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Demonstrations Continue in Venezuela as Almost Entire Country in Blackout; El Paso Mayor Wants Washington to Hear What's Really Happening on Border; R. Kelly Released from Jail After Paying Back- Child Support; "Empire" Star Indicted on 16 Felony Counts over Phony Beating. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 9, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: But they, we're told, have a different body shape, a more rounded head, and smaller, narrowed markings around the eyes.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for staying with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

When you think of must-win states for Democrats running for president, Texas may not be at the top of the list. But the next couple days, that's exactly where a number of the party's biggest names will be, at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin.

The event best known for technology, film, and music, getting a big infusion of politics this weekend. And outside of Austin, a more traditional campaign approach for some other 2020 contenders who are on the ground in key states like Iowa, Nevada, and South Carolina today. That gives you a little sampling of who's doing what.

I want to bring in CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago and CNN's senior political analyst Mark Preston. They're on site there in Austin.

Leyla, you've been following Beto O'Rourke today. He was at South by Southwest for the premiere of his new documentary about his Senate run. But everyone wants to know, what is he thinking about 2020? Did he give any clues?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that question was asked in the Q & A session immediately after the documentary, and he deflected. I mean, this was yet another opportunity for Beto O'Rourke to come out and say here's the decision I have made when it comes to 2020, and apparently, today is not the day. Well, as of yet, anyway.

So the documentary kind of gave this behind the scenes look as to his campaign. Immediately afterward, when he was asked that question, he sort of moved to the other local candidates in Texas, highlighted what they're doing, highlighted the importance of their election.

But what will come next? According to our sources, it's an announcement on his decision for 2020 that is said to be any day now. Rewind, you know, in early February, he told Oprah he would make a decision by the end of the month. The last day of February, he said, I have made a decision. Within a

few hours, I actually talked to him, and he said that decision -- that announcement on that decision will come soon. But soon, I guess, isn't yet today. We're still waiting to find out when he will make that announcement and what that announcement will officially be.

CABRERA: All right, Leyla, thank you. Stand by.

Mark, give us an idea then. Who else is there that has made South by Southwest the place to be for O'Rourke and the other top Democrats?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, it certainly is. You know, there was actually a headline on "USA Today" just a couple days ago. It says, Austin, the new Iowa.

Now, I don't think it is the new Iowa, but it's certainly a place -- if you are a Democrat and you are running for president, this is the place you want to be. And you want to be here because these are the types of supporters that you want to woo.

These are the types of people who are coming from all around the country, who are coming here for 10 days to talk about the arts and gaming, to talk about music, but also to talk about politics as well.

We've seen this festival, which really started in 1987 as an arts festival to bring people together to help shape ideas, to really evolve into a festival that has gone well beyond that now and is really shaping ideas, not only in the entertainment space but certainly in the political space.

So we're going to see folks from all across the country here, trying to talk to themselves, talk to themselves about the future, and this is where the candidates are going to try to talk directly to them, to try to get their support.

CABRERA: And, Mark, what do they need to do to stand out? What are people looking for?

PRESTON: Well, a couple of things. They're looking for forward- thinking people now. I have to say that while Texas is a red state -- and as you said at the top, it's not a state you would necessarily think Democrats would be investing a whole lot in, but they are starting to invest a whole lot in the state.

They saw that with Beto O'Rourke's Senate candidacy. They saw a chance possibly to pick up a Senate seat in two years from now. They were hoping that Beto O'Rourke would run. He decided not to. We're still waiting on his presidential.

But what they're looking from the presidential candidates is they're looking for people who are talking about community, talking about coming together, talking about trying to fix the policy ills right now that are affecting our nation. And really to drill down in it.

You're talking about CEOs of tech companies. You're talking about young entrepreneurs. You're talking not just tech but also old school companies, as well. They're sending in some of their top officials as well because this really has become an ideas factory.

And that's what we're going to see over the next 10 days, Democratic politicians who are trying to sell their ideas. We'll see if they're successful there.

CABRERA: All right, Mark Preston, Leyla Santiago, live from Austin. Thank you. Let's bring in S.E. Cupp, host of "UNFILTERED" which follows us next hour, and Van Jones, host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW" which is also later this evening right here on CNN at 7:00 p.m.

Guys, thanks for being here with us.

S.E., the crowded field of Democratic contenders just got even more crowded this week. We have former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper jumping into the race. He's in Iowa, you know, this weekend along with a couple of others. Which Democrat of, like, the list of 12-plus stands out so far?

[17:05:02] S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I think it's fairly clear that Kamala Harris' rollout has been the most, I think, professional. Seamless. There's energy behind it. I think she's a very polished candidate.

I would still wait for Joe Biden to decide what he's going to do because I think he will be sort of a mile marker in the Democratic field. If he runs as the voice of Middle America, that will sort of be a governor on the rest of the field, which very much wants to run to the very far left. He will sort of maintain a middle ground.

If he doesn't get in, then I think this thing is off to the races, all the way over to the furthest, furthest far, far left.

CABRERA: Left.

CUPP: Yes, and I even already see --

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one can only hope.

CUPP: I know.

CABRERA: Van, you're trying to say?

JONES: One can only hope.

CUPP: Music to his ears.

CABRERA: Yes, that's what you want to see?

CUPP: But if the Democrats are trying to capture some of those forgotten voters in the Rust Belt, you know, Sherrod Brown of Ohio decided not to get in.

CABRERA: Not to run, yes.

JONES: Yes, that was heartbreaking.

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: But there were five people this week who announced they weren't running, which I thought was interesting.

CUPP: Right. Yes.

CABRERA: Before we talk more about Biden because I do have a couple of more questions about his decision-making process, but let me -- I mean, first, Beto. The fact that Beto O'Rourke has not announced his decision, which he announced 10 days ago he had made a decision, what do you make of that?

CUPP: Pick him (ph).

JONES: Well, I know. Well, I think, honestly, he has his documentary. He probably didn't want to step on that. So he rolls the documentary out, hopes he's going to get --

CABRERA: I mean, he's building the suspense for his supporters.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: Like, he better deliver. If you're them, right?

JONES: Yes, I mean, he better throws us something.

CUPP: Right.

JONES: But I think, obviously, he's not going to make an announcement on top of the documentary today. But it doesn't make a lot of sense for him to wait that much longer.

You asked who has been maybe most interesting. Listen, people wrote Bernie Sanders off the last time. They're writing him off this time.

People forget Bernie Sanders never stopped running for president. He just kind of shifted that operation over to the Medicare for all piece, you know, working with the nurses. He built this big massive machine. And when he hit the button to cut it on, a bunch of money poured in.

So I think, you know, he's still -- if you got Bernie over here, you got Biden over there. Elizabeth Warren stumbled out of the gate pretty badly, but she's actually started to, you know, figure out ways to win some news cycles.

CABRERA: I'm glad you brought both of them up.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: Because, actually, Warren was out there today trying to distinguish herself from Bernie Sanders.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: Listen to what she said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, TIME: Is it incorrect that he discouraged you from running? And if so, on what grounds?

(LAUGHTER)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: So Bernie and I had a private dinner. And my view is that dinner stays private.

GIRIDHARADAS: People who don't know the difference are thinking you and Bernie are really the same. What's the crux of the difference?

WARREN: Bernie has to speak to what democratic socialism is, and --

GIRIDHARADAS: But you are not one?

WARREN: And I'm not. And the centrists have to speak to whatever they are doing.

(LAUGHTER)

WARREN: What I can speak to is what I'm doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So you heard her there, Van --

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: -- say, don't call me a socialist, sort of dancing around it. Bernie Sanders really embraces that.

JONES: Yes. Well, I mean, what's interesting is that it's pretty fair for her to say she's not a democratic socialist. When I first met her, she was a Harvard professor teaching economics and all kinds of other stuff. And what she was, was she was really angry that capitalism had gotten distorted in this way by excesses on Wall Street.

She actually comes in as somebody who actually had taught a bunch of those guys on Wall Street and felt that they weren't actually -- that they were cheating. Some people think that capitalism itself is cheating, that it's just a bad system. Other people feel like capitalism is a good system, but the rules have been rigged.

I think Elizabeth is more on that -- Elizabeth Warren is more on that side of it. I also think, you know, she's saying stuff now in terms of saying that, you know, Amazon and Google and Facebook, these companies are too big. That she, you know, wants to --

CABRERA: And she put out a proposal this week that she thinks they should be broken.

JONES: That they should be broken up, yes.

CUPP: Like banks, yes.

JONES: Yes, broken up like banks. And minimally, that they shouldn't be able to run, you know, companies that compete with other companies off of their own platforms. So she's actually putting out some substantive stuff beyond just Medicare for all.

I think it's going to get very interesting on the left. And, you know, I love it because, you know, this is my wing of the party.

CABRERA: I kind of wonder, though, S.E., if she was avoiding that label of socialist because the President seems to think that is going to really hurt Democrats. And he and other Republicans in his campaign have tried to use socialist as a real digger against the Democratic Party.

CUPP: Yes. But also, you know, Elizabeth Warren, I would argue, is Bernie but with baggage. She's very, very similar to his ideology so this was really the only area she could go after, well, we don't share the same discrete label.

I thought that was really revealing, that she didn't decide to say, well, we have serious policy differences. Because they don't. And what I have said about Elizabeth Warren for a long time is, she doesn't have the authenticity for lots of reasons that voters really seek. And what they love about Bernie is -- agree or disagree with him -- you know he believes what he's saying.

[17:10:13] JONES: Yes.

CUPP: And what I said back in 2016, the difference between Bernie and Hillary Clinton, Bernie was a cause and Hillary Clinton was a corporation. And I think Elizabeth Warren has to compete with his authenticity, and it's no competition.

CABRERA: I mean, that might be one reason a lot of people love Joe Biden, his authenticity.

CUPP: For sure, for sure.

CABRERA: We talked about him being a gag machine.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: He says he is 95 percent -- according to "The New York Times," 95 percent there.

JONES: I just want to say I do see Elizabeth Warren differently than S.E. Cupp in that I think that she does believe the stuff that she says.

I think when she talks about her upbringing, when she talks about those middle-class values, I -- listen, I think she believes it, and I think she connects. I think she somehow managed to slip on this banana peel around the Native American stuff.

CUPP: Yes. JONES: And that has just become something that, you know, has defined

her too much to too many people.

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: As she stays out there -- let's not forget now, we got a whole year before anybody -- almost a year before anybody gets to vote.

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: As she stays out there and keeps talking, I think that -- I think her stock goes up. I think that --

CUPP: Well, she's got to get her poll numbers up, you know.

JONES: Yes, but I think Elizabeth -- she's got more room to grow than anybody else with her name idea.

CUPP: Yes, sure. Yes.

JONES: And that's not actually a bad thing. She's definitely not peaked early, I'll put it that way.

CUPP: Yes. That's true.

CABRERA: OK, let me talk about Biden because you talked about poll numbers, you talked about authenticity, room to grow, room to go down. I mean, listen to what a group of voters -- Democratic voters from different states -- told Alisyn Camerota this week about Biden and the prospect of his candidacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I used to think like, you know, because I was -- I was riding like kind of an Obama wave, and I thought he was the -- I thought he was the person that would unite the party. But to be honest, you know, Senator Biden really comes from kind of the good, old boy politics of the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think Joe Biden represents that new thing that we need. We just -- we need a new economy, we need a new politics, and we need someone different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So you hear that, and yet look at the poll numbers. His favorable rating among Democrats, according to these latest polls, 80 percent.

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: Only nine percent unfavorable. Those are rock star numbers.

CUPP: Yes.

CABRERA: How do you square these two things? CUPP: I think there is this existential divide in the Democratic

Party -- and not in a bad way -- between the nostalgia for Joe Biden and his language. The idea that someone needs to heal this country. And then on the other side, the idea that we need to make people pay. That someone's going to be angry enough and exercised enough to do what needs to be done and take this country in a new progressive direction.

He's not that person. Those voters, I think, are very astute when they diagnose the Biden problem. But you can't have both things, I don't think, unless you find the unicorn candidate.

JONES: Yes.

CUPP: I think Beto aims to be that unicorn candidate that can heal the nation, talk civilly, bring people together, but also, you know, embark on this progressive journey forward. This is, you know, sort of an emotional issue that Democrats will have to sort of grapple with during this primary.

CABRERA: Van, Democrats love President Obama.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: Joe Biden was his right-hand man. Does that give him an edge?

JONES: Well, it does. But I mean, I just have to amen S.E. Cupp. She's the therapist for the left.

CABRERA: Oh, that's the logic.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: She understands our emotional, psychological breakdown better.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: But, I mean, it is really true that there is a nostalgia and also the idea of wanting to move on. And I don't think it's -- in a way, part of it is, are you going to be tough enough on Trump? Are you going to be mad enough at Wall Street? That kind of stuff.

But part of it is the sense that Democrats do well when we have that young, fresh face. You know, Bill Clinton was that young, fresh face. Obama was that young, fresh face. And so there is this idea that we got so many young, fresh faces, especially compared to somebody of Biden's generation. Maybe they should have a shot.

But, listen, I don't know how this is going to work itself out. I think you're right. I hadn't thought about that. I think Beto is trying to ride that seam.

CUPP: Yes. Yes.

JONES: But, listen, Biden is beloved in this party. And he's beloved in this party because he stood by Obama, and he was -- he turned that thing into a great buddy movie, and people want a sequel.

CABRERA: All right, guys, stick around. Van, we're back in -- on the flip side of this break.

S.E., thank you.

CUPP: Sure, yes.

CABRERA: We'll look for you at the top of the hour. I know you got to go get ready for your show, "S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED," up next here at 6:00 p.m.

Much more ahead this hour, including the sentencing of Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and what his sentence in his financial fraud case might say about the American justice system. That's something, obviously, Van Jones feels very passionate about. We'll talk to him about.

Also ahead, singer R. Kelly gets released from a Chicago jail today after someone pays his more than $100,000 in back child support. And he makes a promise. Details on that coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM.

[17:15:06] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Paul Manafort's legal troubles are far from over. He faces sentencing before the judge in the Mueller probe on Wednesday, a different judge than he faced this week.

Many folks are still talking about how he got off light by their judgment on Friday, when a judge in his fraud conviction case gave him far less than the 25 years prosecutors sought. Now, President Trump's campaign chairman will serve less than four years for those crimes and had nine months taken off his sentence for time served.

Back with us now is Van Jones. I want to start with, first, the reaction from the 2020 campaign trail. Here's Senator Cory Booker last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Here's a guy that betrayed our nation, that the prosecutors said -- that the sentencing guidelines said over 19 years, and he's getting out with a slap on the wrist. What does that say to people in communities like mine that have been disproportionately targeted by a drug war? It's not a war on drugs, it's a war on people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[17:20:03] CABRERA: Booker is from Newark, New Jersey.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: Just over 50 percent African-American population there, Van. I know you're so passionate about criminal justice obviously.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: What's your take on this sentence?

JONES: Well, I mean, it's an insult. I mean, you've got people who are doing way more time than that for, you know, minor property crimes. I mean, this is somebody who was a traitor. I mean, he's somebody who has hurt our country.

And it's not like you're asking the judge to do something extraordinary, hey, judge, just make an example of this guy. Just follow the basic guidelines, and you're looking at 20, 25 years.

CABRERA: But let me just throw this out there.

JONES: Yes, sure.

CABRERA: Because Judge Ellis made a point to say he has to rule and, you know, make sure that it's consistent with this particular type of crime which Manafort was convicted and the sentence. He had multiple examples in which people with similar convictions actually were given less time. No prison time, in some cases.

JONES: But part of the problem that we have here is that we look at, quote/unquote, White-collar crime differently so that there is a departing down on White-collar crime consistently. So just so --

CABRERA: So it's a systemic problem?

JONES: It is a systemic problem. And so it doesn't actually make it better to point out that other people who have done bad stuff like this have gotten away with a slap on their wrist.

You got -- listen, I am the CEO of something called the Reform Alliance. It was created by Jay Z and Meek Mill and some billionaires to try to do something about criminal justice.

Why did we get started? Because Meek Mill got sent back to prison for two years -- half this guy's sentence -- for popping a wheelie, OK? Literally, he was on a motorcycle, he lifts the wheel off the ground, puts it back down, and gets two years back in prison. We had to fight to get him out.

So this is the kind of stuff when you're looking at communities who see five, 10, 15-year sentences for fairly minor stuff, it's hard to swallow. Don't forget, you have a woman serving five years in prison in Texas because she voted. Now, she was on parole. She thought she had the right to vote. It turns out, she didn't have the right to vote.

She apologized, she didn't mean to do it. She's serving five years for trying to be a good citizen. This guy is getting four years for being a traitor. It doesn't make any sense.

So this is the kind of stuff that I think really makes it hard for people to not come to the conclusion, as Bryan Stevenson has said so many times -- the great human rights lawyer. He says it's better in this country to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent.

Because if you don't have the resources and you're from the wrong neighborhood and you have the wrong skin color and the wrong background, you're going to wind up having to plea to something and do a lot of time while somebody who does something like this gets away with it.

CABRERA: Stevenson's book, "Just Mercy," that's such a good book.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: I just was reminded of that. Let me talk to you about your show tonight because you're talking with the members of the new generation of Democrats, the progressive branch. And you talked to them about impeachment. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: Who here right now has seen enough truth and read enough truth to be ready for impeachment right now? This -- show of hands. Nobody? Nobody's ready for impeachment?

REP. JAHANA HAYES (D), CONNECTICUT: We're waiting for -- I'm waiting personally for the results of the investigation. And even through all of these conversations, it's not about Donald Trump. This is the office of the President. This is upholding the constitution.

If this were Barack Obama and we had seen everything that we're seeing, I'd want some answers. I'd want the Judiciary and Congressmen Nadler to demand that we get this information. It doesn't matter who the person is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: You seemed kind of surprised by the sort of pump the brakes mentality there?

JONES: Well, this show is so amazing because, first of all, these are brand new Congresspeople on the whole. So they don't know there's stuff they're not supposed to say, so it's great for me.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: The staffs were like, well, you're going to be pretty tonight.

CABRERA: You thought like, oh, yes, fresh --

JONES: Get them while they're fresh.

CABRERA: Yes, fresh blood.

JONES: Get them while they're young. And so we had a great conversation, three strong progressives, two from more moderate Trumpy type of districts. Listening to them talk is like pulling back the curtain on what must be going on in that Democratic caucus room, you know, every day as this huge new wave of young Democrats get in there. And they're in the government. I mean, they have to make decisions.

CABRERA: Yes.

JONES: And it's just a fascinating conversation. And I love talking to people when they're that new in their careers. They haven't figured out how to button it all down.

But none of them felt like they were ready to impeach. And they point out that there were some in their party who felt that way but they ran on that. And all of them said we did not run on that. We ran on jobs, we ran on health care, blah, blah, blah.

It's fascinating to see this new -- and, look, every color in the Skittles' bag up there.

CABRERA: Yes.

JONES: The first Native American woman -- one of the first two Native American women, you had somebody who's Indian, a female military person, an African-American woman. This new Democratic Party is so fascinating, and I think we really capture it on the show tonight.

CABRERA: Well, we look forward to seeing it. It sounds like a really interesting conversation.

JONES: Yes.

CABRERA: Van Jones, thank you. That's coming up at 7:00 p.m. right here on CNN. Stick around for my show at 8:00 p.m. following Van's show, OK?

[17:25:04] El Paso, Texas, a town that's ground zero for the literal and rhetorical fight over whether there's indeed a national emergency on the U.S. border. The Republican mayor of that city has a message for President Trump and Congress about what needs to be done to keep his city safe. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: This weekend again, the people of Venezuela are boiling over with anger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: This is Caracas, but Venezuelans are furious all over the country.

[17:30:00] Supporters of embattled President Nicolas Maduro and riot police physically clashing with people who believe an opposition leader is their legitimate president. And no electricity. Nearly the entire country has been in a blackout since Thursday. CNN's Paula Newton is in Caracas.

Paula, this nationwide power outage is quickly becoming an issue for people of Venezuela. When may it end?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a national emergency at this point. No doubt, people have had these rolling blackouts. Sometimes the power comes on for a little bit of time. You know how hard people fight to get food in their refrigerators, now it is all spoiling. At this point in time, we do not have any information, nor is the government giving any estimate as to when the power might come back on, and that is a problem. Not just a national emergency, it could become a security issue.

At this point now, though, as you can see a lot of that anger filtering on into the streets. The opposition had already called a rally today, the government called its own rally. The government rally pretty much went as scheduled textbook rally. Many of them I've been to before President Maduro using some of the same lines, "Yankee, go home," "Get your hands off Venezuela." Saying next week, government help was on the way. You contrast that with the opposition protesters. I was out there, there were tens of thousands of people collecting in different areas. They were stopped. They were stopped from going to the main point where the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, was going to be giving his speech. There's a lot of anger out there.

While it went off peacefully given all of the anger and all the crowds that couldn't get to where they wanted to go. There's people that still believe more should be done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only way we could get out of this is by confrontation. We don't expect the U.S. or any other country. Venezuelans have to get out and fight for Venezuela.

What dictatorship has gone out peacefully? You tell me one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: That was the frustration you saw, Ana. You saw the line of National Guardsmen behind her. They stymied the entire protest. Guaido did not get the momentum he wanted. No one really knew where to go for the protest. They had no access to cell service on their phones.

In terms of watching any of this unfold on TV, many people are still literally and figuratively in the dark -- Ana?

CABRERA: It's an intense situation.

Paula Newton, thank you for that reporting. Stay safe.

Also, overseas today, people who watch North Korea for a living believe the country is getting ready to launch something, either a missile or a rocket. A spike in activity near Pyongyang is showing up in satellite imagery. President Trump told reporters he would be very disappointed if Kim Jong-Un restarted his missile testing program. This comes after the president's summit with North Korea and fell apart last month with no agreement.

The mayor of El Paso, Texas, says he wants Washington to hear his message about what's really happening on the U.S. border with Mexico. We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:37:40] CABRERA: Four hundred and seventy-one. The Trump administration has identified 471 parents who were deported from the U.S. without their children, according to a court filing. We learned potentially thousands more parents and children will be included in a lawsuit over family separations.

These numbers, this information all coming out shortly after Democrats grilled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Capitol Hill this week. Nielsen repeatedly insisting her department did not enact a policy but was simply following the law. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KATHLEEN RICE, (D), NEW YORK: We all know the results of the policy and the compassionate -- or lack of compassion.

(CROSSTALK)

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Ma'am, it's not a policy. It's the law. We enforce the law. We didn't make up the law. The law was already there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: This is in line with what we heard from President Trump last summer and the White House press secretary touting the administration's official position. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Because it's the law, and it's what the law states. And the law --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't have to do that.

SANDERS: You're right, it doesn't have to be the law. And the president has called on Democrats in Congress to fix those loopholes.

DONALD TURMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The children, the children --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you announce -- (CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: The children can be taken care of quickly, beautifully and immediately. The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: However, a draft memo written by senior DHS officials shows the Trump administration was considering a policy to separate families as early as December 2017. That is four months before the policy took effect.

Former White House chief of staff, General John Kelly, also Nielsen's predecessor at Homeland Security as the secretary of that department, had this to say, quote, "The big separation of families thing that happened was a decision made by the attorney general. It was his decision to make, and it kind of surprised us."

But who is to blame for separating parents from their children is of little consolation to the 2,816 children who were separated as of Monday. Nearly 100 of those kids are still waiting to be reunited with their parents. As more and more families find themselves in custody, Customs and Border Control say the system is at a breaking point with more than 76,000 people apprehended crossing the border illegally or without papers in February alone. CBP adding that the families and unaccompanied children make up more than 60 percent of these new apprehensions.

[17:40:07] I want to bring in Republican Mayor Dee Margo, of El Paso Texas, which has become ground zero in this fight over the border wall.

Mayor Margo, thank you so much for taking the time this weekend.

Does any of the news we've learned this week impact your position now on the president's declaration of a national emergency at the border?

DEE MARGO, (R), MAYOR OF EL PASO, TEXAS: Well, there's a -- an emergency with the migrant process. That's all as a result of the failure to deal with immigration policy to begin with. We're dealing with the root causes in Washington, D.C., and has been for over 30 years with the failure of Congress to act on both sides of the aisle. So we had, I think, released yesterday 600 in El Paso, and today I think there's 564, something like that. I get the numbers every day.

CABRERA: So you know the numbers, every day, you know this issue well, according to Secretary Nielsen. Right now, the U.S.Is on track to see the highest number of border apprehensions. In more than a decade. Could end up being closer to a million this year, do we need a wall?

MARGO: I've said on numerous occasions that a fence, and I prefer to use the nomenclature fence is a part of a general strategy for the process of protecting our borders as a sovereign nation. The question comes, is it a be all end all. It's part of this new process. Homeland Security needs to define what is border security, and what do they need? CBP is telling us they need another 2,000 agents. Manpower is also part of, technology will be a part of it.

CABRERA: Confirming then, do you not agree with the president's emergency declaration to get the wall?

MARGO: I don't know that there's a need for that particular declaration. I know there's a need for a comprehensive immigration reform policy, coming out of Washington, which might stop the flow of immigrants across if we change the way. It's legal right now to walk up there and say, I have a credible threat and be processed, and they're turned loose. I talked to the judges who handle these immigration cases and their capacity is 700 per year. We don't have enough judges for all these thousands coming over. There's no way. We're going to have multiple years of this process, unless they reconcile it in Washington.

CABRERA: Given that 60 percent, according to DHS, 60 percent of these people coming across the border right now, are families and unaccompanied children. What is needed to fix what is becoming a humanitarian issue? There are resources, right? What resources do you need?

MARGO: Well, right now our NGO, the Annunciation House, helps process these. As they say, over 500 is a real bear for us, it's -- we're hitting maximum over that. We -- they're in El Paso for 24 to a maximum of 48 hours. Some have been there as long as 96 hours. They're sent to wherever their sponsors are throughout the United States. They come up with bus fair, air fair or whatever's required to get them to where they need to be. This is an ongoing problem because it's not being reconciled in Washington. As I say, both sides of the aisle are culpable.

CABRERA: Do you think that people in Washington really understand and grasp what's going on? In your op-ed this week in the "Dallas Morning News," you mentioned you have not been part of the conversation working toward solutions on this issue. Why haven't you been able to be at the table?

MARGO: That's a good question. El Paso is the largest Mexican city on the U.S. border. We're at the intersection of chihuahua Mexico and Texas. We're a region of 2.5 million people. If you want to understand the border, you need to come to El Paso. We've had a relationship with Mexico for almost 400 years. People don't realize, until 1841, El Paso was on the south side of the Rio Grande. We have families on both sides, commerce on both sides, we have six bridges. We're the second-largest trading port out of Texas for transportation. We have 23,000 legal pedestrians that come north every day.

CABRERA: That's crucial for your economy, it sounds like.

MARGO: It is. And the bridges are not fully staffed by the CBP. We need that. It's a combination of a lot of things. There's no one single issue or item you can point to. Border security needs to be defined by Homeland Security, and then they need to put out what is needed. Not political Washington determining, saying I want 1.6 or 5.7 or whatever it is, I want to hear what Homeland Security wants.

[17:44:54] CABRERA: As the Senate gets ready to take a vote on a disapproval resolution to the president's emergency declaration for his border wall. What do you think they should do, if you could talk to them right now? Should they vote to disapprove of the emergency declaration? Or vote in the president's support been his favorite?

MARGO: Well, I really -- I'm not qualified to comment on what they should and shouldn't do. I will tell you they need to do something on immigration related to DACA. If you served in the military for DACA, your automatic as a citizen if you want to be. Others are given a choice. Those who appear for over -- that are the 12 million that are here under false documentation and working. Vet them for criminal activities, if they have any criminal background deport them, if they haven't, give them green cards. Process them appropriately, let them work legally. Don't allow them to vote. Or have -- don't have citizenship or be allowed to vote.

CABRERA: All right. Mayor Dee Margo, thank you for sharing your perspective with us.

MARGO: Sure. Thank you.

CABRERA: Singer R. Kelly posted bail this afternoon, walking out to fans screaming, "I love you." And he talked to reporters for the first time since his explosive and emotional interview on CBS.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Don't go anywhere.

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[17:50:41] CABRERA: Breaking news. Singer R. Kelly leading jail for the second time in two weeks. This time an unidentified person posted his bail for allegedly failing to pay his ex-wife's child support. He's also facing multiple charges related to sexually abusing teens.

Hear what Street his message to fans was today on his way out of jail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

R. KELLY, SINGER: I promise you, we're going to straighten this out. That's all I can say right now. I promise you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And to your fans?

KELLY: I love my fans.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLY: Thank you guys for the water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Some people were screaming, "I love you," to R. Kelly as he drove away.

CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson, joins us now to discuss.

R. Kelly sat down with the explosive, emotional interview with CBS with Gayle King. Here is how his attorney is reacting to that interview. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE GREENBERG, ATTORNEY TO R. KELLY: He sat for an interview. He wanted to sit for it. He's not hiding.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think it helped his case?

GREENBERG: It doesn't help or hurt his case. We are going to try this case in a courtroom, on the rules of evidence, based on what they're going to present. We're not going out there doing interviews to taint the jury pool, to not taint the jury pool, to help the case, to not help the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joey, do you think his attorney was effective there?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. Everybody does things differently, to be clear. But you can't yell at people. You have to state your case in a way that was more gentle. That interview obviously was designed to help. I would have done the same thing. The problem was that I don't know that he adequately prepped, or if he was, he may have veered off-course. You need to give an interview, because you want to condition the jury pool. I believe that jury pool is poisoned, in large measure, about the negative things that have been said, based upon the documentary and these ten counts he's facing. I think it was a missed opportunity. I think it's hard to blame your ex-wife for everything under humanity. It's hard to say that everyone is lying. I think you have to absorb some things. I perhaps at times been controlling, I may have been a jerk at times. I'm no criminal, and never engaged, and never would I break the law, and I think in terms of demeanor and comportment, it was off the rails.

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON: -- a little bit. Which raising the questions of how he behaves behind closed doors. So, look, there's no perfect individual. I'm sure he tried to do his best. He is obviously outraged in large measure on what he perceived to be a piling a of him, but I think that interview was a missed opportunity.

CABRERA: Let me turn to Jussie Smollett, because he was indicted, 16 counts, by a grand jury in Chicago. His attorney called it prosecutorial overkill. Listen to what Mark Geragos said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY TO JUSSIE SMOLLETT: They're bringing 16 counts, because they parsed out two statements. I defy you to find something like that. He was not suspended. They have not talked to one person at FOX who has said he was dissatisfied with his money.

I've never seen a media pendulum swing more quickly and more viciously and rob somebody of their presumption of innocence like this case. It's startling the way people assume that he's guilty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Joey, 16 counts, does that sound like a lot?

JACKSON: It is a lot. But prosecutors, they charge and programs overzealously. Maybe he'll make mods on duplicity issues. What that means is there's too many counts, they all say the same thing. But here's the issue, it doesn't matter at the end of the day. Let me be clear, a defendant's rights always matter, how we prosecutor cases, and how cases move forward always matter, but all it takes is one conviction on a single count and there's a problem. You can rail against the prosecutors and say that the prosecutors perhaps were overzealous, and perhaps that's true. Perhaps it could bobby 10 or six counts, but at the end of the day, it's the same fact pattern. If they get a convict to any of it, then he has problems. There's a lot of things going on, in terms of public sentiment, I just think there's a way out for him. If he doesn't take that way out, he could be hurt significantly.

[17:55:30] CABRERA: This is one to watch.

Thank you, Joey Jackson.

JACKSON: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: We appreciate it.

We want to take a moment to honor this week's "CNN Hero." As a high school student, Zach Wigal teamed up with hospitals to help bring video games to sick kids across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZACH WIGAL, CNN HERO: Sometimes people believe video games are corrupting the minds of America's youth. But they're an incredible tool to help kids find fun and relief during stressful and most difficult times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: To see Zach and his gaming team in action and to nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero," go to CNNheroes.com.

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

My colleague, S.E. Cupp continues our coverage of today's news right after a quick break. I'll see you back here at 8:00.

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