel speaking out against this measure. However, there's plenty of opposition outside of that commission, particularly coming from every town for gun safety. This pro gun reform advocacy group who says there's basically no research indicating that guns in teachers' hands would lead to more safety for children. What they want is more background searches, specifically criminal background searches for every gun sale. These findings eventually are going to go to the governor in the next couple of weeks, legislators as well. Victor, Christie.

BLACKWELL: Very controversial. We'll see if it comes to fruition. Polo Sandoval, thanks so much.

SANDOVAL: Thanks Victor.

PAUL: Late last night a federal judge strikes down the Affordable Care Act. Millions of Americans this morning waking up wondering what is the future of their health care. We're talking to somebody who really depends on it for her child. Stay close.



BLACKWELL: Waking up this morning with the future of their health care in limbo. Last night a federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.

PAUL: That judge ruled the ACA's original mandate is unconstitutional. That mandate required all individuals to have insurance and would fine those who didn't. Former U.S. Attorney David Katz explains it this way.


DAVID KATZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The argument goes like this -- the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the ACA was constitutional. Five justices were willing to say, including Chief Justice Roberts that it was okay as a tax. That's the individual mandate was a tax. If you didn't buy the insurance, you had to pay a tax, and that was within the taxing power of the United States federal government. As of next year, there is no more individual mandate. That was what the republicans put in the new ACA.


PAUL: This doesn't mean you cannot still sign up for Obamacare, we want to be clear about that. The law is still in effect this morning but tonight at 11:59 marks the final moment that you can enroll in the plan to be covered for 2019. Today is the deadline.

President Obama campaigned on reforming health care, of course, in America. In 2010 the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. It is widely seen really as his signature policy achievement.

BLACKWELL: President Trump ran on repealing and replacing that law. His strongest effort was shut down by Senators, specifically John McCain, in July of 2017. You saw the thumbs down right there. Here is a brief history of the law.


OBAMA: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.


If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: On this vote, the yeas are 220, the nays are 211. The bill is passed.


OBAMA: Today after almost a century of trying, today after over a year of debate, today after all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liberty, yes, Obamacare, no. Liberty, yes, Obamacare, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, hey, Obamacare is here to stay! Ho, ho, hey, hey, Obamacare is here to stay!

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first order of business is to repeal and replace Obamacare.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R) WISCONSIN: We came very close but we did not get that consensus. That's why I thought the wise thing to do is not proceed with a vote.

TRUMP: People are hurting. Inaction is not an option and frankly, I don't think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 45, the nays are 55, the Amendment is not agreed to.


PAUL: So while the ruling last night doesn't immediately change the coverage provided by Obamacare, this ruling by the Texas judge, there's certainly a lot of people waking up this morning wondering what is in store for them.

BLACKWELL: Alison Chandra's son Ethan(ph) was born with a rare genetic disorder that his organs formed on the wrong side of his body. They have spent countless hours in hospitals and emergency rooms and Alison credits Obamacare with saving her son's life. And Allison and Ethan(ph) are both with us this morning. Good morning to you and thanks for coming in on such short notice. I first want to start with the reaction from the president. The president called this ruling great news. What do you call it?

ALISON CHANDRA, MOTHER OF BOY WITH RARE GENETIC DISORDER COVERED BY OBAMACARE: I call it the continuation of a nightmare that we've been living in since he was elected. Whatever happens with all of this, whatever - we know that this going to be appealed. We know that this is not the end of the ACA yet but whatever happens, the president who is supposed to stand for all people in the country, he celebrated the fact that so many of the most vulnerable potentially will not be able to access lifesaving care and I will never forget that.

PAUL: So Alison, help us understand what this coverage, the Obamacare coverage has done for you on a daily basis, on a weekly basis. Help us understand how prevalent it's been.

CHANDRA: So the ACA is a set of protections for a kid like mine and for so many kids like him. It means that he has access to healthcare. It means that his doctor visits, his prescription medications, his surgeries, the countless interventions and just daily things that we need to keep him alive and keep him thriving, so it's more than just survival. This is about him living the best life that he possibly can. The ACA provides -- it says that he can't be denied access to these services and these medications and these surgeries simply because of the way that he was born.

BLACKWELL: So Ethan's there with you and Pelley(ph) as I'm told is the pelican's name. How is Ethan?

CHANDRA: Ethan (ph) is -- despite him looking tired, he is in such a great place right now. When he was born, we were not promised a future with him. He is four and a half and he currently has a four-chambered heart and he has a cut on his face because he was goofing off too much yesterday and hit the coffee table like any other 4-year-old kid. We've been given the chance to live his life to its fullest potential and it's because of the ACA that we've had that chance. So waking up to a call from CNN saying, hey, can you come and continue the fight, I had to tell my 6-year-old -- she said where are you going? I said we have to fight for healthcare again. She said, "I thought that was done."

Because every time we win a victory we get to tell our kids, look, all this marching and the going to D.C. and all the work that we've done, it worked and they listened and they heard our voices. She's learning -- my first grader, she's learning about laws in school right now and how they make laws and she's so proud that she's been a part of saving this really important law. Then I had to tell her this morning that, you know, it's under attack again. So she understands that healthcare for her brother is important, and I understand that. I don't know why our president doesn't understand that.

PAUL: If you could sit down with the president, you and Ethan (ph), say you just sit down with him, what would you want him most -- what would you want him to know most?

CHANDRA: I've said this before, I would want him to look at our children and to really see them for who they are, these incredibly valuable human beings with potential beyond anything, with insane imaginations. Pelican's (ph) been -- he's starred in many adventures. But these kids, these children with complex medical needs are not a drain on the system. They are every bit as valuable as someone who needs fewer resources. They are every bit as important, and I wish he could look at them and hear their names and hear their stories. So we're going to keep telling our stories. We don't know how to do anything other than fight for our children. So we're going to continue to do it for as long as it takes. I don't like getting woken up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning but if that's what it takes, I will do it every single day because we're not stopping.

BLACKWELL: We asked you to come in and share your story and we thank you for that. Thank you, Ethan (ph), for coming in as well.

CHANDRA: He said thanks for coming in.

BLACKWELL: Alison Chandra, good to have you this morning.

PAUL: Take good care. Thank you so much.

CHANDRA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Next, the story from the border really is heartbreaking. This girl, a Guatemalan girl, dies in U.S. custody and now the Trump Administration says her father is at fault. We'll give you all the details.


PAUL: The Department of Homeland Security is trying to explain something that a lot of people are trying to wrap their heads around, how a 7-year-old migrant girl died in U.S. government custody. CNN's Ed Lavandera has more from the border.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Federal officials say 7- year-old Jakelin Amei Rosemary Caal Maquin would have likely died in the desert had border patrol agents not intervened with medical help. But despite that, calls for an investigation into what happened in the hours she was in custody before her death are growing. The girl had just celebrated her 7th birthday three days earlier when she and her father made the difficult journey through treacherous terrain. (BEGIN VIDEO)

KRISTIEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is just a very sad example of the dangers of this journey.

LAVANDERA: According to DHS, customs and border patrol agents apprehended the girl and her father on December 6th at the Antelope Wells border port of entry in western New Mexico along with a group of migrants turning themselves in to the U.S. agents. It was there that DHS says her father at first told border patrol agents his daughter was in good health. It was noted on an English language intake form that the father signed. But he does not speak English. The father and daughter waited for hours before boarding a bus to a nearby border station.

DHS says on the way to Lordsburg, New Mexico 95 miles away, the girl ran a high fever and started vomiting. At one point she stopped breathing. Agents revived her and called ahead for emergency medical help. Just over an hour after reaching the border station, she was air lifted to Providence Children's Hospital in El Paso, Texas 160 miles away. Her father traveled there separately. The girl suffered cardiac arrest in the hospital, was revived but did not recover. She died on the morning of December 8. The coroner has not ruled on her cause of death.

NIELSEN: This family chose to cross illegally. What happened here was they were 90 miles away from where we could process them. We gave immediate care. We will continue to look into the situation but again, I cannot stress how dangerous this journey is when migrants choose to come here illegally.

HOGAN GIDLEY, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Does the administration take responsibility for a parent taking a child on a trek through Mexico to get into this country? No.



LAVANDERA: Not far from this hospital in El Paso, the group Border Network for Human Rights takes issue with the Trump Administration blaming the girl's father.


FERNANDO GARCIA, BORDER NETWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: This is not the America that we believe, that we used to believe there is. I mean the militarization of the border, this situation is going to come and haunt the rest of our society. This is not what America is about.


LAVANDERA: The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General says it will launch an internal investigation, and the findings of that report will be made public. But critics are also wondering why it took DHS more than a week to talk about the death of this young girl, and those critics are wondering why it took a news report to bring this story to light. Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.

PAUL: And joining us now, the director of Families Belong Together, Sandra Cordero is with us. Sandra thank you very much for being with us. First and foremost, who holds the blame here? The U.S. government, the father, both?

SANDRA CORDERO, DIRECTOR OF FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER COALITION: I think this is definitely a result of inhumane immigration policies and a lack of compassion, the lack of kindness, just basic human decency that this administration applies across the board towards refugee seekers and asylum seekers.

BLACKWELL: So at what point in this process -- you say this is an example of lack of decency and kindness. At what point do you see that? Where did that happen here?

CORDERO: This is just another example of this administration's complete systemic cruelty towards asylum seekers. These people were turning themselves in to their legal right for asylum and the government has made it very difficult for folks looking for asylum to be able to do this. So they have to go to these outposts that are far away from large ports of entry because of the militarization of the border and because of our inhumane immigration policies.

BLACKWELL: So you're not saying that the individuals involved did anything specific that was cruel? I mean, they did give her medical services there on the scene, they flew her to a hospital. Are you criticizing the individuals or the policy overall?

CORDERO: I'm criticizing the policy overall.


PAUL: So you don't -- when you look at this, do you get a sense that there's something else that could have been done in that moment?

CORDERO: I can't speak to the specific details of this case and there's so much that we don't know and there's the fact that the father was not a Spanish speaker or an English speaker, and the forms that he was given or the questions he was asked, he wasn't able to answer them or really provide the information that he needed to about his daughter's condition. That's part of the inhumanity and the lack of information that we've been given.

PAUL: So when you -- but when you do look at this situation, I have to wonder, the Homeland Security Secretary said this highlights how dangerous the trek is. If there's nothing more that border patrol could have done for her once she got there, what needs to be done, in your opinion, to make sure something like this doesn't happen again?

CORDERO: We need to provide the care and the ability for these people to turn themselves in to their legal right for asylum. Facilities are not made for families or individuals that are vulnerable. They're just facilities in the middle of the desert or in really dangerous situations. I think there needs to be a big overhaul of these facilities and our policies. BLACKWELL: OK, Sandra Cordero, the director of Families Belong

Together, thank you so much for being with us. Of course, this is a tragic story all around because this little girl didn't choose herself to make this trek, and now she has been lost. We've heard -- CNN International has heard from family members of this young girl and of course they are mourning her. We'll continue to follow this story and of course the larger policy as we talked about with Sandra as well as it relates to immigration.

PAUL: So do stay close though. We'll have more of course when we're back with you in just about an hour.

BLACKWELL: Smerconish is next. We'll see you again in one hour of course with the big breaking news today that a judge in Texas has struck down the Affordable Care Act, calling the individual mandate unconstitutional. How that will impact millions of Americans. We're following that.