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Doctors Question Medical Care Given to Migrant Boy; WAPO: Trump "Listening More Than Ever to Sen. Rand Paul"; House Democrats Scooping Up Staff & Attorneys to Investigate Trump; Giuliani Says Trump Will Not Answer More Mueller Questions. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 28, 2018 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:40] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just days after a second migrant child died in U.S. custody, the secretary of Homeland Security is heading to the U.S./Mexico border. Kirstjen Nielsen will be in El Paso, Texas, today, Yuma, Arizona, tomorrow. Her trip comes as a top Senate Democrat says she wants the Senate to investigate now those children's deaths.

The White House says the tragedies show exactly why the nation's immigration laws need an overhaul.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Certainly, that's an absolutely tragic situation, something nobody ever wants to see happen. It's one of the reasons the president wants to fix our broken immigration system. It's a treacherous journey and we don't want to see people go that route.

We're doing everything in our capacity to make sure when people do come, that they're taken care of so we don't have these types of instances. Many cases, they show up extremely dehydrated without food and they're seeing a doctor for the very first time.


BOLDUAN: CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us.

Elizabeth, you're learning more about what happened to this 8-year-old boy who died on Christmas Eve. What are you learning?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Kate, what we're learning is they did an autopsy and tested for the flu, and he had the flu. Doctors have been telling me this for days, that it sounded like he had the flu, but it appears he was never tested for the flu, even though he had symptoms.

Let's do a tick-tock of what happened. On December 24th, at 1:20, he was taken to the hospital with, according to Customs and Border Protection, symptoms of the flu, possible symptoms of the flu, yet there's no mention he ever got a flu test. So why was he brought in with symptoms of the flu, including a 103-degree temperature, and it appears never tested for the flu. We asked that question. We have not gotten an answer. He was diagnosed instead of the flu with a common cold, and he was released back to the detention center. Then, at around 11:00 that night, he was brought back to the hospital because he had gotten sicker and sicker. Not surprising, when a child has the flu. And then they tried to revive him, but at 11:48, he was pronounced dead.

So lots of questions about why he didn't get a flu test, including -- let's take a look at a map that just came out moment ago from the CDC. Look, and in the southwest, Arizona, New Mexico, widespread flu activity. Texas has the second level, a little lower level of flu activity. This map is new, so the map that would have been available to these folks when this boy was sick was a little different. There wasn't quite as much flu activity. But still, even then, high levels of flu activity when this boy was sick. He had symptoms of the flu. It appears he wasn't tested for the flu. Why not?

BOLDUAN: Sarah Sanders, you heard her there, she said today they're doing everything in their capacity to make sure that people crossing the border are cared for. You have been talking to experts about this. What do they think?

COHEN: They really question what they said. They think Sarah Sanders is just wrong. They said, look, obviously, everything wasn't done for this boy. CBP, the government, has medical professionals. Why didn't they insist on a flu test? Why didn't they tell the hospital he has signs of the flu, do a flu test? They knew he had signs of a flu.

Secondly, this boy was sent back to a crowded detention center, or I should say a detention center -- many are crowded -- with a 103-degree fever. He had just had a 103-degree fever, and he was sent back to a detention center. It's not great health care for him. And what about for everyone else who was there? Flu can spread like wildfire, and you're sending a child who just had a 103-degree temperature back to a detention center with many other people.

[11:35:24] The third question that experts have, Kate, is they want to know were these children, or really anyone else, vaccinated upon entrance. Vaccinating people is very, very easy. It is not expensive. And it's very effective. Were they vaccinated for the flu when they were admitted to these centers or for any other contagious disease that could save lives?

BOLDUAN: A lot of questions still.

Great to see you, Elizabeth. Thank you very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate your bringing that to us.

In California, the manhunt for a suspected cop killer is getting more intense as we speak. Police Officer Ronil Singh was shot early Wednesday morning. And while officials haven't released the name of the alleged gunman, you see him on the screen. The sheriff says he's an undocumented immigrant. Listen.


ADAM CHRISTIANSON, SHERIFF, STANISLAUS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: This suspect is in our country illegally. He doesn't belong here. He's a criminal.


BOLDUAN: This is the first death of an officer in the line of duty in the history of the Newman, California, Police Department. Singh leaves behind his wife and a 5-month-old son. Just horrible.

Coming up for us, Trump's controversial decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria is getting high praise from one prominent member of the Senate. Is Rand Paul's influence growing with President Trump right now? And why is it worrying administration officials if that's the case? That's next.


[11:41:20] BOLDUAN: It's no secret that President Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria has been met with backlash from his own party and his own cabinet. But one Republican Senator has praised the president's actions. Listen here to Rand Paul.


SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: I'm very proud of the president. This is exactly what he promised. And I think the people agree with him, actually. I think people believe we have been at war too long and too many places. And that we do need to turn attention to problems we have at home here.


BOLDUAN: So is Senator Paul just showing his support, or is this something more than that now?

"Washington Post" columnist and CNN political analyst, Josh Rogin, he makes the case it's the latter, not the former. Josh is joining me now.

Great to see you, Josh.


BOLDUAN: I want to read a graph from your piece for everyone, because it was really enlightening: "Several U.S. officials and people who have spoken directly to Trump since his Syria decision tell me," Josh Rogin, "they believe that Paul's frequent phone conversations with Trump, wholly outside the policy process, are having an outsized influence on the president's recent foreign policy decisions."

How did this come about? ROGIN: A long-standing concern inside the White House State

Department, DOD, NSC, about the influence Rand Paul was having over the president's foreign policy thinking, especially with regard to Russia. After the Syria decision, everyone sort of looked around and analyzed it and said this is the watershed moment where Rand Paul's foreign policy influence on the president has overpowered that of the entire national security cabinet. The president was speaking to Rand Paul on the phone about this, going to golf, talking about this. He didn't check with his Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, OK? And then, in the wake of it, you see them publicly aligning to support this policy. You know, after that interview with Jake Tapper, President Trump tweeted out Rand Paul's criticism of U.S. generals. Then when President Trump went to Iraq, he stood in front of U.S. troops and criticized U.S. generals.

So it's not just this one issue. On a range of foreign policy issues, in the direction that U.S. foreign policy is going, Rand Paul and Donald Trump are now steering the ship pretty much together. And the rest of the people who are supposed to be involved in our national security policy making process are really upset about it.

BOLDUAN: That is what is, at least one part, confounding, if not why it's so confounding, is that he appears to be taking Rand Paul's opinion over that of his defense secretary, his secretary of state, his national security adviser, when it comes to Syria. Lindsey Graham told me they were all telling him not to pull out of Syria.

ROGIN: Right. And the president is allowed to get advice from whoever he wants.

BOLDUAN: That's true.

ROGIN: If he happens to agree with Senator Paul on this issue, that's his prerogative. He's the president. It's his decision. But the concern is not just about the fact he's cutting out other voices. It's that he's cutting out good information, OK? Rand Paul has a history of pushing frankly false and conspiracy theory information, especially about the Middle East. He said that John McCain met with ISIS in Syria, which is a conspiracy theory. He doubts that President Assad gassed his own people, flying in the face of all U.S. intelligence. So the concern is really that, OK, if the president is making all these important decisions and he has these long-held views, if he's getting bad information from Rand Paul and that's becoming bad policy, that affects everybody. And because nobody knows exactly what's going on between Rand Paul and the president outside of the process, there's no way to address it.

BOLDUAN: And if Rand Paul has his ear -- and you have been covering Rand Paul's foreign policy positions for a long time -- what's likely to come next, would you say?

ROGIN: That's the other fear. I mean, we have already seen the president announce that he's going to slash the amount of troops in Afghanistan, something Rand Paul has long pushed. I'm looking towards South Korea. Rand Paul wants U.S. troops out of South Korea. President Trump entertains that idea publicly and privately all the time.

But overall, the broad direction of U.S. foreign policy towards withdrawing U.S. commitments, ending U.S. alliances, this is something that President Trump has flirted with and sometimes leaned towards. In 2019, if he and Rand Paul continue to go down this road together, that could have worldwide implications on a range of issues and undo parts of American foreign policy and national security that have been in place for 80 years.

[11:45:27] BOLDUAN: Looking into 2019, Afghanistan and what decision he makes there, that's a huge question that everyone is waiting to see.

ROGIN: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Josh, thanks so much. Great to see you, man.

ROGIN: Any time.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, help wanted in the House of Representatives. Democrats are looking for a few good attorneys, it appears, as they're getting ready to ramp up investigations, it appears, into the president from the job posting. More on that after the break.


[11:50:14] BOLDUAN: House Democrats are staffing up and looking for lawyers. How do we know? Well, CNN's Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, and Jeremy Herb found the job postings, literally. And this is what they're looking for. I'll read what they wrote: "A recent committee job posting reviewed by CNN asked for legislative counsels with a variety of expertise," quote, "criminal law, immigration law, constitutional law, intellectual property law, commercial and administrative law, including antitrust and bankruptcy, or oversight work."

So in short, they're hiring. What does that mean for the Trump administration come the New Year? Let's find out.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst, Jack Quinn, who was the White House counsel under President Clinton.

Great to see you, Jack.

JACK QUINN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you. Nice to see you.

BOLDUAN: You worked for a White House under investigation and you see a posting like this, and what should the White House be expecting?

QUINN: The White House should expect a torrent of investigations. But I fully expect that Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives will ensure that those investigations are, while on the one hand, robust, but they will also be careful. I fully expect they will not engage in the overreach we saw during the Clinton years when the committees went too far and grounded themselves in the wrong issues and turned the American people against the investigations. Everyone has learned from that experience, I believe, on the Democratic side, and great pains will be taken to avoid that.

BOLDUAN: There will be a lot of eyeballs watching for that very closely, you will be sure.

QUINN: You bet.

BOLDUAN: Do you think the White House, the president understands what's going to be coming at them?

QUINN: Yes, I do. I think the incoming counsel has talked to an awful lot of people about what to expect here. I know he is trying to staff up as quickly as he can. He needs to do that. The staff is far smaller than it was when I managed literally multiple investigations in the Congress as well as an independent counsel investigation run by Ken Starr. We had a lot of lawyers working for us at that time. We staffed overtime. It really requires putting together essentially the best law firm in Washington.

BOLDUAN: I was going to ask you, Jack, what is that like when not just the job you are hired to do, which is to be counsel for the White House and the president, but with the onslaught of investigations, what is it like?

QUINN: You're busy 24 hours a day, almost 24 hours a day. You literally have to still carry out the duties of the White House counsel, as does everyone who works for the White House counsel. You have jobs to do and people that you have got opinions to render. You have to advise the president and senior White House staff on a number of foreign policy and intelligence matters that might require notification to the Congress. All of that work remains in place. It doesn't take a vacation while the investigations are going on. That's the reason, number one, why you have to staff up. And add probably 50 percent to the staff that you would otherwise have had. And it's also a reason why you can't expect to get as much sleep as you'd like --

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

QUINN: -- or see your family as often as you like.

BOLDUAN: No kidding.

I want to ask about one staffer, not in the White House, that the president has, Rudy Giuliani. One of the investigations the president is facing, not in Congress, but is the Mueller investigation. Rudy Giuliani has been on a tear recently on the question of being interviewed by Mueller. Giuliani told "The Daily Beast" that they are still open to it, but within a day or two, he told "The Hill," the following, "The president is not answering any more questions from these people, their outrageous activity, we did enough."

Despite the obvious contradiction, what do you think the real position is?

QUINN: Who knows? Kate, give me a break, you can't -- who knows what's really going on in Rudy Giuliani's mind. I sure don't. But let me make one thing clear, as clear as I can. It is not up to

Rudy Giuliani, it is not even up to the president whether he will be required to provide evidence either from the special counsel or from a congressional committee. We are going to hear an awful lot in the coming year about executive privilege. Executive privilege basically involves balancing the legitimate interests of different players in the federal government, the courts, the Congress, and the presidency. They all have legitimate interest. But the courts are the ones who say what the law requires. Not the executive branch, not the Congress. The courts, in the end, will say what is required of the president.

[11:55:16] BOLDUAN: Right. In the end, that's where the fight will likely end up is in the courts.

Great to see you, Jack. Thank you so much.

QUINN: You bet.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.

QUINN: Thank you.


[12:00:04] BOLDUAN: The New York City skyline got a remarkable new look last night. You can see a blue glow painted across the skies.