Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY SUNDAY

Trump: We Will Get Great Health Care for Our People; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Quits Amid Investigations; Iowa Poll: Biden, Sanders and O'Rourke Are 2020 Front Runners; World Powers United with Plan to Enforce New Climate Rules; Family of Girl Who Died in Border Patrol Custody Call for Thorough Investigation; Virgin Galactic Launches Into Space. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 16, 2018 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:04] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge Kavanaugh, how is Supreme Court?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With me, my temperament? Are you insane? No, they went with that nerd Merrick Garland but when I say I like beer, they find is charming and not like I'm threatening violence!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we are going to get really good health care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I think this is going to be the thing that crafts some type of bipartisan health care agreement? Of course not.

TRUMP: People don't realize it, I have a lot of friends who are Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be interesting to see who the president is talking with -- about when he says Democrats will help him on that issue moving forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another day of resignation at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced he is out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zinke is being accused of misusing agency resources finances for his own personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no doubt we are a long way away from Iowa voters heading to their caucus sites for the 2020 presidential campaign but never too early to get a sense of what Iowa voters are thinking.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Seven o'one is the time on this Sunday morning. And we have grateful to have you with us. I'm Christi Paul.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge, in for Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: Good to have you here, Martin.

So, the battle over health care coverage is now center stage again in Washington thanks to a Texas judge's ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act.

SAVIDGE: But this time, the debate will rage inside a divide capitol, with Democrats now controlling the House, while Republicans have a stronger grip on the Senate.

PAUL: Yes, President Trump says a fix will happen but some Republicans are less hopeful after watching Democrats ride their defense of Obamacare to midterm victories.

SAVIDGE: And we're also getting new reporting on the timing and reasoning behind Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's exit from the Trump team as House Democrats vowed to continue investigating him whether he is in office or not.

PAUL: We want to begin with health care, though. As president and former president offered dueling messages in the wake of the Texas judge's ruling here.

CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood is with us live.

What are you hearing this morning? Good morning to you, Sarah.

SARA WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, good morning, Christi.

And President Trump is taking a victory lap this weekend in the wake of that federal judge's ruling invalidating Obamacare. Now, remember, the president said he hopes the Affordable Care Act fails and he hopes the fail of the Obamacare act would drive Democrats to the negotiating table, but Republicans failed on their own last year to pass a replacement for Obamacare despite controlling both chambers of Congress and, of course, that process exposed how many divisions exist within the GOP how to approach health care even though Obamacare has been a unifying force within the party for years now. Democrats have united beyond the Affordable Care Act, as parts of the law have risen in popularity.

And the president is renewing calls for that backdrop for work on a bipartisan health care plan. He is using the Texas judge's ruling to revisit an issue that, to say the least, is complicated for his administration. Last night at the congressional ball here at the White House, he said health care is possible if Republicans and Democrats come together. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I believe we're going to get really good health care, exciting things happened over the last 24 hours. And if everybody is smart, we have a lot of Democrats here tonight and I'm very happy about that. People don't realize. I have a lot of friends who are Democrats. And we have Democrats here.

And if the Republicans and the Democrats get together, we are going to end up with incredible health care, which is the way it should have been from day one. And it's going to happen. It now has a chance to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WESTWOOD: Now, former President Obama last night on Facebook continued his defense of his signature policy achievement, as he opened enrollment period for the exchanges drew to a close. He warned supporters of the Affordable Care Act they had to keep voting because Republicans will never stop their pursuit of repealing Obamacare, something they have been after for years now. So, Martin and Christi, what we saw were starkly different reactions from the current and former president to the judge's ruling.

PAUL: No doubt. Sarah Westwood, appreciate it. Thank you.

SAVIDGE: Joining me to talk about all of this, CNN political commentator Errol Louis, who is a political anchor for Spectrum News.

Good morning for you, Errol.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Martin.

SAVIDGE: Let me ask you what is your take on all of this -- as far as the ruling has come and what you think will come next.

LOUIS: Well, I think what comes next is probably a third trip to the Supreme Court -- repeal and replace efforts ended up in the Supreme Court in 2012 and 2015 and I guess we'll see them back in front of the judges.

[07:05:01] The fundamentals have not changed. The politics really still don't work for the president's position, unfortunately, you know?

This kind of tension between the red state attorneys general who brought this lawsuit where it's relatively easy for them to sort of posture and say, hey, let's just declare this unconstitutional and overturn this entire system and members of Congress, including senators from those same states have a much different set of politics because there are tens of millions of people who would be at risk of losing their health care coverage and that's not a very popular proposition. It's in large part why the Republican Party lost as many seats they did during the midterms.

So, the president is kind of walking them down that same path. And I think for some Republican legislators and other political leaders, it's going to be a real problem.

SAVIDGE: Yes, that was my next question. The president the may see this as a victory but I'm wondering, do Republicans see this as more of a complication?

LOUIS: Yes, you know, it depends. We will see what the fallout is, Martin. But the polls that I've looked at and if you look at the way the Democrats took control of the House, it turns out, according to the exit polls, according to subsequent polls, it turns out that health care coverage is actually important to people. More important than the immigration issue, more important than even jobs and tax cuts and other things that the Republicans are trying to run on and that is why so many of them lost.

So, going in to the 2020 elections, I'm not sure that is going to change. You know? This is the sign-up period and like everybody else maybe YouTube, Martin, I had to go through a lot of paper work and try to figure out how to take care of my family and make sure we had everything in place for medical issues if they come up in the next year. It's real serious stuff for millions and millions of families and to sort of dispense these talking points and say, oh, we got to just get rid of this. That is really not going to work with a lot of people. We have got a populace that we are into eight years, nine years of a flawed for sure but certainly stable kind of health care system that brought more people in. They are going to have to be very careful how they work on this.

SAVIDGE: So you don't believe that Congress is going to pick this up and try to make some kind of change, other than what the court has already ordered?

LOUIS: Yes, well, you know, I think most are going to duck and cover. I think most members in both parties are going to say, let's wait until the court deals with this and there's better than even chance I think this latest repeal effort is going to fail either the appeals court or Supreme Court will say this judge in Texas is out of step with prior precedent. But even if it does sort of cause turmoil, that turmoil is not necessarily going to play out politically to the advantage of anybody.

I think the American people will be upset with everybody in Washington if we have to, one more time, go through what we went through in 2009 and 2010 with a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fears that people will lose their health care coverage. It would actually be, I think, a failure of the process if we have to start all over again trying to figure out how to stop people from going bankrupt just because somebody in their family got sick.

SAVIDGE: Yes. I'm with you, especially on that point that it's on the minds of most Americans. That's what I found when I was out there covering the campaign trail.

Errol Louis, always a pleasure. Thank you.

LOUIS: Thank you, Martin.

PAUL: Well, we are going to learn new details this morning about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's depart tour. According to "The Washington Post", White House officials will be pushing him to resign for weeks concerned about the number of investigations the Democrat majority house could bring against Zinke.

"The New York Times" reporting John Kelly's team told Zinke that he could face a potentially humiliating firing. "The Washington Post" said Zinke didn't want to leave until he attended his Christmas party Thursday night where apparently there were activists and lobbyists and donors invited to that.

CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd is with us. She served, by the way, on President Obama's National Security Council.

So, Sam, thank you for being here.

And because you served in that administration, I want to ask you a question, not just Ryan Zinke obviously. He is not the only one that's been burned with these kinds of criticisms and accusations. We have Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who stepped down in September. We have EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt who left in July with the same kind of accusations about housing arrangements and spending.

What I want to ask why this is such an issue. Is it really just an issue in this administration or is this something that has happened a while and other administrations and it just has not been under such scrutiny?

SAM VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it looks like the man that rode his horse to work on the first day needed one last hooray in the form of this Christmas party and wanted to have his position until the bitter end.

[07:10:05] But every administration has people that may not, in fact, follow the rules. The difference this time around is that the signal from the top is this may be okay. The standard for behavior comes from a leader on any team, whether it's an administration, a company, or a baseball team.

And the fact of the matter is when we talk about investigations into a conflict of interest, unethical behavior, mixing business with pleasure, that could, in fact, describe a lot of the president and his family's activities on the same day or the day before, excuse me, that Zinke announced he was leaving the White House, we had stories about Ivanka Trump booking rooms during the inauguration at the Trump Hotel.

So, if the president and his family are potentially engaged in these unethical activities, it's not a stretch to imagine that members of his team would follow the example that he is setting.

PAUL: Does it make national security vulnerable in any way? Especially this time of the year?

VINOGRAD: Christi, I think that we are highly vulnerable right now. The holidays are always a high-risk environment because there are so many Americans traveling and there's so many high profile events. I remember being in a Sit Room and getting these briefings going into Christmas and new year's. This time around, we have an added element and that is it is painfully clear the president is distracted by two things, the investigation into his campaign and the revolving door of his cabinet officials and his chief of staff.

And every day that I was at the White House, I wish that there were 12 more hours in the day because there wasn't enough time to get the work done and that was without an FBI investigation and without multiple transitions. So, at this point, it is unclear what the president has time for, aside from consulting with his lawyers and trying to figure out, frankly, how to staff a cabinet.

PAUL: All right. Samantha Vinograd, always appreciate your time here. Thank you.

And Republican Senator Susan Collins, as well as Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings both on CNN later this morning. Don't miss "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. It's at 9:00 a.m. and noon here today.

SAVIDGE: 2020's Democratic presidential hopefuls are getting their first look of what voters are thinking. Coming up, how voters in Iowa are bracing for the race to face President Trump.

PAUL: Yes.

Also, a troubling social media message from "SNL's" Pete Davidson, prompted NYPD to do a wellness checkWe have a live update on that from New York on that. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:16:35] SAVIDGE: Fans and celebrity are pouring out support this morning for "Saturday Night Live's" Pete Davidson following a trouble message he posted on social media.

PAUL: The message prompted New York City to check on him to make sure he was all right.

CNN correspondent Polo Sandoval has more details for us.

What are you hearing from there, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you all. The NYPD does confirm that officers performed a wellness check on the 25- year-old "Saturday Night Live" cast member yesterday. Police speaking to him in person after that troubling was noticed a post yesterday afternoon and before deleting his Instagram account Davidson wrote, in part, quote: I really don't want to be on this earth anymore. I'm doing my best to stay here for you and I actually don't how much longer I can last. All I've ever tried to was help people. Just remember I told so.

Last night, Davidson did appear on "Saturday Night Live" during two segments. We understand one of them was pretaped and the other one was live. Davidson has been very open about his mental struggles in the past. He was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and it's been a difficult year for the comedian as well. He and singer Ariana Grande called off their engagement October and then last month, Davidson had to apologize to then-congressional candidate who lost an eye serving in Afghanistan for mocking him. And then earlier this month, he also took to Instagram to share his personal story that he had been the victim of bullying during his relationship with Ariana Grande.

So, as you might imagine, it's been very difficult last few months. So, when the post surfaced or at least made it online, a family, friends and fans and officials themselves taking it very seriously responding to make sure he was at least physically okay. So, as you mentioned a while ago this morning, we are seeing an outpouring of support not just for Davidson online but also for others. And a reminder if you need help, there is help.

Victor and Christi, back to you.

SAVIDGE: Excellent point and we should always be reaching out.

PAUL: No doubt about it. I hope he is finding some comfort in what people are saying to him, because even on Twitter and Instagram, it's been sweet what people have said and hopefully he absorbs that.

We are getting our first look of possible presidential hopefuls in 2020 and where they stand with voters. You might be surprised by a couple of things here. We have a new poll result in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:23:41] SAVIDGE: We are more than a year away from the first contest of the 2020 presidential campaign and former Vice President Joe Biden leads a pretty crowded field in a new CNN Des Moines Register Mediacom poll.

Iowa is the first state in the presidential nominating process and as CNN's Ryan Nobles explains, potential caucus goers are warming up to some familiar faces.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt that we are a long way away from Iowa voters heading to their caucus sites for the 2020 presidential campaign, but it's never too early to get a sense of what Iowa voters are thinking and Democrats are telling you what their early thoughts are about the 2020 race for president. And what we are seeing is that their thoughts are matching up pretty closely what we are seeing nationally. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field at 32 percent. Bernie Sanders who had a pretty performance in 2016 comes in second at 19 percent. And then the name that jumps off the page, Beto O'Rourke, the congressman from Texas who just lost a narrow race for Senate to Ted Cruz is in double digits, 11 percent.

And keep in mind, in the last Iowa caucus, many Iowans probably didn't even know who Beto O'Rourke was. We could be in store for a wildcard when it comes to this race. And there's some names that we threw into this poll to see how Iowa voters are thinking about them.

Among them, Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey. It's pretty clear Iowa voters would prefer not to see any of them get into this race. Seventy-two percent of Iowans say that Hillary Clinton would be a distraction and 55 percent say that Oprah would be a distraction.

What is the minds of Iowans, picking a winner. Fifty-four percent of Iowa Democrats say that they are going to vote for someone in the caucus who they can believe can win the presidency and that is more important to them than necessarily voting for someone who strictly aligns with their ideology. This is about picking a winner. This is something that Democrats in particular have always cared a great deal about. And that is exactly what they are thinking at this early stage of this campaign.

So, a long way to go, 14 months before the Iowa caucus, but we are now starting to see what Iowa voters are thinking.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: Ryan, thank you so much.

So, we have CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart with us now, as well as CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona.

Ladies, so good to see you.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Christi.

PAUL: Alice, let me ask you, what Ryan was saying about how Iowa Democrats find it more valuable to chose somebody who can win as opposed to somebody who aligns with their beliefs. What does it say about the state of the country in this matchup?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it says it's a smart strategy, because right now, you would like to think that all of the names on the Democratic side, if you're a Democratic voters, their policies align with you but you may not have enough special affinity for them. You need to go with someone that really lines up with your policies, for the most part. It might not be the one you like but if you really look at the long game you have to look at who is going to win, who would be able to potentially take on Donald Trump if he is the GOP nominee.

You're going to have to really put your feelings aside and crunch all of the numbers and look who has got the fund-raising and the enthusiasm, who will go out to those early states and do those rubber chicken dinners and bun shoe ledger, because that is what matters, connecting with voters in these early states, and look at those factors and who will actually win against Donald Trump and kind take your feelings out of it and look at the strongest to take on the GOP.

PAUL: So, Maria, when you look at that list, Biden at 32 percent, O'Rourke at 11 percent. Your thoughts.

CARDONA: Well, I think, first of all -- PAUL: Is Biden your guy, essentially, at this point? I mean, look at

it, look at those numbers.

CARDONA: Sure. But, you know, let's be realistic. A poll about 2020 in December of 2018 is all about name recognition. So, of course, Biden is going to be at the top of the list. Plus he is very well liked. And he is not in -- he is not in yet.

So I think what all of this means is not really anything at this point. But I agree with everything that Alice said, because the one thing that I will say to my Democratic Party family is that no matter how unbelievably unfit, how colossally corrupt, and how incredibly inept this president has been and continues to show us he is every single day, it's not going to be easy.

PAUL: Listen --

CARDONA: We need to focus on somebody who can win because that has got to be the ultimate goal.

PAUL: There are a lot of people might be looking at this who are more centrists, who are might be more down the middle and they don't know where to go right now because everything seems so extreme, either left or right. With that, I want to talk about "Politico" had this report this morning on O'Rourke and he is already taking hits from the left but he is only one that made, you know, of three that made double digits in this poll and he said, apparently, when he was asked if he was a progressive Democrat on Friday, here is what he said: I don't know. I'm not big on labels. I don't get all fired up about party or classifying or defining people based on a label or a group. I'm for everyone, he said.

Is he going to have to pick a progressive or definitive lane to win more support, Maria?

CARDONA: I think -- I mean, I think he has to be a little bit more definitive about who he is. He was, no question, an incredibly exciting character in 2018. He did, I think, what a whole a lot of people didn't think was possible which was to actually make a real race out of Texas, to make the GOP spend money there, to make Ted Cruz go through many sleepless nights and to make Donald Trump go there to support Ted Cruz to ensure that Texas would remain in the Republican column for the Senate. That is an incredible endeavor. He came more close than anybody, closer than anybody has gone from a Democrat in recent history.

And so, he definitely did what a whole lot of people didn't think he could do but he didn't win.

[07:30:05] And so I think that moving forward, first of all, let's wait until he decides whether this is something he wants to do or not.

But he has a ton of options in front of him. He is young. He is incredibly exciting. Let's see what he wants to do next.

I don't want to put him in a box by saying, oh, he should definitely run for president now, because we don't know what he is going to do.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Sure. The description that you're giving sounds a little bit, just a little bit like what people said about Barack Obama.

Alice?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You stole my line, Christi. That is exactly what I was going to say.

PAUL: It does.

STEWART: It is.

CARDONA: Barack Obama won as senator before he became president. Let' remember that.

STEWART: They are very similar in that they're young and they're' exciting and they're engaging. I'll acknowledge and I said this throughout the campaign. Beto did a good job competing against my former boss Ted Cruz.

The problem is he is a very blue candidate in a very red state. That may play much better when he is campaigning across the country and what he has to do is do what he was doing raise the money and keeping the enthusiasm. But what he has in addition to all of those other attributes, just like Barack Obama, he has that likeability factor and that goes a long way when you're out campaigning and he apologize it.

He did run a positive campaign. It was a little towards the end, he started throwing some punches but the likeability factor he has will go a long way with others that he is competing against and he is pretty smart not to put a label on himself right now. Have you to go to the left to win the primary but you have to get back in the middle as we get into the general. So I think he is very wise not to --

PAUL: I literally have 15 seconds left. But Melania Trump, Stephanie Grisham, her chief of staff, wrote this on Twitter: FLOTUS will continue to demonstrate her commitment to helping kids in advancing the causes she cares about, but there's nothing wrong with staying true to herself along the away. In fact, her strength, her individuality, and integrity should be celebrated.

This came some criticism of her earlier in the week. There is a lot of women who could get on that bandwagon of strength and individuality and integrity. Maria, what is the problem with being an unconventional first lady? I mean, what's wrong with that?

CARDONA: Well, I think the problem is that she is not relatable. When she does these interviews, when the whole thing that comes out is, woe is me and I'm the most bullied person out there, people don't relate to that and especially with a first lady who seems to have everything.

And, yes, I agree that, you know, we should give her more kudos for her focus on children, but when you go to visit the border and families who have been separated by the policy that her husband put in place and you wear a jacket that says I really don't care, do you? I'm sorry. That is completely tin ear, it's like you're not only trolling your husband or the press or whatever you wanted to do but you're making fun of the people who are suffering because of what her husband is doing. And when you represent that, you are going to have nothing but falling poll numbers.

PAUL: All righty. I'm sorry, we have run out of time. Alice and Maria, always a good conversation with you ladies. Thank you.

CARDONA: Thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Christi.

CARDONA: Merry Christmas. Happy holidays.

PAUL: Merry Christmas to you too.

CARDONA: Thank you.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: After nearly two weeks of negotiations, nearly 200 nations have now agreed on a way to put the landmark Paris agreement on climate change in motion. Attendees literally jumped with joy as diplomats passed a set of rules to curb global warning. You remember President Trump campaigned to rip up the Paris agreement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but begin negotiations to re- enter either the Paris accord or really entirely new transaction when terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we are getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: The U.S. is getting out, but not just yet because it can't leave that agreement until 2020. They will be part of it for sometime longer.

CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh joins us with more on just how they manage to get the job done.

Good morning to you, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Marty, hi.

It is a landmark moment really. The Paris agreement in 2015 was about the will to reduce emissions. This is how they will do it.

Now, just a quick recap. The world is not in a good place. We are seeing record emissions this year and the essential scientific report at the heart of this says that massive change has to be undertaken in just 12 years to stop the warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius and really stop the world we know is unrecognizable in just a dramatic decade. Dramatic changes ahead unless the world changes its act entirely.

And part of that may be down to what was decided at 10:00 local time last night -- the rule book, which enforces the sort of Paris agreements. The country said they wanted to knack change to reduce emission and this is how they will do it, the mechanism they are counting. The checks and the transparency and possibly, financing to assist countries hardest hit by climate change.

It was agreed to but some activists say they did enough to keep the agreements alive. Two problems. Donald Trump saying he would tear the agreement up. It's going fine. It appears his diplomats stayed in the negotiations and didn't throw out much of a spoiler.

These political officials here, they last week denied the science really rejected, refused to endorse the scientific report at the heart of climate change here, along with strange bedfellows here, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, and a couple of days later put on a side show promoting fossil fuel use and aberration for many seeing that here. There's no doubt about the signs the world is warming fast, and emissions are still growing and things have to change if the planet doesn't change instead ahead of that.

The second problem we saw in the closing hours Brazil, home of the lungs of the earth, the Amazon rain forest, well, they took issue with reforms how carbon is traded and complicated part of the emission system but one they wanted to see to their advantage. That would no longer be resolved until the next meeting next year. It's a loophole some say in what was decided but I think you can't take away from the fact despite the sort of background noise of people trying to continue with the idea of denying climate change is a thing. They still managed to get this rule book through.

I think that is possibly a cause for some celebration, but you have to remember, just over a decade for all of the world's economies to change how they fuel themselves before we possibly see this planet change to an unrecognizable future -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: Great point. Now it's time to those words and move them into action.

All right. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much.

PAUL: Well, the father of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, her name is Jakelin. She died in U.S. border patrol custody. The father says agents did everything they could to save her. Her family, however, feels differently. We'll explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:41:52] SAVIDGE: The father of Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old girl who died after being detained by U.S. border agents says that he has no complaints about her treatment, claiming agents did everything that they could to help save his young child.

PAUL: Back home, however, her family is saying they need an investigation. CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are learning new details from the father of the young Guatemalan girl who died while in Border Patrol custody shortly after crossing into the United States more than a week ago. According to a statement from the father's attorneys, the father is grateful for the efforts of first responders, including those border patrol agents and medical personnel who treated his daughter.

We have also spoken with the Guatemalan consul who has spent time here in El Paso, speaking extensively with the father. He tells me that the father told him that he has, quote, no complainants about the way border patrol agents treated him and his daughter shortly after they were picked up or they turned themselves in to border patrol agents on the night of December 6th. And he says that he believes that those border patrol agents, after his daughter had fallen ill inside the bus that was taking them from the border patrol entry, all the way to a border patrol station some 95 miles away, that those agents and medical personnel did everything they could to save his daughter's life.

So, this is the first details we have heard from this young girl's father. The family says they are devastated. He is being housed in a shelter here that helps migrants and migrant refuges here in the city of El Paso. The director of that shelter spoke a little bit about the condition that the father is in and how he's dealing with this ordeal.

RUBEN GARCIA, DIRECTOR, ANNUNCIATION HOUSE: He is grateful with what he saw, the response and the attempts that were made to save his daughter's life. At the hospital, his daughter arrested several different times and they were able to revive her.

LAVANDERA: The mother of the young girl Jakelin Caal Maquin also says they are rather frustrated by the speculation of exactly how the young girl died. The father in the statement also confirms the timeline put out by the Department of Homeland Security that the first signs that this young girl was in some sort of distress came at 5:00 in the morning on the morning of December 7th while in the middle of that bus ride from the border to the Border Patrol station 95 miles away.

But the family says any speculation as to what the exact cause of death should not be discussed, that an official cause of death has not been ruled on by the medical examiner here in El Paso and they are urging everybody not to speculate what might have caused the death of this young girl.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, El Paso, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL: And thank you so much.

And as we get more information, we will pass that on to you.

Listen, stay with us. Virgin Galactic has never been able to launch a plane into space until now!

[07:45:02] So, what does this mean for space travel? We're going to talk to retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one. Release, release, release.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire. Fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Look at this! Months and months of testing and Virgin Galactic finally launched a supersonic plane to the edge of space. It's a remarkable for a company that faced a major setback four years ago when its first plane ripped apart midflight and killed a co-pilot. Do you remember that?

SAVIDGE: I do, indeed. It is wonderful to see the success. And it indicates that sending tourists into space could be a matter of months.

PAUL: And the test flight was the first time that the Virgin Galactic had gone. There's a debate, though, whether it actually went into, quote, space.

[07:50:01] SAVIDGE: Always has to be something.

Allison Chinchar joins us this morning.

Good to see you.

ALLISON CHINCAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good to see you.

Yes. So, there's two definitions really. You have U.S. definition that says anything above 50 miles totally counts. The international definition is a little bit higher, it's about 62 miles. This particular flight went in between that, at 51.4 miles.

So, there's some people are saying I'm not sure that really counts. You can kind of see here. It's a very narrow line, truly. You're not talking about a huge distance.

PAUL: What's in that space?

CHINCHAR: Not much. For comparison purposes, airlines are much lower, troposphere. That's where the thunderstorms typically reside. The International Space Station, much, much higher.

I think most of us, we think International Space Station, that is clearly in space. This was not that high. I think at the need of the day, it really just comes down to it's the highest they've ever gone. It's still a feat for them to make it this high.

SAVIDGE: Right, let not overlook what is an amazing achievement. While we have you here, we have to talk about the Christmas comet.

CHINCHAR: Yes, this is kind of a big deal. Now, this lasts a long time. Tonight will be the peak for viewing this, especially if, say, you don't have a telescope or binoculars. You will be able to see this with the naked eye.

However, let's say mother nature doesn't want to cooperate, the weather is not going to be great, you can still go out tomorrow and see this. It is supposed to be a pretty spectacular sight if the weather will cooperate.

SAVIDGE: Time and place roughly?

CHINCHAR: As soon as sun sets in your location tonight. Little darker in the sky. If you're in the city, try to head out a little bit. Less light pollution.

PAUL: That makes a big difference.

Retired NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao is with us.

And we wanted to get your take, Leroy, good morning to you, about Virgin Galactic's successful flight. What does it mean do you think really for space travel?

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, they're getting a lot closer. They reached space, depending on your definition of it. U.S. Air Force many decades ago settled on 50 miles and then, of course, the international standard, as you pointed, which NASA and actually even for Spaceship One adhered to, 100 kilometers or 62 miles.

But it shows that they've evolved quite a bit since their 2014 crash. They were having some technical issues. Looks like those have been fixed. The engines seem to be working well. And so, I'm very happy for them, to see them actually get to this point.

So, hopefully, things will continue to go well and we'll see flights that Virgin and perhaps others like Blue Origin will also conduct in the very near future.

SAVIDGE: You know, can I ask? As a professional space person, which you obviously are, bringing regular people up into space, the challenges and the dangers, is this really a worthwhile pursuit now or just what do you think?

CHIAO: Well, these people we're talking about right now, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, at least their first efforts, are going to be what's called sub orbit, so they're going to go touch space and then come back down. The actual time in space will be measured in a few minutes. So, they'll get to feel the weightlessness, they'll get to see the view of the earth, get to see the horizon and then they're coming back down.

So, the whole flight is going to be, you know, kind of in a 30-minute or so range, maybe a little bit less. They'll be paying a fair amount of money to go, still out of reach for most ordinary people, you know, somewhat in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per ticket. But it's coming down.

Now, to get to the orbit is a whole lot bigger deal, about 25 times more energy needed. So, what they're doing is a first step and that's important.

PAUL: Is there, you know, some people have physical reactions on planes. On an aircraft like this and going as high as they do, do you anticipate real physical challenges for those people that -- I mean, would they have to pass a test to make sure they can physically handle it.

Is there anything of that regard come into play here?

CHIAO: Right. Any kind of space flight would be much more stressful psychologically and physically than an airplane flight, you know, regular passenger airline flight. So, yes, they're going to experience accelerations.

Psychologically, they're going to know they're on a rocket. They're going to feel and hear the rocket engines. They're going to know they're climbing rapidly after those rocket engines are lit.

I think more from a psychological standpoint maybe. Of course, you would have to pass a medical exam. You would be trained or at least desensitized, you got to centrifugal runs and things like that to trying to desensitized you a little bit. I think my biggest concern would be someone, you know, kind of being overwhelmed during something like this.

SAVIDGE: Yes, I would be.

Real quick, the technology that they've used and are advancing, is that going to help -- I would say the professional space industry?

CHIAO: Well, the actual technology that Virgin is using, they're using a hybrid motor. It's using kind of kind of a rubber fuel, kind of a solid fuel within an oxidizer that fuels over it.

[07:55:04] So, it's kin of unique. It's the scaling it is a bit of an issue. If you remember, Spaceship One flew in 2003 and used the same kind of technology and everybody thought it would be a simple matter to make a bigger Spaceship One. It's taken since 2003 until now and spaceship one flew into space, by everyone's definition, over 100 kilometers.

And after all these years, after 11 years, Spaceship Two finally made it up almost that high. That shows you the difficulty and scale in both the vehicle and the rocket engine to make it. It probably won't be useful for larger rockets like NASA is planning to use.

PAUL: All righty.

SAVIDGE: So the answer is pretty much no.

PAUL: Yes.

Alisyn Chinchar, Leroy Chiao, always a pleasure to have you here. Thank you.

CHIAO: Pleasure.

SAVIDGE: Well, moving on to another subject, while you're making New Year's Eve plans, do not miss Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen co- hosting CNN's New Year's Eve coverage. That will be live, of course, in Times Square. Brooke Baldwin and Don Lemon join the fun. It all starts at 8:00. Yes, December 31st.

PAUL: Absolutely. Go make some great memories today.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after the break.