Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Interview with Former Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA); Interview with Border Patrol Agent Chris Cabrera; Bezos Private Investigator Finds Saudi Arabia Behind National Enquirer Threats; Rapper Nipsey Hussle Shot Day Before Meeting with LAPD to Combat Gang Violence. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 1, 2019 - 10:30   ET

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


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

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Maine's Republican senator, Susan Collins, says that she is calling on Attorney General William Barr to reverse the Justice Department's decision to back a lawsuit that would throw out all of the Affordable Care Act.

TEXT: "Rather than seeking to have the courts invalidate the ACA, the proper route for the Administration to pursue would be to propose changes to the ACA or to once again seek its repeal. The administration should not attempt to use the courts to bypass Congress."

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes. It's quite a sternly worded letter. She says, quote, "Rather than seeking to have the courts invalidate the ACA, the proper route for the administration to pursue would be to propose changes to the ACA or to once again seek its repeal. The administration should not attempt to use the courts to bypass Congress."

Joining us now is former Republican congressman of Pennsylvania, Ryan Costello.

Nice to have you, sir. So is Susan Collins right? And if she is, does the administration care?

RYAN COSTELLO (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA REPRESENTATIVE: I think she is right. I doubt the administration is going to care. I think it's very difficult to see a legislative pathway to get health care reform done this session of Congress.

More so, I don't see where the Senate would even bring a bill up if Senator McConnell is not able to identify 60 votes. Remember, last Congress, we only needed 51 because we had reconciliation. We don't have that, this term of Congress.

I think the president would be well advised just to focus on reducing drug pricing. That's a political winning issue and he does seem to really double and triple down on it. I think this is much more of a distraction, and very difficult to attain politically and legislatively. SCIUTTO: Ryan Costello, the president, as you know, claimed to have a

group of four or five senators working on a plan here. It's CNN reporting that that's just not true. There aren't Republican senators working on a plan.

In fact, a Senate Republican aide told my colleagues over the weekend, "I think the president just listed off the names of people he's spoken to on the phone about health care." Is the president --

COSTELLO: Well --

SCIUTTO: -- making this up? Is he winging it as he deals with the health care for millions of Americans?

COSTELLO: Well, the four senators that the president identified are extremely well respected, especially in the health care domain. But again, senators and their legislative staff can work all day long on fashioning a replacement plan.

But unless and until you're able to get a sufficient number of cosponsors and get above at least 50 senators, it becomes very difficult to envision any sort of legislative pathway to actually passing health care reform --

HARLOW: Right.

COSTELLO: -- which, in my mind, means that this is a potential distraction. I do think this, though. I think that when the Mueller -- when Barr did his four-page summary on the Mueller report and the president went out and said, "Now we're going to go -- we're going to go repeal and replace Obamacare," I think the base loves him for the fact that he continues to double and triple down on the promises that he made on the campaign trail.

But -- but in the pure legislative sense of governing, I don't see where the votes are. And I don't, frankly, see how the courts are going to invalidate something that the Supreme Court decided that it wasn't going to invalidate.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

COSTELLO: I think the president would -- can point to some successes he's had in the health care reform space. But this seems to me to be something that just is not reality-based in terms of actually getting health care reform passed this session of Congress.

And remember, even if you were to pass something or try to pass something, nothing happens between now and the 2020 election. By the time you were actually to implement a new health care law, you need -- you need a landing period of a couple years.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: I wonder how much you think this is a political risk, actually, for the president. Because you have the approval of Obamacare increasing -- just look at the recent Kaiser polls, right? It keeps going up. It's not perfect, but it gets -- it keeps getting better.

And at the same time, you heard Mulvaney over the weekend, chief of staff, saying, "Look, we'll just look to -- you know, we don't have a plan. But look to -- look to how we handle tax reform."

[10:35:07] Wasn't the key difference, Congressman Costello, the fact that, you know, with tax reform, you had a Republican-controlled House that wanted to see it pass.

COSTELLO: Correct, yes.

HARLOW: Now you're dealing with a Democratically controlled House.

COSTELLO: Correct. That's a big difference. And let me just add something else. The president is right to focus on battling the opiate epidemic, eliminating HIV and reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

All them, right now, have to be done within the existing framework of the Affordable Care Act. So if you're trying to accomplish some short-term reforms and improvements to our health care system and improving the health of Americans, you have to do with it with the hand you've been dealt, which is the Affordable Care Act.

If the president wants to fashion a health care replace and reform or -- excuse me -- repeal and replace, he can do that. But I don't -- from a timing perspective, I think he'd be well advised to focus on the first three areas, which he has been focusing on, which poll well and which all Americans agree with him on.

SCIUTTO: Well, let's see if he listens to that (ph) advice. Based on precedent, we'll see. Ryan Costello, thanks very much.

COSTELLO: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Would President Trump shutting down the U.S.-Mexico border actually help fight the growing humanitarian crisis? We're going to ask a U.S. Border Patrol agent. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:41:02] SCIUTTO: Right now, a dire situation along the U.S. southern border continues to worsen. Approximately 2,000 undocumented immigrants have recently been released from custody into three cities -- Texas cities -- McAllen, Brownsville and Harlingen, all due to overcrowding at facilities run by Border Protection.

With those facilities still well over capacity, the number of immigrants released is expected to climb. Let's discuss now with U.S. Border Patrol Agent Chris Cabrera. He is also a spokesperson for the National Border Patrol Council and Local 3307.

Mr. Cabrera, thanks so much for taking the time today.

CHRIS CABRERA, SPOKESMAN, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: Oh, thank you for having me. SCIUTTO: First question is this. The president has now issued a

threat to close the border. And I've been asking a lot of people the same question in national security. I asked the former ambassador to Mexico a short time ago.

I'm just curious. Did anyone in your agency call for, make the case for, request the closing of the border that you're aware of, prior to the president's threat to do so?

CABRERA: You know, not that I'm aware of. But, you know, I don't think they -- down at my level, we don't hear too much about that. What we do know, though, is just in our area alone last week, we saw 9,000 people come, almost 9,000 people apprehended. That's not even counting the hundreds or thousands that are getting away from us because we don't have the manpower out there.

And, you know --

SCIUTTO: OK --

CABRERA: -- I (ph) that --

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Would closing the ports of --

CABRERA: Sorry.

SCIUTTO: -- entry help that? Because I spoke, for instance, to Ambassador Roberta Jacobson. She was, until last year, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. And she and others have made the point that you close the ports of entry, that will chase those migrants between the ports of entry. What's your view?

CABRERA: Well, you know, I think your people are coming in legally, they're -- coming between the ports of entry is not really an option for them. I think it will do two things. One, it will get Congress to wake up and realize that it's time to get to work. We've been dealing -- excuse me -- dealing with this since 2014, and nobody's lifted a finger. And it's fallen directly in the lap of the Border Patrol. And we're struggling down here, just to keep things going.

And the second hand of that, if they close those ports of entry, we can use those agents to help us out in the field, to get a control over what's going on. It's just -- it's so far out of hand, you guys wouldn't believe it if you saw it.

SCIUTTO: I hear you. And we've had reporters down at the border. And they corroborate that. We have Marty Savidge down there. And they see the numbers coming in. And I know you've got a tough job to do.

As you know as well -- and this is not your job. But as you know as well, border -- a lot of money comes across the border. A lot of trade. We'll throw some figures up on the screen. $611 billion in cross-border trade in 2018. $206 billion of U.S. exports shipped to Mexico via truck or rail in 2017.

TEXT: Trade at U.S.-Mexico Border: $611 billion in cross-border trade in 2018; $206 billion of U.S. exports shipped to Mexico via truck or rail in 2017; 1,000-plus trucks cross border daily at port of Calexico East, CA; 11-plus daily international trains go through Laredo, Texas

SCIUTTO: You know, you speak as well, Chris, to a lot of border lawmakers: congressmen, mayors, governors. They're not calling for this because they're aware of those costs. How do you balance that?

CABRERA: Well, I agree. But, you know, up until about a week ago, they were saying there was no crisis. And then we started having to release people into the city, and all of a sudden there's a crisis.

So I think that's the problem, is people are too divided over this Republicans versus Democrat. And this is not a Republican versus Democrat issue. This is an issue that needs to get solved for humanitarian purposes, for security purposes regardless of what side of the aisle you're on.

These congressmen, these senators, these lawmakers need to get to work, get the job done. Or step aside and let somebody in there who will.

SCIUTTO: Trust me, I hear that criticism from a whole folks (ph) of people. I think you're absolutely right on that.

Let me ask you this. Because you're also aware of the president's description of this crisis, and description of the people who are coming across, many of whom are families. But we know there are others who take advantage of the system. But he describes them as dangerous. You've heard this. He's talked about terrorists coming across. He's talked about criminals, et cetera.

You're on the front lines. You're facing them day to day. Is this an invasion? Are these evil, dangerous people who are trying to come in? Or are they desperate people? Whether you agree with it or not, are they desperate people looking for help?

[10:45:10] CABRERA: Well, I think the short answer is yes. It's both. You know, you have folks that are trying to come in for reasons, whether it's economic migrants or they're facing some type of harm if they go home. And then you have the wolves in sheep's clothing --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

CABRERA: -- so to speak, the ones that are taking advantage of everyone else coming in and sneaking in with a group or using that group as a diversion to either get drugs into the country or get themselves into the country.

There's a reason why some people won't turn themselves in for asylum, is because they won't pass the background checks. They won't pass the screening because of criminal history. So they're using this to their advantage.

SCIUTTO: Right.

CABRERA: What people need to understand, yes, there's a problem and people need to come in for whatever reason. But people are taking advantage of that and --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

CABRERA: -- unfortunately, our lawmakers are sitting on their hands.

SCIUTTO: Fair enough. And I'm sure that's the case. But by and large, are these mostly invaders or do you see people who are fleeing desperate situations in Central America, by and large?

CABRERA: Well, I see both. I see people that are feeling violence in Central America, but I also see them breaking the law when they come in here as opposed to presenting themselves at a port of entry where no law would be broken.

SCIUTTO: Right.

CABRERA: So if they are fleeing that, then there's a proper channel which would be the port of entry and not between the ports of entry.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And you're right. That's the law. Chris Cabrera, thanks very much.

CABRERA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Was Saudi Arabia behind the hack that exposed CEO Jeff Bezos' affair? His lead investigator says the answer is yes. We'll have the details coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:51:04] HARLOW: Well, this morning, a stunning new claim from the investigator who works for Jeff Bezos -- of course, the Amazon founder -- to find out how evidence of Bezos' extramarital affair was provided to the "National Enquirer."

This investigator claims in a "Daily Beast" opinion piece that Saudi Arabia obtained the Amazon CEO's private information, Jim, including his phone and his texts.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's quite an allegation. CNN's Brian Stelter joins us now with more.

Brian, based on what we know, is this a credible allegation?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is coming from a very credible figure, Gavin de Becker. He's a very well-known security chief who's worked with celebrities and CEOs for many years.

Here's what de Becker wrote in an op-ed for "The Daily Beast." He says, "Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Jeff Bezos' phone and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI -- the owner of the 'National Enquirer' -- was aware of the details."

TEXT: "Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details."

STELTER: So de Becker is saying that Bezos, when he came out and accused the "National Enquirer" of trying to extort him and referenced a Saudi angle, they're saying this was the Saudi angle. That the Saudis had access to one of the most powerful men in the world's personal cell phone data.

Of course, Bezos was secretly dating a woman named Lauren Sanchez. The "National Enquirer" published a story about that back in January. And the dominoes have been falling ever since.

HARLOW: Can I ask you, Brian -- I'm totally fascinated by all of this. And the Saudis' sort of drip-drip of information tying it to the Saudis was there before de Becker just laid it all out in this op- ed. There were some hints to it a few weeks ago by that team.

STELTER: Yes. Right.

HARLOW: Can you talk to us about what Bezos' goal is here? Obviously de Becker would clear something like this through him.

STELTER: Yes, definitely. There are two narratives here. One narrative is that Jeff Bezos -- again one of the richest men in the world, the owner, the head of Amazon, that he was a cheater, that he was out there, straying from his wife, dating a new woman. That's an embarrassing narrative for Bezos.

The new narrative being presented by his camp is that he was the victim of a hack -- a possible hack -- by a foreign government. That is a much better narrative for Bezos.

But here's what American Media is saying. They own the "National Enquirer," and they're saying they don't have anything -- any reason to think the Saudis had anything to do with it. Remember, American Media have been flirting with the Saudis, trying to get financing. It never happens.

TEXT: American Media, Inc. Statement: "His continued efforts to discuss and falsely represent our reporting, and his role in it, has waived any source confidentiality." AMI on investigation by Jeff Bezos security consultant

STELTER: Here's the statement from the company. It says the fact of the matter is, the leak about Bezos' love life came from Lauren Sanchez's brother, Michael Sanchez. It says, "The fact of the matter is, it was Michael Sanchez who tipped off the "Enquirer" to the affair." So this keeps going back and forth. There is not concrete evidence of a Saudi connection. But that's what Bezos' camp is saying. And in the end, this is going to be up to the authorities.

According to Bezos' camp, the government's involved. Federal officials are involved. Hopefully somebody will get to the bottom of this.

HARLOW: Mm-hmm. You know what, though? Good for him for putting out even more embarrassing information about himself to say, "Look --

STELTER: Well that's what he did, yes.

HARLOW: -- "I'm being blackmailed here," you know? And this can't happen. Brian, we appreciate the reporting. Keep us posted, OK?

STELTER: Thanks.

[10:54:04] HARLOW: A day before he was set to meet with the LAPD to talk about ways to end violence, a Grammy-nominated rapper, tragically shot and killed. We'll bring you the details, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. This morning, police are looking for the gunman who fatally shot the Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle.

HARLOW: He was killed Sunday in front of a Lost Angeles clothing store that he owned. Our Paul Vercammen is live in Los Angeles with more.

What do we know?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Poppy and Jim, detectives are scouring social media. They're interviewing witnesses. They're going to check security cameras to try to find out who killed Nipsey Hussle. And perhaps a clue, Nipsey Hussle himself tweeting just a half hour before he died, that "Having strong enemies is a blessing."

He had said that he was a member of a street gang, but he was well- known as a peacemaker, a community activist, someone who was going to meet with the LAPD today to discuss how to solve gang problems. And the community is devastated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is someone who put our community on the map. People thought that our community was just about violence. And Nipsey put a change to that, and he let them know that even though we're from underprivileged communities of poverty, that we can still become something.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VERCAMMEN: And he was a rising star in the music business, working with greats such as Drake and Kendrick Lamar. He received that Grammy nomination for best rap album, and he told CNN before on the red carpet, it was a dream. Nipsey Hussle, dead now at 33 years old.

[11:00:04] HARLOW: Wow. What a tragedy, Paul. Thank you for bringing us that reporting and let us know when you have more.