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Interview with Former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; Theresa May Loses Third Brexit Vote; New Polls Show Voters Disapprove of Trump's Personality; Trump to Fund Special Olympics After DeVos Statement Backlash. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 29, 2019 - 10:30   ET


[10:32:05] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This morning, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is calling on Congress to change U.S. laws so that the Trump administration can deport migrant children from Central America faster.

Nielsen, telling Congress in a letter that the U.S. is on track to apprehend nearly 100,000 migrants just this month, a number that would top last month's record-breaking figures. According to Nielsen, the department's current system simply cannot handle the rapid increase of vulnerable families and unaccompanied minors, and they're now facing a system-wide meltdown.

Joining me now is former Department of Homeland Security secretary herself, Janet Napolitano. I should also note, she's author of the new book, "How Safe Are We? Homeland Security Since 9/11."

Lots of relevant questions in there. Madam Secretary, thanks for joining us today.


SCIUTTO: So on this first point, your reaction. I mean, the administration's making the argument, "We're overwhelmed." Nearly 100,000 this month. I believe the numbers of migrant families were 75,000 last month, and they can't handle all these families, particularly these children. Is that a reasonable step?

NAPOLITANO: Well, it's only reasonable if you take the position that children must be kept in detention. And every adult claiming asylum must be kept in detention. And that, obviously, doesn't need to occur. And it's only so if the United States backs away from, really, working with the countries in Central America to get at the source of this migration.

SCIUTTO: Is there any truth, in your view, to the administration's argument here? That -- I mean, and you look at those numbers, 75,000 last month. That's no small thing. It's up to 100,000.

There are some indications that asylum seekers, knowing that they'll arrive at the border in family units, particularly with children, they have better chance of getting in. Is it reasonable for the administration to argue, "We have to do something about this"? NAPOLITANO: You know, I think that under current law properly applied, that the U.S. asylum process could continue to work. When families arrive at the border with children, they could be processed. They can (ph) be released with alternatives to detention, with things like ankle bracelets, with things like enhanced monitoring. What's causing all of this is -- is the policy that everyone has to go into detention.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you to respond to the president's comments last night. Because he said some fairly alarming things about these families, dismissive things. Have a listen and I want to get your reaction.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have people coming up, you know, they're all met by the lawyers. The lawyers have -- and they come out, they're all met by the lawyers. And they say, "Say the following phrase: 'I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life.'" OK.

[10:35:09] And then I look at the guy, he looks like he just out of the ring. He's the heavyweight champion of the world. He's afraid for his...


It's a big fat con job, folks.


SCIUTTO: Your reaction?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, I think the president is so wrong on this. We have a situation where people are fleeing desperate circumstances in Central America. We have a system of asylum laws so that individuals can legally seek asylum in the United States.

You know, I think the president would be better advised to flood the border zone with the rule of law. Get more immigration judges on board. Station them down at the border so that these legitimate claims for asylum can be processed in accord with our law and with our values.

SCIUTTO: Another story we've been following -- before I let you go -- you're, of course, the current president of the University of California. This is one of the schools at the center of this admissions scandal, which has shocked so many Americans. I mean, parents trying to cheat their kids into these schools.

What measures is the university taking now to prevent this kind of thing in the future?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I was so angry when this case came about. We had a situation where a coach at UCLA took a bribe. He's now a former coach, obviously. But we don't do legacy admissions at the University of California. We don't do donor-related admissions at the University of California.

We do do some admissions by exception. Very small number, fewer than two percent of our students get in that way. And we're going to go back and look at that process and make sure it's as tight as it needs to be.

SCIUTTO: Has this damaged the confidence in the admissions process? Because not only -- it's exposed just outright criminal fraud here, but it's also drawn attention to the issue of things like special preference, giving kids whose parents donate a lot of money. How do you get that confidence back?

NAPOLITANO: You know, I think it's going to take a real unity of effort amongst higher education, higher education leaders. There is a difference here between public and private institutions --


NAPOLITANO: -- as I said before. As a public university, we don't do donor admissions --


NAPOLITANO: -- or legacy admissions. But nonetheless, I think it has shaken the confidence in the American public, in college admissions generally.

SCIUTTO: Janet Napolitano, thanks very much for having us on today -- and -- having you on -- us today. And please have a good weekend.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: This is happening right now in British Parliament. Voting for a third time. It's a third time on the same Brexit deal that's been rejected the last two times. We're going to have a live report from London next. Our important ally's relationship with the Europeans hangs in the balance.


[10:42:39] SCIUTTO: Breaking news just seconds ago. That woman there, the British prime minister, Theresa May, has lost another vote on her plan for Britain's exit from the European Union. The vote, 286 in favor, 344 against. Our Nic Robertson is there at the parliament. He's been following this -- actually he's at 10 Downing Street.

Is this the end?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's the beginning of the next phase, Jim. I think the country's been on the edge of its seats, to be honest, today, waiting for the outcome here.

She's lost by 58 votes. That's my quick calculation, 286 versus 344. Correct me if I'm wrong, here. But that's -- that is still a significant number, to -- to be defeated by. What this means right now is that Britain now has two weeks left to tell the European Union, is it going to leave without a deal.

The no deal, the essentially crash out of the European Union, very messy, huge economic consequences for the U.K. and the European Union. Or will Parliament try to block that. And the other option for the prime minister now, this is the prime minister who, just this week, said that she would quit once she'd negotiated this current phase, which she's not managed to do, clearly.

The other option for her is to go to the European Union and ask for what could be a very lengthy extension. That would mean Britain would have to take part, likely, in coming European Union elections. That's something she said she didn't want to do.

We're in a very, very messy position.


ROBERTSON: There has been huge concern about the chaos of this situation until now. This makes that somewhat deeper, somewhat more chaotic -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And somewhat more chaotic in an already pretty chaotic situation there. We now have the opposition leader there, Jeremy Corby, speaking in response to the British prime minister.

You have to ask here, how can the prime minister survive this vote? It's the third time. She's worked on this for two years. Third time her plan hasn't worked. And if she does step down, who steps into the breach?

ROBERTSON: One of the problems for the Conservative Party, it takes a long time for them to figure out who the next leader of the party would be. It's a complicated process.

[10:45:00] The M.P.s have to go through a process of winnowing it down from however many people put their names in the hat in the beginning, over a process of weeks. Then it goes to the party members across the country. It's very slow.

One of the things Jeremy Corbyn was saying -- and other politicians have said in the run-up to the vote today -- is, "How do we know who's going to be prime minister for the next phase of this?" This is another -- been another point of concern.

There's been speculation that Theresa May might call a snap election. Her party isn't able to get rid of her right now. Why? Because they tried to do that back at the end of last year. And having failed to do that, they have to wait another year before they can have a vote of no confidence in her.

So could there be a vote of no confidence in the government, called by the leader of the opposition, called by the Labour Party, who's failed at that fence (ph), over recent months to do that. Will he try it again now?

Or will the prime minister, as I say, potentially call a snap election? There are a --


ROBERTSON: -- myriad of opportunities available for her. They were less than they were before.

SCIUTTO: Just a final question for our audience here. Does this make the actual departure from the European Union, after many decades, here, does it make it less likely? Does it raise the possibility of a second referendum, where the British people vote to reverse their decision from a couple of years ago?

ROBERTSON: I think the estimation, Jim -- and, again, there are no certainties here because there are those two options. One is to leave without a deal in two weeks. But the more likely one that's expected, would be a longer extension, possibly to the end of this year, possibly next year. And that would have the window for the potential of a second referendum.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, I know you're going to continue to follow it. It's a big day for the U.K. Big day for the U.S. They're a close ally. Nic Robertson, thanks very much.

We are following this breaking news and we'll be right back.


[10:51:20] SCIUTTO: President Trump's approval rating holding steady in a new poll, but it seems that voters have some reservations about the president's temper and other personality traits. Joining me now, CNN's senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten.

First, let's do the approval numbers. And I know it's early because the Mueller report only out on Monday --


TEXT: How is Trump handling his job as president? Approve, 40 percent; disapprove, 55 percent

SCIUTTO: -- but you do have a couple of polls now that polled people after that. Not a huge amount of data, but some data. Approval rating staying in that same kind of low-40s space it's been for some time. Does that indicate to you that the Mueller report hasn't changed minds much on either side?

ENTEN: At least not yet, right? I mean, sometimes these things take time to settle in and we'll have to see where things are a week or two from now.

But it shouldn't be so surprising, right? Because when voters were asked prior to the Barr memo coming out, they said that the Russia investigation was, simply put, not at the top of their list of most important issues. I think it was zero percent of people said in our CNN poll that it was the most important issue in their 2020 vote. SCIUTTO: OK. Let's look at the other numbers in here. These get to

temperament. Not entirely new to see this because these questions have been asked before, but these margins are pretty -- are pretty wide. Is the president even-tempered? Sixty-nine percent say no, 28 percent say yes. That's more than two to one.

Is Trump's temperament (ph) -- you know, how does it come when it comes to important decisions? Is he too impulsive. Sixty-one percent say yes, 33 percent say he's about right. Big numbers.

ENTEN: Those are big numbers. And I think those numbers help to explain why, despite a fairly strong economy, that the president's approval rating can't get above 40, 41, 42 percent. It's because there are other things that factor into the equation.

Yes, they think Trump is strong on the economy. But they, simply put, do not believe, at this particular point, that he has the temperament to be president. And if he's going to reverse course and get his approval rating above 40, 41, 42 percent, I think he perhaps may have to act more presidential. And he shows no signs of doing that so far.

SCIUTTO: Historically, does a president's approval rating, a sitting president's approval rating, have to be in a certain range to be re- elected?

ENTEN: Usually, yes. I mean, it's a pretty strong relationship. What you see is that the president's approval rating must be among his -- above his disapproval rating. And simply put, in that Pew poll for instance --


ENTEN: -- he was at 40 percent approval, 55 percent disapproval. His approval rating probably is going to have to end up 47, 48 percent. Historically speaking, that would end up with a disapproval right around that same level, to be an even chance of being re-elected.

SCIUTTO: OK. At his rally last night in Michigan, the president re- used a line that we may be hearing a lot of. Take a listen to it. I want to get your reaction.

ENTEN: Sure.


TRUMP: Democrats are pushing a cynical and destructive agenda of radicalism, resistance. Resist, resist! And revenge. Revenge.


What do you think of their signs? "Resist." What the hell?


SCIUTTO: We're going to hear that kind of bumper sticker a lot in the next year and a half? ENTEN: I would think so. Look, if the president realizes that if

this is a referendum on him and his approval rating is in the low 40s, he can't win. So what does he want to do? He wants to make this a choice election between him --


ENTEN: -- and his Democratic opponent. Remember, in 2016, Hillary Clinton --

SCIUTTO: That worked.

ENTEN: Right. It worked. Hillary Clinton was not well-liked. He wasn't well-liked. And the people who didn't like either one of them went for him overwhelmingly. In order to win this time around, if his approval rating is stuck in the low 40s, he needs that same thing to repeat again.

SCIUTTO: Right, or the Democrats need to pick someone who's well- liked.

ENTEN: Well, if Democrats pick someone who's well-liked, I think it's probably adios for the president. But we still have to wait and see.

SCIUTTO: All right. Harry Enten, thanks very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Who is "TRICKY DICK"? The four-part CNN original series explores President Richard Nixon's rise, fall, incredible political comeback and then political destruction. Featuring never-before-seen footage, the series continues Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

[10:55:04] And we'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad you're education secretary. Are you?




DEVOS: Most days I am.


SCIUTTO: Most days. Some tough days this week. This morning, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, speaking at an event. She has faced days of backlash for the administration's proposed cuts to the Special Olympics. She defended that move for days before the president publicly disavowed it. He says the Special Olympics will get the funding it needs now.

[11:00:00] Thanks so much for joining me today, this Friday. We hope you have a great weekend. I'm Jim Sciutto in New York. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BALDUAN" starts right now.