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AT THIS HOUR

Trump Pushed Plan to Dump Migrants in Sanctuary Cities to Retaliate against Democrats Opposing His Policies; Buttigieg/Pence Feud Over Faith & Gay Marriage Gets Personal; DNC Chair Tom Perez discusses the Buttigieg/Pence Feud, 2020 Race. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 12, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He told police that two men attacked him, yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him during the assault. Police say he staged the attack to help his career. He was charged with felony disorderly conduct. But all 16 of those charges were dropped last month with no explanation as to why.

All right, thanks for being with me today. I'm Poppy Harlow, in New York. Jim signs off from London. Have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining me.

Consider this proposition, if you will. I don't like that you won't go along with my idea so I'm going to punish you for it. And by punish, I'm actually going to dump hundreds of human beings at your front doorstep. Sound extreme? Well, that was the plan, essentially, that the president was personally lobbying for, according to a source familiar with discussions, telling CNN's Evan Perez the White House wanted the Department of Homeland Security to dump migrants in sanctuary cities to punish Democrats who opposed his border wall. The reason it didn't happen, well, DHS officials pushed back saying it was legally and politically untenable.

The "Washington Post" first broke this story and received this statement from the White House about it: "This was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion."

I personally think, noteworthy, the White House here is confirming that they suggested this idea.

Let's get to it. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House and joining me right now.

Jeremy, what are you hearing about this today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Kate, we know that the president has been increasingly unnerved by the situation at the southern border. It's part of the reason why he pushed for drastic measures like closing ports of entry between the U.S. and Mexico. It's why he discussed reviving this policy of zero-tolerance -- zero- tolerance policy of family separation. And now, we're also learning that the president and White House officials, including his senior adviser, Stephen Miller, sought to pressure U.S. immigration officials at the Department of Homeland Security to essentially take migrants who were detained at the southern border and, as you mentioned, dump them on the streets of so-called sanctuary cities. The president, of course, has railed against the policies of those Democratic strongholds, so-called sanctuary cities, where local officials do not hand over undocumented migrants to federal authorities. And now we're learning essentially that the president was trying to weaponize U.S. immigration law and his powers as president to punish those Democratic officials, including the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Her district of San Francisco was one of the areas under discussion for this proposal.

Now, we do have a statement from Matt Albence, who has just become acting ICE director. At the time when the policy was pushed, he was the acting deputy director. And he insists he was not pressured. He said, "As the acting deputy, I was not pressured by anyone from the White House on this issue. I was asked my opinion and provided it. My advice was heeded. The email exchange is clear and suggesting that it indicates

inappropriate pressure is inaccurate."

We do know that Matt Albence is one of those officials who discussed the proposal with Stephen Miller. While his advice to not follow through with this was ultimately heeded, it's important to note this was not proposed one time, Kate. It was proposed twice, back in November and again more recently in mid-February. And we also know that Stephen Miller, one of the people who was pushing this policy, he has newly been empowered by the president to take charge of immigration issues.

It does make you wonder, even though this proposal was killed, what does the future hold with Stephen Miller now more empowered on immigration policy at the White House?

BOLDUAN: And as we're seeing with other policies, that doesn't preclude this from coming up a third time or a fourth time, even though it was dashed this time.

Jeremy, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Joining me to discuss further is John Kasich, former Republican governor of Ohio, of course, former Republican presidential candidate, now a CNN senior political commentator.

It's great to see you again.

I do recall you are no fan of sanctuary cities, Governor, but what do you think about what the president wanted to do here with sanctuary cities, with migrants?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR; Well, it's a terrible idea. And probably wouldn't have happened. The courts would have stopped it. But it's pretty amazing. Here's what I get concerned about, Kate. We have seen the polarization and the drift of our country with our political institutions not functioning very well. And you know, the Congress can't get together. They can't pass comprehensive immigration. Everybody is scared of primaries from the right and the left. But you know, to say that I'm going to target another party or I'm going to target somebody that I don't like who doesn't share my views, I wonder how we come back from this. Look, I know a lot of people who are very successful, very wealthy, very intelligent, who just look at this and they don't seem to care. I honestly can't figure it out because you can't have presidents kind of doing these things. So there's going to be another president at some point.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

[11:05:02] KASICH: Is there going to be like a civil-war response? You did this to us, now we're going to do this to you? This is what pulls countries apart. I think the public, no matter whether you're for Trump or against Trump, we've got to get a grip here. We have to start thinking about the human element in all of this. But the idea that I'm going to take these folks and place them in a community where my political opponents live, frankly, it's wacky. It's crazy. And mean.

BOLDUAN: And you're not speaking from this in a theoretical sense. You could possibly have been one of the governors having to deal with this. If you were still governor of Ohio --

KASICH: Oh, you know what --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: -- and the president dumped migrants in a city in Ohio --

KASICH: Well, first of all, in my state --

BOLDUAN: -- what do you do with it?

KASICH: No, no, no. I wanted immigrants in Ohio. We need them.

BOLDUAN: You said DREAMers, come on in. I remember, yes.

KASICH: We believe in them. Not just the DREAMers, anybody.

BOLDUAN: Yes, yes.

KASICH: We set up an Office of Immigration in Ohio to help people assimilate. I believe strongly in immigration. Now, it's got to be -- we don't want to have people just walking in the door. Anywhere you want somebody walking in your house, we don't want anybody just walking in the country. There has to be a process.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. But, no, no, no. Governor, my point was that just what it actually does to the system. Without even warning a city, a city's mayor --

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: -- to just have these people dumped -- dumped in their city. I mean --

KASICH: No, no.

BOLDUAN: -- then they have to deal with it.

KASICH: Yes. No, no, no. I agree. Look, I'm just not worried about that. I'm worried about the overall tone of what continues to happen.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

KASICH: Listen, I was on the stage with like 15 people debating, and any time the idea of immigration compromise or reform would come up, these folks were trying to run as fast as they could to get off the stage because nobody wanted to be targeted or tarred with the idea that you were trying to reach some kind of compromise with these undocumented immigrants. I was the one to say we're not going to ship them all out. What's the Republican Senate doing? What's the Democratic Congress doing? Why can't you sit down --

BOLDUAN: Great question.

KASICH: -- and figure out guest worker comprehensive immigration.

But there's one other thing people need to understand: These are our neighbors. There was an article in one of the major newspapers on Sunday about what women in Honduras are going through, the kind of abuse and rape and murder. And of course, they're leaving there. So the key is, we have to have some security aid and economic aid so they don't want to leave. They're not leaving Costa Rica. They're not leaving Panama. Now the idea is we're going to cut aid from them. We have to help them. We don't want to give the money to a bunch of crooks or bums or political rip-off artists. That's not what it is. But pure aid that can help to stabilize those countries. The people there, they don't want to leave, but they're --

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: -- going to leave if they're at risk. You and I would be leaving.

BOLDUAN: I would venture to guess that many people would if they were in the same circumstances.

But with what is happening right now, when you're talking about Capitol Hill, do you think there's a chance that -- there's a problem at the border, border officials are saying that, that the system is overwhelmed and is at capacity at this moment. Do you think there's a chance that it becomes problem enough that Congress finally pays attention to it?

KASICH: You know, Kate, I believe that what brings about major change in our country is when the people demand it. And right now, people are so -- they don't understand exactly what's happening. I talk to my friends. You know what they say? These are my buddies who are not political. They're like, I don't even want to watch the news because I can't figure out what's true. Until the public itself begins to say solve this, I think the politicians will obfuscate and make their excuses and go to town halls and they'll take one position. So right now, I don't see how they're going to get this done unless you have a handful of really terrific bipartisan leaders who say enough is enough. And you would love to think the president would be part of that whole deal. But remember --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: No way this is happening then?

KASICH: I don't see it right now. I don't. I would love to be hopeful over time that somebody is going to stand up and say let's get it done. But I don't see it right now. Guest worker program, you know, reform of asylum, you know, what you do with the DREAMers, aid to our neighbors, these are the things that can help us. I'm told that the level of violence in El Salvador was beginning to drop because of U.S. aid. We worked with them to get it to drop. Now, we're talking about taking the money away. What do you think the result is going to be? The problem doesn't just exist at the border. It exists in our neighborhood, and Kate, when you live in your home, if your neighbors are doing poorly, you're going to end up doing poorly. How do we all pull together with different interests and try to settle things?

[11:10:01] BOLDUAN: This is -- I mean, you're talking about -- you have been writing about this. You have a book coming out on this very issue of how to bring about big change in the fall. It's up to us. It's up to us. Ten little things we can --

KASICH: Yes. It is.

BOLDUAN: Ten little ways to bring about big change.

I do -- I know I ask this every time. Here's my way to ask you this time, Governor. The people who write books around these times and release books around these times are people who are running for office right around these times. Convince me that you're not.

KASICH: First of all, I don't know what I'm going to do, Kate. I'm not certain. I'm going to wait to see what happens.

I wrote a book on faith when I was running for governor. My people didn't want me to write it. I wrote it. It was one of my best books. I'm writing a book now because there's a number of things that happened to me where I became convinced I needed to write again. Then with my book, I travel and speak and tell people, look, stop freaking out about everything in Washington and start thinking about what you can do to make a difference.

Let me tell you this quickly. And I love coming on your show because we get to chat. Here's the thing. Civil rights came from the bottom up, not the top down. Women's suffrage, you think those guys wanted to give women more power? It was because it was demanded. The two new issues coming our way. Gun control -- there will be some rational gun control because people are fed up with gun violence. And secondly, the rising cost of prescription drugs. There's going to be a tremendous demand by the public, rising up, where politicians will have to do something. That's where change comes from, and that should make us feel good about who you and I are and our personal power.

BOLDUAN: I am feeling --

KASICH: I love to be on the show with you. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I don't know how you do it, but you make me feel optimistic. But then I go to commercial break and go back to stasis.

(CROSSTALK)

KASICH: That's what you do.

Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Governor.

KASICH: We'll see you again. Bye.

BOLDUAN: All right. We'll talk soon.

Coming up for us, back to the fights, though. Sorry, Governor, we're back to it. A feud over faith and gay marriage. It's getting as personal as it could possibly get in a political debate between Vice President Mike Pence and 2020 contender Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Much more on that ahead.

Plus, trouble for Trump's pick for the Federal Reserve. Four Republicans now say they would vote no on Herman Cain. Does that effectively sink his potential nomination? And is there a growing gap between Senate Republicans and what they'll go along with the president on now?

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:40] BOLDUAN: South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, not officially in the race for president quite yet, but that's very likely to change soon with the announcement he's been teasing from his hometown coming up this weekend.

Even before then, he's finding himself in a pretty unique position. Pretty much the one Democratic candidate that is getting name-checked by the vice president right now. And it's become the definition of a back and forth and getting as personal as a political fight can really get. Buttigieg, who would be the first gay married man to win the White House, is taking on the vice president's views on gay rights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG, (D), MAYOR OF SOUTH BEND, INDIANA: I'm not critical of his faith. I'm critical of bad policies. I don't have a problem with religion. I'm religious, too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people, and especially in the LGBTQ community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Buttigieg speaking to Ellen DeGeneres. That's not the first time he's spoken out about this.

CNN's Dana Bash spoke exclusively with Vice President Pence and asked him about the Indiana mayor's criticism of him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Pete's quarrel is with the First Amendment.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: All of us in this country have the right to our religious beliefs. I'm a Bible-believing Christian.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: My wife and I -- my wife and I are Bible-believing Christians. We cherish our faith. We put our trust in God's word. As do tens of millions of Americans. And I think that as he seeks the highest office of the land, as he seeks to be that person to take the oath of office to uphold the Constitution, he would do well to reflect on the importance of respecting freedom of religion of every American.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Noteworthy, that Pence there is not taking the opportunity there with Dana to say no to Dana's question.

So what does this mean now for the 2020 race?

Joining me right now is Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Thank you so much for being here.

TOM PEREZ, (D), CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Always a pleasure to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

What do you make of this now continued back and forth between Pete Buttigieg and the vice president?

PEREZ: Well, I think Pete, I think the mayor is correct. I mean, the use of religion by the vice president and, frankly, by the president as a tool to enable discrimination is, first of all, contrary to the teachings. My faith teaches me that I love my neighbor. There's no footnotes, no exceptions. And I think Pete's faith teaches him the same thing. And so I think this debate will continue. And you know, we dream of a nation in which people are judged by the content of their character. And that's what the American people want. And that's what Pete is talking about. That's what Democrats are talking about. And that's what America wants.

BOLDUAN: And with the Mayor Buttigieg talking about this -- I mean, he is on the rise. Right now, he's in third place in polling behind Biden and Sanders in recent polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire, ahead of other -- you would arguably say, bigger named, better known candidates. What do you think is behind his rise?

PEREZ: Well, I know Pete well. We ran together for DNC chair.

BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

[11:20:00] PEREZ: He is a -- he is a great candidate. And so are all of the candidates. And, Kate, that's why we put together an unprecedented inclusive process. That's why, in July, we'll be having two debates, one night after another, on CNN. And if we have -- we may have 16, 18 people who are eligible to participate in those debates. And the reason I welcome that is because we have so many people who have a positive, inclusive vision of America. And I look at my job as DNC chair as to ensure that everybody has a chance to make sure that their story is told, to make sure the American people can kick the tires on all of the candidates. And that is, I think, one of our most important jobs. We have been inclusive to an unprecedented degree, and that, I think, is the right thing to do. Because Mayor Pete is doing a great job and so are so many other candidates who are running for president. And I can't wait for these first debates so that the American people can see everybody on the stage.

BOLDUAN: I'm looking forward to those debates as well, I can assure you that.

But as you brought it up, you have a debate in late June, CNN's debate in late July, as you mentioned, in Detroit. The rules cap the number of people who can be on the stage at 20 over the two nights.

PEREZ: Right.

BOLDUAN: Right now, there are 18 candidates, but it seems like there could very well be more than 20 Democratic candidates by then. I mean, are you prepared to cut out, let's say, three or four candidates, even one candidate, from these first debates?

PEREZ: Well, we'll cross those bridges if and when we get to them. It's unclear how many people will be in the race.

BOLDUAN: Right.

PEREZ: What is clear is that in these debates, we're not going to be talking about hand size. We're going to talk about health care. We're going to talk about how we reduce the cost of prescription drugs. We'll talk about how we make sure America works for everybody, not just a few at the top. And again, on these debates, the first night and the second night, we're going to do a random assignment so there's not a varsity and a J.V., because I firmly believe -- I know that there are some who have come to me, Kate, and have said, I'm worried about a large field. I welcome a large field. Because the enthusiasm on the Democratic side is remarkable. And the enthusiasm, in no small measure, is because we have great candidates. And these candidates are talking about an America that works for everyone. So what we're doing at the DNC throughout this is to make sure that those candidates get a fair shake. I think random assignment and having no J.V./varsity stuff, I think that really is going to help moving forward. And at the end of the day, if there are 20 people who run, 19 aren't going to make it to the mountaintop. My job is to ensure that all those 19 candidates and their supporters believe that their candidate got a fair shake so that when we come to Milwaukee next July of 2020, we hit the starting line with a sprint and we continue that sprint in unity to make sure --

BOLDUAN: But, Mr. Chairman, you say --

PEREZ: -- that in 571 days we win.

BOLDUAN: And everyone loves to hear that everyone gets a chance to kick the tires. Everyone will have a chance to kick the tires on all of these candidates. But with the -- it's shocking to even say, with the real possibility there could be 20 or 21, let's say, candidates, do you see -- I know you said you would cross the bridge when you get to it, but do you see a chance where you would make an accommodation in order for everybody to be on the stage?

PEREZ: Well, we have set forth the rules months in advance. We set forth exactly what we would do in the event we hit 20, and we'll follow those rules moving forward. Again, it's a hypothetical question at this point. Some days you think there are more candidates. Other days, I'm not so sure. In any event, we have a double-digit field of candidates and, again, I think they're spectacular. And my job is going to be to continue to make sure that we're treating them all fairly. And equally importantly, that we're building that infrastructure, the organizing infrastructure, the data and technology infrastructure, that voter protection infrastructure that will help our nominees succeed. That's why we rolled out yesterday a really important part of our work, which is telling the story of Donald Trump's trail of broken promises. If you go to our Twitter feed, @DNCwarroom, you'll see story after story of Donald Trump making the promise, in Ohio, we're not going to close factories, then you see the factories close. I'm not going to touch your Medicaid, and those efforts to cut Medicaid. We're telling the story of what we believe, as Democrats, and telling the story of the trail of broken promises. So we can make that point that it's the Democrats who have your back, and it's this president who has a knife in your back.

BOLDUAN: Well, and that fight begins in earnest for you guys, and that hypothetical of more than 20 in the debate stage could become very un-hypothetical very quickly.

I would love to have you back if and when it occurs.

(CROSSTALK) [11:25:07] PEREZ: It's always a pleasure to be with you. I look forward to coming back.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it. Thank you so much, Tom Perez.

PEREZ: Have a great day.

BOLDUAN: You, too. Thank you so much.

Coming up, Republican members split with President Trump over his pick for the Federal Reserve. But it's not the only thing they disagree on right now. Is there a growing strain between Senate Republicans and the president? Is it a blip or is it something new?

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:09] BOLDUAN: Donald Trump is not getting what he wants.