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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Whiplash On Wall Street After Day Of Ups And Downs; Wash Post: Trump Worried Stocks Could Hurt His 2020 Chances; Putin Claims New Missile Can Avoid U.S. Detection Systems; DHS Secretary Nielsen Returning to Border Tomorrow. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired December 27, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:32:37] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: The national lead, for the first time we're hearing from the mother of a Guatemalan boy who died Christmas Eve in U.S. custody after crossing the border. We're awaiting autopsy results for the 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gomez. His mother is waiting for her child's remains.
Let's go to CNN's Nick Valencia at the bus station in El Paso, Texas, where lots of action have been taken place. Migrants are being dropped off.
Nick, we just learned that DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is going there to the border on Friday, and it seems like things are only getting worse.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Dana. I talked to charities in the area, the influx that is happened here over the last week and they said her completely overwhelmed. And they are not alone. A Customs and Border Protection official tells me the facilities along the border aren't designed to help so many people.
VALENCIA (voice-over): Inside this makeshift shelter huddled around the table, a handful of migrants, some more than just 500 released from Border Patrol custody. Most don't want to talk on camera about what they have been through but one of the migrants agrees only if we don't show his fast.
(on camera): Paid to get out. How much of a bond did you pay?
(voice-over): He shows us the paperwork they gave him as a receipt for his $10,000 bond to get out after three months in custody. He says he had to mortgage his home back in Nicaragua to pay for it.
(on camera): What do you say to people that think you're criminals, that you don't have a business being here in this country?
You have values and you have morals and you're not here -- you're not here to do bad, you're into the criminal. (voice-over): The more than 500 migrants released in the last 24 hours were sent to a network of non-profits in part because the government can't handle the influx. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen telling reporters family units can only be held for 21 days and are, quote, almost always released into the United States.
Nielsen, who is headed to the border tomorrow to check on medical screenings of migrant children also address the death of 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gomez who died in border patrol custody calling, it quote, deeply concerning and heartbreaking, but adding it's been more than ten years since a child died in their custody
CATALINA ALONZO, MOTHER OF FELIPE ALONZO-GOMEZ (through translator): I want them to bring my son here. I need to see him soon. I'm very sad that he died.
[16:35:01] VALENCIA: Felipe's mother inconsolable as she waits to find out how her young son died. The family now pleading with the U.S. government to return his body, to be laid to rest back home in Guatemala.
MARIA DOMINGO LOPEZ, SISTER OF FELIPE ALONZO-GOMEZ (through translator): They told us they were doing what we can to get him back, but we just want them to hurry.
VALENCIA: And we're now learning that the autopsy for the 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gomez could take between six and 12 weeks, leaving the Gomez family waiting such a long time to find out what officially happened and why their little boy died -- Dana.
BASH: Absolutely heartbreaking. Nick Valencia, thank you for bringing us that report.
And back here around the table.
I mean, you know, as a mother, as a human, to hear that kind of anguish from a mother about the death of your child is absolutely heartbreaking, as I said. Just on the policy side of this or the practical side of this, I should say, do we really think that a man with an 8-year-old boy is going to be stopped in even trying to get over the border illegally with or without a wall?
JENNICE FUENTES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Are we safer? Are we safer because we put that kid in inhuman conditions that contributed to his guest? No, we're not.
This is not had a matter of resources. $21 billion goes into immigration enforcement, more than any other enforcement agency, more than the FBI, the AFT, the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshalls.
It's not about the money. It's about how we're using the money and right now the real crisis isn't these people who came here illegally and are petitioning for asylum. That's really our issue.
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a manufactured crisis.
MOOK: What just happened -- first of all, let's step back here, it's the holidays. We're celebrating the holidays with our family and a child just died. Children are being separated from their families. Some of them permanently, and it's all a policy that the president put in place based on no good reason whatsoever.
Illegal border crossings are dropping. Unemployment in this country is at a historic low. This is totally and utterly unnecessary, the entire policy, and you just heard from Congressman Meadows, all of this is built on lies. There was -- there was a caravan crisis before the election. Week after the election, crickets. We don't hear about it anymore.
All of a sudden, we're bringing it back out again. We're not talking about the real issues. You know, Russia's hypersonic missiles, trillion dollar deficits. We're not talking about the humanitarian cries of the government's own making.
MONA CHAREN, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS & PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Not entirely. Look, I -- I tend to agree with you that a lot of this has been ginned up for political reasons, no question. The caravan was a fraud. I mean, a few of those people attempted to forcibly, you know, cross the bothered, but most of them are waiting in Mexico. There was no crisis. There was no national security situation.
At the same time, we cannot deny that over the last number of years would-be immigrants have found out that you can claim asylum, and this is a better way of gaining entry into the U.S. than the previous efforts, and so it --
MOOK: Why not address it --
CHAREN: -- could be that we need to reform the way we do our asylum system. More judges.
MOOK: Why not address the humanitarian crisis in Central America? The president is only making it worse. People are just trying to live their lives.
CHAREN: As we've discovered, it is an extremely knotty problem. I mean, as we found out when we tried to reform Iraq and other parts of the world that aren't here, it's actually not so easy to go in and reform other countries and deal with humanitarian --
MOOK: But border crossings are going down. Why is --
CHAREN: That contradicts what you just said.
BASH: But I want to ask Doug about what a border patrol official told Nick Valencia which is the following. We're overcrowded, understaffed. We don't have the manpower to deal with this crisis. It's a nosebleed that doesn't stop.
So he blames the humanitarian crisis on failures within the agency, but he also says that there's a major failure in Congress.
DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, you said it earlier. We don't have an immigration policy. I think both sides can agree on it.
FUENTES: Not only that. We're not having oversight.
HEYE: No, exactly. But I think we've learned if anything from President Trump is two things. One, he responds to video. Two, the only time he's ever stepped back on immigration was when he saw a video of families being separated.
Clearly, what we've seen with this child and his awful, awful death is something that could cause the president to step back because we saw not just how it affected his poll numbers, but we know that Melania said you've got to put a stop to this. If this video gets played over and over again, that's where Donald Trump could pause on immigration again.
CHAREN: So, this issue has become the Limbaugh/Coulter/Ingraham shutdown, right? Because they are the ones who called on the president to get tough again on the wall, won't be re-elected federal there's not a wall and so on.
[16:40:02] But the child's death -- sorry, I lost my train of thought, but leave it on the -- on the pressure from the right wring that has caused him to --
BASH: Yes. I mean, that's obvious. That's why I wanted to talk to Mark Meadows, and the president, people privately who talk to the president say flatly that this is in large part because in the only does he talk to a lot of people who he trusts on the right on the hill, he watches another cable network where they have hosts that you were talking about who are pounding him stay the course.
MOOK: Well, exactly, and I think it was his own daughter who intervened the first time that got him to change his mind. Laura Ingraham is what caused this whole government shutdown apparently in the first place, but I don't want to let Congressman Meadows off the hook either. This small minority of the House of the Representatives, which by the way took a real drubbing in the election, right, they are coming back with a vengeance, and they are not telling the true.
I mean, Democrats said they were willing to spend this $1.6 billion. You hear him saying they won't spend anything. You hear him saying the Democrats oppose border security.
BASH: There's something else --
CHAREN: There's also a lot of disagreements (ph) about that term border security versus fence versus wall.
BASH: And there's another -- there's another question here that spokes to that, and, Doug, you worked for the House Republican leadership, when are they going to say, you know what. It's -- it's okay to pass a bill without these Republicans and do it in a bipartisan way. The reason we're in is this shutdown is because Paul Ryan on his what I out the door heard from the president, I'm not going to -- I'm going to veto whatever the Senate is sending over and so he decide not to take a vote.
Well, at some point you just take the vote, especially if you're heading towards retirement, right?
HEYE: I would say there's two answers to that. The first answer is never.
HEYE: We weren't able to do it before because we would not overcome the 50 percent rule within our own party. That's why is -- you remember covering the 2014 House Republican Conference retreat in Cambridge, Maryland, where we present our immigration proposals to our conference.
BASH: I do.
HEYE: It was about 45 minutes. We never talked about immigration for the rest of the year because our party within the conference told us not to talk about it again.
But the other option is Donald Trump, if he wants to be the deal- maker, his base will follow him on something like this or even on guns where he says, I'm not going to give up on the wall. This is a good deal.
If Donald Trump wants to be the great deal-maker, he's one who can do it in a way that had a President Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio wouldn't have been allowed to.
BASH: I think you're right about that. I think -- OK, everybody, stand by, because we do have a lot more to talk about on the issues you mentioned, Robby.
Gas prices are down, wages run, unemployment low, so why is President Trump mostly focused on Wall Street? Stay with us.
[16:45:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The "MONEY LEAD." Another wild swing on Wall Street today with the Dow closing up, you see 260 points. That's after took a nosedive earlier today. The close raised a question once again what is going on and how much is the President's talking about this impacting the Stock Market. So let's talk about this. As we mentioned going into the break, the overall health of the economy is good, unemployment numbers are good, all of the other factors. But this is a President who talked incessantly about how great the stock market is. He's a New Yorker. He's obsessed with the Stock Market and if you live by the Stock Market you die by the Stock Market, right? MONA CHAREN, SENIOR FELLOW, ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: Yes, exactly. So a couple points. One, the Stock Market is not the economy and that's something that somebody should be drilling into him, although that wouldn't do any good, on a daily basis. But the other thing to bear in mind is yes, right now our economy seems strong as people say the fundamentals are strong. But we have been in this recovery since the middle of 2009. It's unbelievably long time.
Markets fluctuate, you know, recessions do come. And the other thing to bear in mind is we are in a global economy and Europe and Asia are seeing a decline in productivity and in their growth. So it's not out of the question that these fluctuations that we're seeing in our market are intimations of something of a -- of a downturn.
BASH: I've been told biting. I've been told by somebody who talks to the President a lot that his focus even before the market started to really take a downturn, two things, the Stock Market and gas prices. Focus as it relates to his reelection. And listen to what the Washington Post is saying quoting some former officials, former Trump officials. The lower the market drops, the more the President worries that he is losing the most potent argument for re-election.
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: 100 percent. I mean, this is the one thing that what -- you know, when -- I didn't run a re- election campaign, but when you're running a presidential campaign, this is probably the most important factor, and in a re-election it can literally be the difference between winning or losing. So I think he's -- I don't endorse his behavior whatsoever but I think his worries are legitimate. I think he's doing more to make it worse, by the way.
But absolutely, this is all about his reelection. And I think deep down he'll never admit it but he his victory was so brittle, right losing the popular vote, winning three states by less than 70,000 votes. You know, if we go into next year or to 2020, people are losing their jobs, Stock Market is down, people are cranky. It's going to be really hard to get reelected.
[16:50:01] JENNICE FUENTES, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ: Yes, I think in terms of his base, I don't think they are necessarily paying attention to the market, and I think will be interesting to see what their reaction was going -- we're not talking about people who don't zig when you're supposed to zag, oh my god. No, that's not really happening yet. When those statements come in, and they see their pension plants take a hit, I wonder what the reaction will be because I think that perhaps they're not paying attention to that, but the numbers will tell the story pretty soon.
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. The thing I hear most from Congressional Republicans is not so much complaining about what Trump tweets, it's what he doesn't tweet. That's the first Friday of the month when we get good economic news where Donald Trump can say at 8:30 1:00 a.m. the minute after those numbers come out this is what I've done for the American economy this month. And he fails to do it almost every month. It really frustrates Republicans who want to be able to have something to campaign on positive with -- when the President --
FUENTES: You're talking about somebody who should be a leader and it's not.
BASH: But the very thing is that -- so now we're talking about the economy and how potentially perilous a downturn is in the economy for his re-election. And when he wasn't on the ballot, his focus was not on the economy, to your point, it was on immigration which did frustrate Republicans and then Republicans lost 40 seats.
CHAREN: Right. And the other thing he should bear in mind though if he's worried about the economy being a drag on his re-election is the tariffs that he is so fond of are definitely something that's hindering the economy already. The -- we're just going to begin to feel it in the coming year. Most economists believe the effects of those tariffs. And the other thing is that markets hate uncertainty and his erratic behavior and his firing of people who are considered stable and responsible people in the administration like Mattis, does not increase confidence in him. So to the degree that he's undermining confidence in his own government, that's bad for markets.
MOOK: Well -- and I totally agree with that. I mean, everything he's done has made this problem worse. I think the other thing to watch for is the more nervous he becomes about the economy, the more he's going to put out shiny objects to distract. His only path to victory will be to paint the Democrats as fighting for somebody not fighting for you. So he's going to use immigration to say hey, they care only about undocumented workers, I care about you and try to completely distract from --
FUENTES: I don't think he's nervous about the economy. I think he's nervous about his upcoming investigations. Democratic Congress should really have him worried.
MOOK: That's true.
FUENTES: Even his own counsel would say that.
BASH: I think -- yes -- well, he's -- I think he's actually got a lot to worry about. But you know, listen, the economy, the fundamentals are still good and we should we should remember that. Everybody stand by because we want to talk about an issue that Robbie was mentioning. Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing off and bragging about his new missile that can reportedly travel 20 times faster than the speed of sound.
[16:55:00] BASH: In our "WORLD LEAD" today. Vladimir Putin is beating his chest and making sure the United States knows it claiming Russia has successfully tested a new hypersonic missile system that could evade all American defense systems. It's a type of missile that U.S. defense officials have been warning about for months. But as CNN's Barbara Starr reports, there is some skepticism about how operational this new Russian weapon really is.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: U.S. defense officials say this is the real deal. Russia test-firing its new high-speed hypersonic missile. A missile that the U.S. military currently cannot defend against. Russian President Vladimir Putin pulling no punches on his intent.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA: The new avant-garde missile system is invincible against today's and future air and missile defense systems of the potential enemy. This is a big success and a great achievement.
CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If the weapons work is advertised, there is no current defense against them.
STARR: The Russian missile has captured the attention of Patrick Shanahan, the Deputy Defense Secretary who will take over as Acting Pentagon chief when Secretary James Mattis leaves next week. Shanahan warns the U.S. needs to be able to detect the fast flying missile much further away than current radar systems can handle. The U.S. has to detected at thousands not hundreds of miles away because of its high- speed approach. The Pentagon may spend more than $1 billion trying to develop and field its own capabilities.
PATRICK SHANAHAN, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY, UNITED STATES: We have a number of options going on with hypersonic missiles.
STARR: The Russians are making significant yet unproven claims about their missiles saying it's capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. It flies up to 20 times faster than the speed of sound. It can adjust altitude and direction to avoid detection. Putin says it's invincible.
GEN. JOHN HYTEN, COMMANDER, U.S. STRATEGIC COMMAND: We're going to need a different set of sensors in order to see the hypersonic threats. Our adversaries know that.
STARR: The challenges are also political for president Trump whose relationship with Russian President Putin has been rocky since July's Helsinki summit.
LEIGHTON: Putin feels incredibly emboldened. Putin believes this is the time to press his advantage. He's put his forces in Ukraine and Eastern Ukraine. He's of course taken over Crimea. He is now gaining ground in Syria. This is Russia's time in his view.
STARR: Now because the Russians are putting so much effort into this new missile, the U.S. is responding by funding its own effort. The Pentagon says it has no choice but to proceed. Dana?
BASH: Barbara, thank you for that report. I'm Dana Bash in for Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter @DanaBashCNN or tweet the show --