Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Pushed Plan To Dump Migrants Into Sanctuary Cities; Washington On Edge As Release Of Mueller Report Loom; New Polls In Iowa And New Hampshire Show Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indian Is On The Rise; WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Faces Extradition To the U.S. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 12, 2019 - 10:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: All right. Top of the hour, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

In London, it is a damaging new report for this White House. CNN has learned that President Trump personally pressured immigration officials to release undocumented migrants on to the streets of so- called sanctuary cities. The push happened twice in six months, but the now former Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, resisted the plan. Poppy, did that contribute to her departure?

HARLOW: Yes, great question, Jim. A source familiar with the discussion says the President wanted to hit back at democrats who oppose his plans for a border wall and may be one of the cities targeted for this was San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district.

Joining us now from the white house, our colleague White House Reporter, Jeremy Diamond. Yikes. This is massive politics every which way you look at it.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, absolutely, Poppy. And we know that the President has been unnerved by that surge in migrants crossing illegally into the United States from the U.S.- Mexico border. It's why he pressured his officials to close parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, it's why he sought to revive the family separation policy.

And now, we're also learning that one of these ideas that the President and his hard-line immigration advisers, notably Stephen Miller had, was to essentially take some of those migrants who were arrested at the southern border and release them in these so-called sanctuary cities where many of the President's political opponents are elected and work from. Those democratic cities, in particular, San Francisco, is one of them, as you mentioned. And so this is the President essentially taking one of these issues that he has so often talked about and lamented the release of some of these migrants from detention facilities and sought to turn it against his political opponents.

The House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi's spokeswoman, Ashley Etienne, put a statement out lambasting this, saying the extent of this administration's cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated, using human beings, including little children, as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable. And we know, of course, that what followed this, beyond the President pressuring the Homeland Security Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, Stephen Miller, Senior White House Adviser, pressuring officials at the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, some officials at the Department of Homeland Security believe that may be in part some of the resistance from DHS may have been part of the reason why the White House has sought to purge some of the top ranks (ph) of the Department of Homeland Security, in particular, DHS's General Counsel, John Mitnick, who has been among those officials who is still at DHS but has been rumored to be on the chopping block from the White House.

And, again, we know that Stephen Miller has been newly empowered by the President to take charge of this immigration agenda. He was behind this idea or one of the people at least behind this idea. So it does raise the question, what comes next now, now that Stephen Miller and the President appear to be on this path of a hard line immigration agenda.

HARLOW: Okay, got it. Jeremy diamond, thanks for the reporting there from the White House.

Meantime, the Attorney General, Bill Barr, said in congressional testimony this week under oath, we're going to see the Mueller report within a week, any day now. How much is Congress really going to see and how much will the public see?

Let's go to our colleague, Manu Raju. He's on the Hill with details.

It did seem like in his second day of testimony, Manu, Bill Barr differentiated between just how much will be redacted for Congress and where he's willing to work with Congress to maybe see a little bit more than the public. Is that how you read it?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question. He said that there will be redactions in the initial report that the Congress will see and the public would see, that he said he would work with the Judiciary Committee of the House and the Senate to see what additional redactions, things that they could allow those members to see behind the black lines.

But that is not going to be enough for democrats who want to see the full report. And, already, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has made it clear that he plans to issue a subpoena immediately afterwards to see the full report. And that's going to set the stage for a legal fight.

Now, the political fight has already been intensifying. The President continues to go after the Mueller report, the investigation, tweeting that it's a treasonous hoax. Republicans are largely aligning themselves with the President. I spoke with one of those republicans, Marco Rubio of Florida, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. I asked about them about those very strong words that the President has been leveling against the Mueller investigation, and he said the President is right to do it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Well, the President feels very strongly about it. And, obviously, he's the one being accused of colluding with a foreign government. And this report came out that shows that that was not the case. And so I think he feels vindicated. And, frankly, I know he's angry about what he's been put through.

RAJU: The letter came out, the report (ph).

RUBIO: Well -- but the findings of the report, its conclusion is that there was no collusion. And on that, it's pretty firm and the President has been accused of this for two years.

[10:05:00]

For two years, he has stood accused of colluding with Vladimir Putin to win an election. And he's angry about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, the only thing we have seen so far, of course, is that four-page letter from Bill Barr that summarizes the top line findings of the Mueller report. Very few words were actually quoted. It did quote the Mueller report saying they could not establish that the Trump campaign or people close to the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government as part of the 2016 interference efforts. So the question is when we see the details, how will people respond, how will the President respond and will it undercut the President's argument that he was totally exonerated, one reason why he is going on the offensive ahead of this report, and we'll see how the republicans ultimately react when we see all of the details. Poppy?

HARLOW: All right. Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Joining me is the lovely S.E. Cupp, CNN Political Commentator, Host of S.E. Cupp Unfiltered. So I always just see you on TV and never in person. So thank you for being with me, my friend. We have like opposite hours. Let's start there with this republican strategy in the party as we wait for the Mueller report and then let's back into the migrant stuff.

So, Tom Davis, former Republican Representative from Northern Virginia, former Chair of the NRCC said, quote, the party is going to go along with Trump because it's not what it was two years ago. You've had people leave the party and people come in, and it's all around him. It's not the same Republican Party.

You know, depending on what we see from the Mueller report, is he right?

S.E. CUPP, CNN S.E. CUPP UNFILTERED: Yes. As much as Trump has purged various departments, the Republican Party has been purged as well. The Charlie Dents, the Jeff Flakes have either been pushed out or have decided not to run. It's no longer their party. And so what you're left with is a bunch of loyalists for the most part.

Now, there are some exceptions. We have been reporting all week about some of the pushback from the GOP senators against some of the things that the President has wanted to do. But, largely, when it comes to these issues of defending Trump's character, defending him against the Mueller report, republicans have largely gotten in line.

HARLOW: So what about with immigration? Given this new Washington Post reporting that CNN has matched overnight that the President, for admittedly political reason, at least in part, this winter, asked his officials in ICHS to ship migrants apprehended at the border to sanctuary cities like Pelosi city of San Francisco to basically get back at them?

CUPP: So two points. One, this isn't really surprising. This administration has done a politics of P.R., whether it's a North Korean summit that was never meant to really go anywhere, or even a border wall. A lot of people don't think that's a real policy solution. It's more of a P.R. stunt. That is what this administration is comfortable doing, P.R. And I think they looked at this --

HARLOW: But are republicans going to fall in line with something like that?

CUPP: Well, I don't know. It didn't happen. And so republicans don't really have to defend it because it didn't happen. But the politics of P.R. and the politics of revenge is very much in line and character with this administration.

Let me just also say, I think to a lot of people, you know, across the country, they would think, well why not, that this would be the logical conclusion of a sanctuary city. I mean, this is an idea my dad might come up with. It's not a policy solution. It is a policy of a politics of revenge and P.R. But I think actually to a lot of people who think sanctuary cities are bad and also not a policy solution, they might say, why not.

HARLOW: Well, I think it's interesting because as The Washington Post points out at one point in this reporting, that a month after the President was pushing his immigration officials to do this, he gave this speech in Kansas and talked about how horrible sanctuary cities are and how dangerous they are for the country, but at the same time, wanting to put more people there who he thinks makes them more dangerous.

CUPP: It's all P.R. If you're trying to find an intellectually consistent thread in his statements, but don't. It's really very simple. We don't have to overthink it. It's a P.R. stunt. He wanted that P.R. moment of this dumping of asylum seekers in a sanctuary city and say, hey, you like this policy? Well, here's the conclusion of it. And now, you have to deal with it.

HARLOW: Okay, right. And then put democrats in a pickle, right?

CUPP: Yes, it's not a solution.

HARLOW: Okay. What about for the party, overall, for the Republican Party? Is it a good thing to have Stephen Miller essentially be if not the face of immigration policy of the party, the like backbone of it?

CUPP: You're asking me?

HARLOW: Yes.

CUPP: No. But I don't think Donald Trump is a great face of the Republican Party, and I think in four to eight to ten years, the Republican Party is really going to have to pay for a lot of the political decisions that were made.

HARLOW: But notice what you said, four to eight to ten.

CUPP: I'm not the Republican Party these days.

HARLOW: But you say -- you're a very smart voice in it though. You said four to eight to ten years, not two years, not 2020. You don't think they pay for this as a party in 2020?

[10:10:01]

CUPP: I don't think so. The current democratic field and the messages they're running, I don't -- I haven't seen yet a winning counter to Trump.

HARLOW: What would the winning democrat counter be to something like this on immigration?

CUPP: Well, I think you have to acknowledge sanctuary cities aren't actually widely popular, and you have to acknowledge that abolishing ICE, also not a solution. And instead going to the extremes on this issue, both parties need to grapple with real solutions. The problem with immigration is, for too long, it has been politically profitable to leave it broken for both parties because they can run on a broken immigration system and they can fundraise on a broken immigration system.

That's a problem both parties have to reconcile. And so if you want to beat Trump in 2020, I think you have to acknowledge some hard facts about immigration and come up with some real solutions that don't scare half the country.

HARLOW: David Axelrod did this great interview that's airing tomorrow night with Beto O'Rourke, and down at the border in El Paso, we heard part of it last hour. But there, you have a democrat who has, you know, shown some signs of being a little more centrist in his past, who is from a border, not only state but city.

CUPP: Right.

HARLOW: Right? Someone like that, threatening to republicans on the immigration front more of a challenge?

CUPP: I think he is trying. So there's this divide in the Democratic Party. Are we going to sort of traffic in fear, anti-Trump, or are we going to be hopeful and optimistic? I think he is trying to be the latter, the hopeful, optimistic, always smiling candidate of the future. But he still really wants to go to some of the policies that progressives are pushing him toward. That's a tough thing to do because the progressive far left policies are, in some ways, fear- based. They rely on a fear about climate change and, you know, anti- amnesty republicans. It's a tough line for him to navigate.

I think, tonally, he's right. He's got to figure out his policies, and asking the American people to decide what they should be.

HARLOW: You need specifics.

CUPP: Not the right way.

HARLOW: And winning a primary is so different than winning a general too, right?

CUPP: Sure. And especially this go around, it's going to be a tough hard right turn.

HARLOW: See you on the show tomorrow night.

CUPP: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Thank you, S.E. We appreciate it. Be sure to watch Unfiltered, S.E. Cupp Unfiltered, tomorrow 6:00 P.M. Eastern on CNN.

Still to come, a growing feud between two men who know each other very well. One happens to be the Vice President, the other now a rising star, rising in the polls in the crowded 2020 field of democrats, Pete Buttigieg.

Plus, Julian Assange is getting ready to fight extradition to the U.S. after his dramatic arrest. Jim will speak one-on-one with his lawyer. That's ahead. What is next for the WikiLeaks Founder?

And actress Lori Loughlin and her husband may be looking to take their chances to court. Why sources say the two are not ready to enter a plea for their alleged role in a huge college admissions scandal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:15:00]

HARLOW: All right. So this is just -- what a story, right? In just a few months, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, has gone from a relatively unknown, of course, outside of South Bend small town mayor to a steadily rising democratic 2020 contender. Two new polls out and they say a lot. Iowa and New Hampshire polling shows Buttigieg sits just below Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, by the way, who have been in politics for decades. This all comes as the Buttigieg fight with Vice President Mike Pence heats up over Pence's stance on gay rights.

In an appearance set to air on Ellen later today, Buttigieg responds to the Vice President's accusations that he is attacking his faith and the first amendment. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D-IN): I'm not interested in feuding with the Vice President. But if he wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say he's changed his mind, that it shouldn't be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are. That's all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Let's discuss all of it with our Editor at Large, Chris Cillizza. Good morning, my friend. And we'll get to the fascinating polls in a moment because I totally geeked out on those numbers. But let's listen to more of Dana Bash's exclusive interview with the Vice President at the border about this issue just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I hope that Pete will offer more to the American people than attacks on my Christian faith or attacks on the President as he seeks the highest office in the land.

DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he argues that your quarrel is with him as a gay man and that he says I was born this way, and this is the way God made me. That's just not your belief?

PENCE: Well, I think Pete's quarrel is with the first amendment.

BASH: How so?

PENCE: All of us in this country have the right to our religious beliefs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: I mean, that's quite a counterpunch, right, that he basically doesn't believe in the first amendment. Where does this thing go because they were pretty close? I mean, the Vice President considered him a friend.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. And I would say I think one fascinating thing here is I think a lot of people are amazed that they were once friendly. But that's the reality of a governor and a mayor of a relatively big city in your state. You have to get along oftentimes to get things done. Not everything works in this binary that we have in Washington.

HARLOW: Unless it's New York City, Chris Cillizza. Unless it's New York City.

CILLIZZA: Yes, that's a notable exception. But, look, they're sort of arguing past one another in ways that are politically advantageous. I don't think Pete Buttigieg is saying that Mike Pence doesn't have the right to say what he wants. He's saying, look, your policies that you have backed as a House member, as governor of Indiana, and then as vice president, would discriminate against who I am, what I was born as. Mike Pence is saying, look, I'm entitled to my religious beliefs.

[10:20:03]

Those two things aren't -- they're not daggers drawn opposites. Again, they're sort of making similar arguments to one another, but not the same argument to one another. But it's politically advantageous for both.

HARLOW: All right, so -- well, that's interesting too. Sure, especially right now. So let's look at this polling because it's stunning anyway. You've got 9 percent is where he's polling, where Buttigieg is polling in this new poll out of Iowa just behind Sanders and Biden. 11 percent of New Hampshire, he's again behind Sanders and Biden. And they have both been in government, I think, longer than Buttigieg has been alive.

CILLIZZA: Yes. And, I mean, look, the other two, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are people that we have talked about running for office basically since they first won their offices, right? One is a senator from a giant state, California. The other is a senator who became a national figure when she ran for Senate in 2012, and, honestly, was a national figure before that.

So what I would say is the race looks like this at the moment. I think you have a top tier that is Biden and Sanders. And that doesn't mean it will always be that way, but they're separated in terms of polling. They're best known, they have been around the most. But what is stunning is the second tier, maybe it's 1-A and 1-B, because I don't know if it's a huge separation.

But the second tier, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana is in the second tier. I can't tell you how many -- I had a ton of conversations, Pete Buttigieg has been talking about running for president for a while. I had a number of conversations with his aides, with people who had met him, about that this guy has real potential.

And I would always say, absolutely, but he's the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. You're competing against these huge titans in terms of politics, people who have been building these organizations, people who have been in the national political sphere for a long time. Maybe if something happens for him, it will happen in January or February of 2020, right? He catches a moment. Well, it happened in March of 2019. And I would say, Poppy, look at the polling, look at his money, $7 million raised in the first quarter of 2019. It suggests there's a sustainability there, right?

You sometimes see this Herman Cain, for example, who is much in the news. Remember, Herman Cain was leading the 2012 republican presidential race. It was sort of up and immediately down. My guess is that Pete Buttigieg is here to stay. He will have struggles. But it is amazing he has propelled himself into the conversation of credible people who could be the nominee.

HARLOW: It's remarkable. We'll keep watching it. Chris, great to have you. Thanks, my friend. Have a good weekend.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Poppy. Have a good weekend.

HARLOW: All right, so coming up on April 22nd, we thought we would just have a few town halls for you, a CNN Town Hall-a-Rama. Five democratic presidential town halls back-to-back live from New Hampshire, hosted by our very Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon. Don't miss it.

All right. Ahead, the lawyer for WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange says his arrest and possible extradition could set a dangerous precedent for journalists. Jim will speak one-on-one with her live from London, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:25:00]

SCIUTTO: After hiding out for nearly seven years, the WikiLeaks Founder, Julian Assange, is now preparing to fight extradition to the United States. On Thursday, British authorities arrested Assange, carrying him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London against his will. The U.S. Justice Department then charged Assange with conspiring with Chelsea Manning to hack Department of Defense computers back in 2010.

I'm joined now by Julian Assange's longtime attorney here in the U.K., Jennifer Robinson. Thanks very much for taking the time today.

JENNIFER ROBINSON, LAWYER FOR JULIAN ASSANGE: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: You said on Thursday, and to be clear, you're not alone in making this argument about press freedom. But you said that his arrest sets a dangerous precedent that any journalist, in your words, can be extradited for prosecution in the U.S. for publishing truth information about the United States. To be clear that this is not about the publishing, it's about the access to the information. In effect, U.S. prosecutors are arguing that Assange provided Chelsea Manning with electronic help to get the information. What's your response to that?

ROBINSON: Well, while the allegation itself or the charge itself is hacking, if you look at the factual allegations, actually, it boils down to having communicated with the source and having provided assistance with -- assisting him with protecting her anonymity in the context. So any journalist who -- any journalist should be concerned about these charges that the factual allegations are in effect provided a source assistance in protecting their own identity.

Now, that as a factual matter is absolutely in use gathering question and absolutely a free speech question. SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because the argument here, and, again, I'm going to use layman's terms because there's some sort of electronic specifics to this, was that they -- that Assange and WikiLeaks gave Chelsea Manning a way to break in, in effect, to Department of Defense computers by acting as an administrator, which then gave him, we know, like when you have someone working on your office commute, gave him power to get into other parts. So that's not just about protecting his identity. That's about gaining access.

ROBINSON: Well, to preface this by saying, these are the allegations. None of them have been proven. But it does boil --

SCIUTTO: Did he provide that help?

ROBINSON: It does boil down to the allegations as they read on the indictment, boil down to providing assistance to a source to protect their identity.

[10:30:07]