Return to Transcripts main page


Pelosi, Democrat Leaders Call on Omar to Apologize for Remarks; Trump Heads to El Paso Today to Rally for Border Wall; El Paso Republican Party Chair Talks El Paso Crime, Border Wall, Trump Comment on Trail of Tears & Warren; Lawyer Claims "National Enquirer" Did Not Blackmail Jeff Bezos; General Votel Contradicts Trump on ISIS Defeat in Syria. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 11, 2019 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I want to go back to Manu Raju on the Hill.

If they're asking her to apologize, you would expect that we would have talked to her ahead of time and that maybe we will see something or is that your expectation?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's possible. We do know that Congresswoman Omar is working on some sort of statement. We do expect that to come out. We have not seen her today. They have not clarified her remark from last night.

But the statement that came out from Nancy Pelosi and the rest of her Democratic leadership team tried to make it clear that they disagree very strongly with Congresswoman Omar's tweets last night. Part of what they said was, Congresswoman Omar's use of anti-Semitic tropes and prejudicial accusations about Israel supporters is deeply offensive. We condemn those remarks and we call upon Congresswoman Omar to immediately apologize for these hurtful comments."

The question is what they do from here. Republicans have been pushing for Congresswoman Omar to be stripped from her committee assignment on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There's no indication Democrats are willing to do that. And House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican, put out a statement just earlier saying he would more to try to take action against Congresswoman Omar. Democratic leaders do not. It's unclear what he can really do, given he is in the minority. But this is the first statement from Democratic leaders objecting very strongly to those tweets from last night -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Manu, keep an eye on that for us on Capitol Hill.

Soon, President Trump is heading to Texas for a rally to promote his border wall demand, as the clock winds down to another possible shutdown.

And a possible 2020 challenger is planning a dueling rally.

And we'll take you live to the fight against ISIS in east Syria where thousands of people are trapped in an ISIS-controlled town. Now the top U.S. commander is issuing a strong warning about this threat.





[13:36:28] KEILAR: President Trump will be in El Paso, Texas, tonight for a campaign rally that will likely focus on his call for his border wall. El Paso has become the epicenter of the president's border policies. It's where the administration started testing family separations as a deterrent to migrants. It's where more than 6,000 children were housed in tents and where two children died in the custody of Customs and Border Patrol.

Adolpho Telles is the chairman of the El Paso, Texas, Republican Party.

Sir, thank you for being with us.



TELLES: Good to see you.

KEILAR: It's interesting when I look at what you've said about the wall. You make a point of saying, I call it a fence, not a wall. Tell us about why.

TELLES: Well, if you come to the border -- and I invite everybody to come down here -- it is a fence, and because if it was a wall, it would block the visibility from one side to the other. And our law enforcement, our Border Patrol agents, they have got to be able to see what's on the other side. So there will always be something that's open, something that can be -- so they can see what's occurring. If there was a group of people accumulating on the other side, they need to know that. And they'll know it. Right now, what we have, which we've had for 12 or 13 years, we have a fence. They call it a wall, but it's made of a heavy duty gauge wire that overlaps, and you can see right through it. And any new -- the new production that they're talking about is the same way. It's built with ballards, a little different, but they'll be able to see through it to see what's on the other side.

KEILAR: You have been in El Paso for quite a while, since 1987, and in his State of the Union address, the president was pointing to El Paso. He pointed to your crime statistics as justification for his wall. There are a number of city officials in El Paso who have taken issue with this, because a fence was built there in 2008 but the crime rate dropped a lot in the years before that fence that you talked about was constructed. Do you think El Paso is the right place for the president to make his case for a wall with those statistics that he cites?

TELLES: I think it's an outstanding place for him to be here, because we need to talk about the wall. The initial wall that was built, was built by Border Patrol agents having -- being posted at a thousand feet all along the border. So the first wall we had was a human wall. Then the next step was they got at the border, and then they started building another wall. They started checking all vehicles going into Mexico, not just coming out of Mexico. And then eventually, a physical wall was built. It's not a wall. Again, it's a fence. So when you look at what was done and the history, when the Border Patrol initially put a human wall of Border Patrol agents along the border, our crime dropped significantly. So the local city officials are narrowly looking at the solid structure or the structure that's there, not looking at the steps in the process that occurred to the get to that point. Because when it initially started -- the statistics are very, very different -- it dropped significantly. Crime dropped significantly.

KEILAR: His point is that a wall would make crime drop. There seems to be some agreement over border security from both parties as they're working to hash out a plan here that talks about things besides making a large permanent structure. You're talking about it there. You're talking about the effectiveness of it. Is it helpful when he's arguing that, you know, the wall is needed to drop crime? Because violent crime in El Paso actually peaked in 1993. Border construction didn't begin until 2008. It was completed in 2009.

[13:40:17] TELLES: OK, and again, I'm going to point out, because you are right, but what occurred in '93 and '94, the Border Patrol got extremely active and they started a new program. The leader of the Border Patrol at that time started a program, and he called it Hold the Line. And Hold the Line was a wall of humans along the border. So it's the physical structure, which is not a wall, it's a fence. Granted, it's probably 18 feet high. You can see through it. But the first step in the process was a wall of humans, and then they continued to progress and eventually come up with a very physical structure. So during that period of time. in '93, it dropped significantly. And it's continued to maintain at a lower pace. And it's varied. When there was a big drug war in Mexico, when the cartels were trying to take over the city of Juarez for the drug trafficking, we had a little bit of impact here, and I give our police a lot of credit. Yes, the crime rate went up during that period of time, but we were very aggressive. Locally, the police officers did a great job of responding quickly to what was occurring. So when you try to narrow it down to one period of time, it really was a process. It wasn't one significant or one issue that caused the change. The wall was a culmination of significant manpower being applied to the border, and you could call that a wall also.

KEILAR: A human wall, as you put it.

I do want to ask you, while I have you here --


KEILAR: -- about something separately. As I said, you've been in El Paso since 1987. You are from New Mexico. You live in Texas now. These are two states with very large Native American populations. What did you think of the president referring to the Trail of Tears in his tweet that was aimed at Senator Elizabeth Warren? Was that appropriate?

TELLES: You know, the president has made a lot of promises and he's made a lot of effort to live with those promises. His rhetoric sometimes I don't necessarily agree with, but I don't agree with the rhetoric of anybody all the time. So that's not a negative in my mind. But when he talks about, and how he presents sometimes, I wish he would use different words and different approaches. But I have to give him a lot of credit for accomplishing -- saying what he's going to do and then putting his efforts to doing what he said he's going to do. That's a positive thing.

KEILAR: But why -- when you see someone mocking a genocide of Native Americans, what do you think when you see that?

TELLES: Well, I think he was responding to somebody that started out by trying to claim to be Native American. Where I grew up, we were right next to the Mescalero Reservation. I am also Hispanic, and I'm from immigrants, like most us are in this country. I know some of the suffering that's occurred. I know why my grandmother came here because of the Mexican Revolution and what was occurring. There has always, always been issues around the world that cause people to move from one place to the other. Again, whether it's a mocking or whether it's a comment, his terminology, his rhetoric is different than I would use. He's trying to make a point. I think he's been successful at it in the past in making those points --

KEILAR: Can you just -- can you clarify, sir --

TELLES: -- and I'm guessing he's going to continue to do that.

KEILAR: -- what did you mean about things causing people to move from one place to another? What do you mean by that?

TELLES: Well, the Mexican Revolution, back in the early 1900s --

KEILAR: Yes, but how did that -

TELLES: -- that caused a lot of --


KEILAR: -- what does that have to do with what he's saying about the Trail of Tears?

TELLES: Because the Trail of Tears represents a Native American issue. But nobody talks about the Mexicans that came over here, legally, at the at the time, because the rules were different, because there was war --


KEILAR: Sir, that was a forced -- the Trail of Tears was a forced death march.

TELLES: That's true. But again -- and that was forced by American citizens at the time. The Indians were American citizens. They just were not recognized legally. But they were here originally. That occurred at a period of time in our history, which -- you know, we have ups and downs of what we do, what we do well, what we do bad. That was a bad thing. There are a lot of things we have done because of this country is what it is today. That doesn't mean everything that was done was done good. That's an example of something that was done badly or inappropriately and needed to be -- probably should not have occurred. It should not have occurred.

KEILAR: Adolpho Telles, thank you so much. We appreciate you being with us today.

TELLES: OK. You have a good day. Thank you.

[13:45:02] KEILAR: As the 2020 race heats up, Elizabeth Warren suggests the president may not even be a free man next year.

Plus, the "National Enquirer" is firing back at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Why the tabloid's lawyer says it did not engage in blackmail when it threatened to publish personal photos.


KEILAR: Hacked or leaked? Blackmail or negotiating tactic? All questions being asked about how Jeff Bezos' texts and personal photos were obtained and ultimately used by the "National Enquirer."

Former Department of Justice and national security prosecutor, Joseph Moreno, here with us to answer some questions.

[13:50:03] So AMI is the parent company of the "National Enquirer," and the lawyer for AMI's CEO David Pecker contends that this information was given to "The Enquirer." Let's listen to this.


ELKAN ABRAMOWITZ, LAWYER FOR AMI CEO DAVID PECKER: It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail. What happened was the story was given to the "National Enquirer" by a reliable source that had given information to the "National Enquirer" for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well-known to both Mr. Bezos and Miss Sanchez.


KEILAR: It's very interesting to hear how adamant he is this wasn't something obtained by hacking. Why is he being so adamant about that? Can we take that to the bank?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER DOJ AND NATIONAL SECURITY PROSECUTOR: When you get a non-prosecution agreement, which is what AMI received, you have basically gotten a pass on legal prosecution. But with two big caveats. One, you have to be entirely cooperative with anything federal prosecutors ask you. Two, you have to keep your nose clean for at least three years. So if you're found to have committed anything beyond a parking ticket, you could be in a lot of trouble for the new crime as well as for the crime you were not originally prosecuted for. I fully expect prosecutors in the southern district of New York will pull AMI in and say, you tell me why this wasn't extortion or blackmail. And AMI has to be fully forthcoming.

KEILAR: In the writing of the lawyer, we're talking about nude and inappropriate photos, things -- it's listed out in this media post, the description in this e-mail, very lurid details. And I just wonder, when you look at them saying, hey, we may release these, essentially, if you do not use your representatives -- talking basically about the "Washington Post" -- if you do not say something that is untrue, actually, about AMI, if you don't say this, we're going to do this. Is that extortion to you?

MORENO: It could be. When you're a First Amendment-protected media organization, you can do a lot. But you can't blackmail people. You can't hold something over someone in exchange for anything back. It could be money or, in this case, it could be a statement sort of putting AMI off the hook for some kind of political connections that they say don't exist. So whether it's extortion of not, ultimately, a jury would decide. But federal prosecutors --

KEILAR: Why wouldn't it be extortion? Because that's not journalism. I mean, that just isn't.

MORENO: Extortion can be a surprisingly difficult crime to prosecute.

KEILAR: Really?

MORENO: Yes. You've got to know the facts. It could be federal, state level. There's different flavors as to how you charge it and where. But if federal prosecutors say, we think you did something wrong, you have to give a full explanation of what happened here, and you better be honest with them.

KEILAR: That maybe why they seem more concerned about the hacking aspect from the AMI perspective than the extortion.

MORENO: You have to be careful about everything.

KEILAR: Everything.

MORENO: Everything. They have to really, really be careful because they're going to come under a microscope now.

KEILAR: If you were involved in this case, what would you be looking at?

MORENO: Well, I would want to look at, ultimately, one, what was the transaction that took place that Jeff Bezos describes. It sounds awfully bad. You're holding something over him.

KEILAR: If they're saying to him, get the "Washington Post" to report something, which is essentially what they're saying when they're saying representatives of Jeff Bezos --

MORENO: Right.

KEILAR: -- and we will not release these things you don't want out there.

MORENO: Why were they so focused about this? What did they want the "Washington Post" to say and why? What were these political connections AMI was trying to get Jeff Bezos to disclaim? I want to know that. What was driving this thing? It sounds like an awful lot more than just standard journalism here.

KEILAR: It certainly does.

Joe Moreno, thank you so much --

MORENO: You're welcome.

KEILAR: -- for explaining this to us.

The clock is counting down to another possible government shutdown. Some federal workers say they still have not received all of their back pay while negotiations between lawmakers have turned sour.

[13:54:11] And an unwelcome surprise this tax season. Refunds that are smaller than in years past. We're going to tell you why.


KEILAR: The top U.S. commander in the Middle East appears to be directly contradicting President Trump's claim that ISIS in Syria has been destroyed. General Joseph Votel says the fight against ISIS is far from over.


GENERAL JOSEPH VOTEL, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I'm kind of aligned with the Intelligence Committee on this. They've talked about tens of thousands that have been dispersed and disaggregated from the area. They're dispersed and disaggregated, but there's leadership there. There are fighters there. There are facilitators there. They have, still have some access to resources. And of course, they still maintain this kind of perverse ideology.


KEILAR: The interview with our Barbara Starr, our Pentagon correspondent.

Now President Trump promised to pull all 2000 U.S. troops out of Syria, but he recently also said he was prepared to send them back in, if ISIS or any other terror group regains strength in the region.

That is it for me.

NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right now. [14:00:06] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

You're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me.