Return to Transcripts main page


Unauthorized Militia Group Apprehending Immigrants; Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging LGBTQ Rights; Interview with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 22, 2019 - 10:30   ET



[10:30:00] NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Which he has just intercepted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walk (ph) you (ph) up (ph). There you go.

VALENCIA: The clips were posted to the Facebook page of Jim Benvie, a member of the United Constitutional Patriots, a militia group based along the New Mexico border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we don't work well with Border Patrol, by the way. Just so you guys know that. That's (ph) the media.

VALENCIA: They describe themselves as concerned citizens helping to keep America safe. Plugging the holes, they say, for the U.S. Border Patrol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Border Patrol is tied up. So if we weren't here right now, they could be bringing in busloads, dropping them over here and running up the hill.

VALENCIA: The group's actions have drawn swift condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union and others who have equated the group's actions to kidnapping.

PETER SIMONSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU OF NEW MEXICO: This is exactly why we don't let private citizens enforce the laws of our country. This is an act of vigilantism. And we need federal, local and state authorities stepping in as quickly as possible.

VALENCIA: In a statement to CNN, a spokesman for the New Mexico Governor's Office said this about the militia group: "They have absolutely not been authorized by our office or any other... That migrant families might be menaced or threatened in any way, shape or form is completely unacceptable."

TEXT: "They have absolutely not been authorized by our office or any other... That migrant families might be menaced or threatened in any way, shape or form is completely unacceptable." Tripp Telnicki, director of communications, Office of New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham VALENCIA: CNN has been unable to independently verify when and where the clips were shot. We made several attempts to reach the United Constitutional Patriots and Jim Benvie. They did not replay.

A spokesman for the group defended their actions to "The New York Times," saying what they do is legal. But in one of the nighttime videos posted by the group, a man can be heard alluding to another tactic he wishes the militia could use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only problem is if we shoot on the hill, it'll be an international crisis. We're too close to the border. It would save some time, though, wouldn't it?

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right. Let's talk about this with Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico.

Peter, thank you for joining me. Look, I mean, you -- we heard you in Nick's piece, making it clear that the ACLU opposes this group's action. Legally, are they breaking the law?

SIMONSON: Well, I can't be the final arbiter of that decision. But on the face of it, you would have to have serious questions about whether or not these folks are, first, impersonating federal officers, whether they are guilty of kidnapping under federal law. And there may be many other federal crimes that they're guilty of.

But at the end of the day, the really important thing here is that we don't allow private heavily armed citizens to enforce the laws of our nation. We reserve that right for the trained professionals that are authorized by our government.

HARLOW: So those trained professionals, Customs and Border Protection, says, quote, they "do not endorse or condone private groups or organizations taking enforcement measures into their own hands. That's your point.

But let me get you on what a spokesman for the United Constitutional Patriots, that group, says. We haven't been able to reach them but they did talk to "The New York Times." And they said, look, this is a verbal citizens' arrest. And, quote, "We're just here to support Border Patrol and show the public the reality of the border. If these people follow our verbal commands, we hold them until Border Patrol comes."

TEXT: "We're just here to support Border Patrol and show the public the reality of the border. If these people follow our verbal commands, we hold them until Border Patrol comes. Border Patrol has never asked us to stand down." Jim Benvie, spokesman, United Constitutional Patriots

HARLOW: They also say, "Border Patrol has never asked us to stand down." What's your reaction to that? SIMONSON: Well, that last point, I think, is particularly important.

One of our outstanding questions is, why did Border Patrol apparently turn a blind eye to this activity? And even in some instances, as the video seemed to show, actively collaborate with these folks?

You know, you can hear what they say In their press statement. But on the other hand, their actions would seem to contradict what they -- what their official position is. And the videos bear that out.

HARLOW: What part of the video are you talking about there specifically, that you think shows that, you know, CBP is supporting this?

SIMONSON: Sure. There are multiple videos showing Border Patrol arriving on the scene, responding to their calls and picking up immigrant families from the vigilantes. "BuzzFeed" ran a story the other day that suggested in one of the videos, that a Border Patrol officer actually asked the vigilantes to hold some immigrants while they went back to go get some more officers to help.

So, you know, this is really an important question. I think our federal authorities need to draw a bright line between who's responsible for enforcing the laws of our nation, and who's not.

HARLOW: Are you seeing evidence that these groups of private, you know, citizens -- who are dressing like this, in these fatigues, et cetera, you know, heavily armed -- are gaining more members? Or having more of a presence there?

SIMONSON: I don't know that they're having more of a presence. We saw a surge in this kind of activity in the early 2000s. The difference, though, is the aggressiveness with which they're carrying out their activities.

[10:34:58] Even during the surge of the Minutemen on the border, we never saw activity like this, where people were so bold as to actually detain people, probably kidnap people under gunpoint. That seems to be a bridge much further than what we'd ever seen before. So I do think that it raises significant concerns.

And, you know, if we don't see a swift, harsh response to this from our government, my concern is that we'll see other groups mimicking the behavior of these vigilantes.

HARLOW: I was just going to ask you, what is the ACLU planning to do about it? We know the FBI has arrested one of these guys. He's going to be in front of a judge in just a few hours. But is the ACLU planning action?

SIMONSON: we're still looking at our various strategies right now. At the very moment, the most important thing is to ensure that this activity has stopped completely. We are --


SIMONSON: -- very concerned about the safety of immigrant families. And we are urging our federal authorities to take this action -- these activities entirely seriously and bring the proper charges against these folks.

HARLOW: OK. Peter Simonson of the ACLU and New Mexico, I appreciate your times. Thanks for being with me.

SIMONSON: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right. On to 2020 and the race for the White House. Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a sweeping proposal to eliminate student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans and make all public college tuition-free. We'll bring you those details next.


[10:41:04] HARLOW: All right. Major news just out from the Supreme Court this morning. Justices have agreed to hear a case deciding whether Americans can lose their jobs simply for being gay or bisexual or transgender. Let's go to my colleague Jessica Schneider with more.

This is hugely significant.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This is. Poppy, this is a big fight over the Civil Rights Act that will no doubt have huge implications for gay and transgender individuals.

So let me take you to the arguments here. The Trump administration, they're pointing to this particular law. It's Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The administration's saying it does not explicitly protect against employment discrimination for gay and transgender individuals.

TEXT: Federal law and LGBT rights: High Court to hear three cases of alleged discrimination; At issue: scope of Title VII of Civil Rights Act; Trump admin: Law doesn't protect LGBT workers.

While the two gay men and one transgender woman who are suing their employers for firing them. They argue that Title VII does protect them.

So here's the issue here. Title VII explicitly prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of several things: race, color, religion, and sex. But it does not explicitly say "sexual orientation" or "gender identity."

So because of that, the Trump administration has repeatedly argued that since Congress refused to include that specific terminology in the law itself -- sexual orientation or transgender status -- the Trump administration says the Civil Rights Act can't be construed as protecting against that kind of discrimination.

So that is the big fight here. What does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act pertain to and protect? And this question, Poppy, it will be front and center at the Court in the fall. That's when the arguments will be heard. And, really, it's where the divide on this court could be fully

exposed, since we now have a conservative majority and, of course, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was typically the champion protecting gay and transgender individuals, he has now retired.

And, Poppy, the Court is taking this case up in the fall. And this, of course, is at the same time where the 2020 race will be in full swing so this will all make for a very interesting and possibly explosive and important dynamic here -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Really, really important and fascinating, Jessica. Thank you for breaking it down for us. Of course we'll stay on it.

All right. She's become known for her ambitious policy proposals. Now 2020 presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, is unveiling a sweeping new education policy. She wants to offer a way that -- to completely cancel student loan debt, and for people to go to public colleges for free.

It's come just in time for CNN's series of town halls that are tonight in New Hampshire. She sat down with our correspondent M.J. Lee to talk about it all.


M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Elizabeth Warren, out with a sweeping new proposal to wipe clean millions of Americans' student loan debt and overhaul the country's higher education system.

The Massachusetts Democrat, dropping the ambitious plan ahead of CNN's five-candidate young voter town hall in New Hampshire.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Anyone who's got outstanding student loan debt can have up to $50,000 worth of student loan debt cancelled out, so long as their income is under $100,000, then it kind of steps in, up to there's no help for anybody whose family income is above $250,000. And that's it. The debt's gone.

LEE (voice-over): The proposal would also make all public colleges tuition- and fee-free, inject $100 billion into Pell Grants over 10 years, and create a $50 billion fund for historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions.

WARREN: There's a real access problem for low-income students, for students of color. And that is, it's not just paying the tuition. It's how they pay for books, it's how they pay for the expenses of having a baby taken care of if they already have a child at home, or being able to cover commuting expenses. Or maybe it's a chance to live in a dorm.

LEE (voice-over): Warren's campaign puts the total cost of the proposal at $1.25 trillion. All of it, she said, paid for by her wealth tax.

[10:45:06] WARREN: I've got a proposal. How about a two-cent wealth tax?

LEE (voice-over): And Warren telling CNN, this is personal.

WARREN: I'd (ph) actually got the scholarship. I dropped out. I got married at 19. And I took a job answering phones. And I thought that was going to be my whole life. And the fact that there was a commuter college about 45 minutes away, that I could pay for on a part-time waitressing job, it opened a door. And that was my chance.

LEE (voice-over): The senator, seeking to drive the debate over student debt in the giant 2020 field. Senator Bernie Sanders popularized the idea of free college in his 2016 White House campaign.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- make public colleges and universities tuition-free.

LEE (voice-over): His latest legislation in the Senate would make public colleges tuition-free for families making $125,000 or less, and make community colleges tuition-free for everyone.

Warren says her plan does more.

LEE: And you are already a co-sponsor of Bernie Sanders' free college --

WARREN: Uh-huh.

LEE: -- bill. How is your plan better than that plan?

WARREN: Well, it goes further.

LEE: So is it fair to say that your bill is more progressive than Bernie Sanders' bill?

WARREN: Well, it's certainly bigger.

LEE (voice-over): But not every Democratic candidate, a fan of the idea of free college.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Americans who have a college degree earn more on average than Americans who don't. And as a progressive, I have a hard time getting my head around the idea.

I think expecting somebody to pay zero might go further than what's reasonable.

LEE: Do you agree with his analysis?

WARREN: No. I think that the way we build a future where everyone's got a chance, is we start out by investing in their education.

LEE (voice-over): Warren telling CNN she believes policy is her path to the White House.

LEE: Do you think you can win the 2020 race by being the policy candidate? WARREN: Look, policy is personal. It touches people's lives.


LEE: Poppy, as you know, Elizabeth Warren made a big splash last week when she called on the House to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

But aides at the time told me that we should not expect to see the topic of impeachment to suddenly become central to her campaign. That she plans on being very focused on policy and I think we saw the first real sign of that this morning. And we are, of course, on campus at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire this morning.

This should be a pretty good setting for her to test out her new proposal, see how students on campus react to it and also --


LEE: -- how her Democratic rivals react to her new proposal.

HARLOW: Yes. Can't wait to see it tonight. A fascinating interview. And, you know, it's catchy. Bright policy is (ph) personal. She's right. But is it going to sell, right? And make her really stand out. We'll see. Great interview, M.J. Thank you very much.

And join us live tonight from New Hampshire for our CNN town hall event. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, all on the same stage back to back. That starts tonight, 7 o'clock Eastern only right here on CNN.

All right. So the second-highest number of measles cases in this country in 25 years. Why? And where are these new cases being diagnosed?


[10:52:39] HARLOW: All right. Parents, listen up because the CDC has just released new numbers that show a dramatic increase in measles cases diagnosed here in the United States. Look at that map, OK? You've got confirmed cases in all of those blue states.

Seventy-one cases of the measles were confirmed last week alone. That brings the total number of cases in the U.S. to 626 this year alone. My colleague Alexandra Field is with me now.

This is really, really scary. And so much of this is because of the anti-vaccination movement.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Look, you have to consider the fact that measles was declared eradicated --


FIELD: -- back in 2000, so this really shouldn't be happening. You do see these outbreaks happen periodically. There was a big one in 2014 and now, health officials are warning that we are on-track to beat that record. Certainly a record that you do not want to break.

But they expect that in the next few weeks, you'll see even more cases than what we saw in 2014. And, Poppy, as you point out, a lot of this is being attributed to anti-vaccine rhetoric. When you look at the total number of cases -- 626 this year -- the cases are disproportionately among people who are age 19 and under, 72 percent of these patients have not received the measles vaccine.

This is a highly infectious disease. We know that there's a long incubation period. That's one of the reasons that health officials fearing these kinds of outbreaks, that it can get worse before it gets better. A pretty alarming statistic here is that come 90 percent of people who are exposed and are not immune will become infected.

Wow. let me ask you quickly before you go. That number you had on the screen, that 72 percent of people who have it do not have the vaccine. Does that mean you can get it even if you have the vaccine?

FIELD: So you've got another 18 percent of people where they have an unknown vaccination status. Officials just aren't clear (ph) on whether --


FIELD: -- they've been vaccinated or not. But there are 10 percent of people who are reporting that they've been vaccinated, they may have received just one of the two doses --

HARLOW: Not the --


FIELD: Exactly.

HARLOW: I'm going today, this afternoon, to get my young kids the booster shots. Earlier than you normally would. Doctors are recommending that now for some people. If you're traveling, et cetera.

FIELD: Important particularly here in New York --


FIELD: -- where we're seeing, really, the bulk of these cases.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Thank you. We appreciate the update, Alexandra Field.

All right. So a judge has ruled Flint, Michigan residents can sue the federal government over the city's water crisis. The lawsuit says the EPA was too slow to intervene after the water was found to be contaminated with lead.

[10:55:00] In her opinion, the judge -- Judge Linda Parker -- said, quote, "The impact of the health of nearly 100,000 residents of the city of Flint remains untold."

I should note she did not rule on the EPA's negligence, but she did say that the agency knew about the health risk posed by the lead exposure. And Flint officials were not warning residents.

This is a significant development for so many parents on the ground there that I spoke with when I was reporting there, so, so concerned about the health of their children and what this means for them for the rest of their future.

All right. The EPA declined to comment on that ruling.

And look at this. To Washington now, the White House, right now on the South Lawn, the president and first lady are hosting thousands of children and their parents for the annual Easter Egg Roll.

Minutes from now, the president will address the crowd. The Easter Egg Roll has been held every Monday after Easter since 1878. Fun for those kids.

All right. Thanks for being with me today. Jim and I will see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts after this.